Stephen A. Smith, Barry Melrose, and the Living Legacy of Ties in Hockey

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by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine

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This is more like it.

Stephen A. Smith made a fool of himself a couple mornings ago on ESPN’s SportsCenter (which has become, let’s face it, a shadow of the self it used to be) when he argued that the Chicago Blackhawks’ streak off 21 straight games to start a season (now 24) was inferior to Miami’s 14-game win streak (now 15) because hockey has ties.

As everyone (well, most people) knows, hockey doesn’t have ties, Stephen A.

The simple fact that he used that ties argument as the only reason for his rant shows how little he pays attention to anything outside of his own wheelhouse.

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However, Stephen A. then battled it out with Barry Melrose, and the competition with a guy who can actually comment with IQ aided him. Stephen A. was able to focus on the NBA and LeBron James, but he was also able to mock the NHL. Melrose was able to sound all Canadian when discussing the Blackhawks, but still bemoan the diva sport of basketball at the same time.

In the sense of having a real discussion, it was pretty pointless, but it was certainly better than the charade aired just before.

Everyone in every newsroom and editorial office — from BuzzFeed to Greg Wyshynski — chimed in brilliantly on the subject.

In their article, titled “Stephen A. Smith Doesn’t Know the Rules of a Major North American Sport”, BuzzFeed appropriately fired off a nearly unlimited number of photographs of things that haven’t been around since ties were still used in the NHL. The list included former things like the Montreal Expos and the Curse of the Bambino.

Over at Puck Daddy, Wysh ripped Stephen A. apart with an attack as surgical as Chicago’s.

(He even pointed out the obvious irony of Stephen A.’s argument that he doesn’t do ties, despite the fact that he claims to know every single player in the NFL and have a personal relationship with them.)

“It’s that drive-by, superficial analysis from basketball fans, treating hockey coverage with the enthusiasm of a child forced to visit that creepy old relative who smells like mothballs and is always cooking cabbage. It’s that ignorance of the sport, acting like a heavyweight boxer being asked to opine on the intricacies of Quidditch.

“And more to the point: It’s the damn, stupid, insipid, insulting, unprofessional pride with which they flaunt that ignorance.”

… “But there are no ties in the NHL. There are ties, however, in the NFL, just like in soccer. Maybe it’s a fu[oo]tball thing.

“ESPN television bloviators talking about hockey is like your mom watching Community and complaining that the ‘stories don’t make sense.’

“Please, no more of this Stephen A. Smith on the NHL. Give us Wilbon or Kornheiser. As least they knew how to fake it better when writing columns about the Capitals back in their ink-stained days with the Post.”

Of course, the “debate” with Melrose fogged over Smith’s ignorance of hockey (and, Melrose’s ignorance of anything but hockey). Watching Barry try to talk about anything over than the NHL is as embarrassing as watching Stephen A. posture about the rules of a 60-minute game.

It’s been ironic to see hockey fans complain about Smith’s bloviation, even if he deserves it, because Melrose is just as big of a bloviator.

The real problem here lies with ESPN, the place that Dan Patrick calls “the mothership” and then insults for hours a day on his satellite radio show.

The network has hurdled itself through random and unrelated humiliations (including this beautiful train wreck starring some meathead anchor and Liam Neeson) while everyday fans sit there and scratch their heads and wonder if their three-year-old could do the same job.

It doesn’t bother Patrick Kane, though. The Blackhawks sniper — and it’s out-of-nowhere most mature player — is just happy to see hockey represented in the United States.

And, well, I guess he’s right.

“It’s huge… I think for me, personally, I’m a guy who has watched ESPN ever since I’ve been growing up. You turn it on, and it’s one of the first stories — the Blackhawks and hockey, which you don’t really see on that station. That’s cool to see.

“I know hockey is growing in the U.S., and it’s becoming more popular, but anything to get the game out there and see how we view it. We view it as the best game in the world. Hopefully, other people will start to, too.

“I’ve been a fan of LeBron ever since he’s been criticized heavily. He’s come back to prove all of his critics wrong. It’s cool to be compared to those guys. But they’re obviously in a different league as far as popularity.”