A major infraction: the NHL season is canceled
Most Americans heaved a sigh of indifference last week when the National Hockey League (NHL) canceled the 2004-2005 season.Most Coloradans don’t care whether the NHL season happens, and who was at fault for the cancellation.However, a fierce minority of people in Colorado cared very much whether the Avalanche played this season. A neighbor of mine, for example, not only has season tickets to the Denver home games, but a small scale hockey rink illuminated by flood lights and dominated on either end by goal cages with moving plywood cut-out goalies.It’s a tough job explaining to the kids how millionaire players and millionaire owners couldn’t come to an agreement to just play the game.For the nonsports fan, the whole question of canceling the NHL season would appear to be academic, but it’s not. There’s a very real biological and economic impact triggered by the success or failure of the local professional teams.
During my early years in the resort industry, I used to hope for the Denver Broncos to hurry up and fall out of the playoff picture, on the theory that once the football season was over in Denver, folks would do what came naturally and go ski.I also wanted the Broncos to hurry up and lose to spite the Broncos’ fair-weather fans. You know the sort. If the Broncos won, then everyone was a Broncos fan from way back; if the Broncos lost, the fair-weather fans wanted the coach fired along with whoever happened to be the quarterback, unlike Cleveland Browns fans or Packer fans who backed their teams, win or lose.As time passed, it became apparent that more people skied and spent more money when the Colorado sports teams did well.Winning teams translated directly into happy, testosterone-driven fans, and happy fans translated into activity.While a lot of nonsports fans find the armchair machismo of the typical sports fan to be a little pathetic and a lot trivial, it’s still true that the typical sports fan’s emotional well-being and drive to succeed depends on his or her team.Consider this. Nine months after France won the soccer World Cup in 1998, the French birth rate jumped 55 percent.
Researchers also discovered that the testosterone levels of all the male fans of the winning teams who were examined after a match were elevated, while the testosterone levels of the male fans of the team that lost (such as the Americans) were depressed, not just immediately after the game but for days.While there are no similar studies of Broncos or Avalanche fans, it’s clear that happy, cranked-up fans are far more likely to go and do something, like ski, and spend money than losers.A winning sports team also increases participation in that particular sport. During the Avalanche’s days of domination, the demand for ice time increased, and the sale of hockey jerseys and equipment grew. When it began to falter, interest waned. A serious Avs fan is devoted to his sport and is not interested in substitutes.
Without NHL hockey games, anyone who thinks a sports fan is a sports fan would have guessed that viewership of professional basketball, golf and football would have gone up.Wrong. The National Basketball Association ratings on ESPN are actually down 13 percent so far this season, and the ratings for the National Football League and Professional Golf Association were soft through January, too.True hockey fans are primarily interested only in hockey. Similarly, when Tiger Woods does well, PGA ratings soar; when he stumbles, so do the ratings. Lance Armstrong’s success in the Tour de France has sparked a resurgence in cycling.Hopefully, the NHL will be able to sort out the 2005-2006 season. I’m a hockey fan, although I still have my doubts about a professional sport where fighting is not only tolerated, but subdivided into major and minor infractions. Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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