A Sense of Direction

By Norman Chad
Monday, May 14, 2007

Q. What's the difference between the National Hockey League and the federal witness protection program?

A. NHL players drop out of sight without changing their names.

I watched some hockey the other night -- I love moving the Nielsen needle -- and by the end of a fabulous Stanley Cup playoff game, I realized the NHL on TV can only be saved by two radical measures:

1. The game needs to be televised north-south, not east-west.

2. The game needs to eliminate one intermission.

(I understand that I've just lost contact with all hyper-serious NHL fans, so I'll just speak directly to the other 99 percent of the U.S. population for the remainder of this column.)

This north-south business was first suggested to Couch Slouch by Bob Reichblum, executive producer of the nascent ReelzChannel cable network. Granted, ReelzChannel covers movies, not sports, but Reichblum is one of those fellas who tapes ECHL games and watches them while working the cellphone on his StairMaster.

Hockey simply translates better if the action is coming at you. Ever wonder why, when someone scores, they show multiple replays from behind or in front of the net? Because it's easier to see the goal, you knuckleheads.

(By the way, let's be honest here: To see if a goal is scored, many of us don't look into the net, we look for a team's celebration. My eyes can't follow a puck, even on a 52-inch screen.)

You would never, in tennis, sit a camera at the net. The match is shown from behind the baseline; it's a much better angle than midcourt. Heck, if they televised tennis east-west, John McEnroe would be out of our lives and Wimbledon would have Tucker Carlson-style ratings.

Frankly, almost every sport televises better north-south than east-west.

(Soccer, of course, is the exception. Whether you put a point-of-view cam on every player's head or just stick a telescope on the moon and point it toward an MLS pitch, nobody in Peoria or Poughkeepsie is going to be watching.)

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