Monday, February 20, 2006


Keegan: Hoops trumps Games


I wanted to make sure my preference for clicking back and forth between college basketball games over watching the Winter Olympics didn't make me out of touch with the community.

So I visited a couple of sports bars in town to get a feel for the demand for biathlon, curling, Nordic combined and snowboarding, all of which, by the way, are Olympic events, which is more than can be said for baseball.

Sean Gerrity, proprietor of Henry T's, 3520 W. Sixth, told me the requests for games this time of year were for "college basketball. That's pretty much it."

He does keep two of his 14 televisions tuned to the Olympics, just in case. And he did say that there had been some interest in mogul skiing, whatever that might be, and hockey. Mostly, though, it's the same as every other year: college basketball, college basketball and more college basketball.

Next, I headed to J.B. Stouts, 721 Wakarusa Dr. #100, and spoke with assistant manager Jen Garner, who said the vast majority of interest was in college basketball. I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you, shocked.

"We've had a lot of requests for the Lakers, too," Garner said. "I guess the Lakers are cool."

I did notice one patron watching the men's figure-skating competition on the television above her at the bar, and it got me to thinking again about what I consider to be one of the great mysteries in sports: Why is it that you never hear about male figure skaters making the transition to the NHL?

The skaters display amazing balance and speed, and the way they can stop so suddenly and change directions are qualities that surely would translate to hockey. Sure, the skaters would have to make a few sacrifices, but isn't that a given for winners?

Nobody here is saying it wouldn't be difficult trading in outfits to die for, replete with sequins and free-flowing fabrics, for those tacky NHL jerseys. I mean, really, who thought of some of those color schemes?

And certainly the music that blasts out the loudspeakers at NHL arenas can't compare to the jazzy tunes favored by the figure skaters, but still it seems enough of them would be willing to work at learning a new craft. And think of the benefits. For one, there's no need to keep a hair colorist on the payroll. Hockey players wear helmets.

For another, it's not necessary to set aside all that time to apply makeup before taking the ice. Just buckle up the helmet, grab a stick, skate and shoot the puck.

After glancing up again at the TV tuned to the Olympics, it hit me. Finally, the mystery was solved. One of the skaters had just finished a terrific performance and was bawling so hard I feared his mascara was about to run. (Don't you just hate it when that happens?) Minutes later, another skater was sobbing because he performed so poorly. There you go.

That's why figure skaters, remarkable athletes though they are, don't make the transition to hockey. Just as Tom Hanks reminded the world in "A League of Their Own," that there's no crying in baseball, I'm here to tell you there's no crying in hockey, either. Toothless grins, scarred foreheads and bloody chins abound. Tears? Not a chance.

That mystery solved, it's time to get back to planning an evening of college basketball in front of the tube. Big Monday awaits.


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