You might have noticed that Welcome to Your Karlsson Years completely flaked out on All Star Game coverage this weekend. This wasn’t exactly a coordinated or intentional response. James checked out some events, got a picture of Karlsson looking tired, and we watched some of it when we could. It was undoubtedly a much-deserved love-fest for Alfie, and a premier event for the city. Along with the 20th Anniversary Season and the Sens actually being in a playoff position in late-January, the All Star Game comprised a trifecta of serendipity for marketing and networking that is sure to elevate the franchise, at least for some. But I’m here to defend, a little bit, the reluctance and apathy that surrounds most All Star Games.
First caveat: it’s not the game, which can be fun enough. Seeing the players with smiles all around often brought a smile to my own face. It humanizes multi-millionaire athletes and celebrates the game in a way that doesn’t also happen to involve trying to kill another human being by putting his head through a pane of glass. What’s totally alienating and shitty to sit through is the hours upon hours of non-stop, asinine, totally vacuous ‘analysis’ from panels—panels!—of experts, tasked with filling every last second of airtime with speech of some sort. The fantasy draft opening, which is another fun bit of hockey celebration, can’t help but extend the bloat. A full two hours of excruciating interviews and analysis, complete with passionate, angry commentary and terrible jokes.
Head Troll Lambert over on Puck Daddy used some circular, self-legitimizing logic to speculate that the coverage is only following the interest, suggesting that if you complain about the game it only means you’re trying to be different. This kind of “there wouldn’t be coverage if people didn’t love it” logic is weak, to say the least. I would argue that if you’re complaining about the game it’s because so little of it turns out to be this sincere, authentic, lovelorn celebration of the sport it’s made out to be. Most of it is a soulless, synergistic marketing extravaganza that surrounds any event bringing demographics and cities together. It’s not new; the Olympics are almost unwatchable for the same reason.
For a lot of people the All Star Game will remain worth it, so worth it that they will sit through hours of dead sound bites and meaningless pontification from a sea of talking heads. But for me at least, the All Star Break remains one of the few times of year when all of my favorite blogs start running puff pieces in order to justify their press passes (“Hockey is a lot of fun, says hockey player”), and when the few, banal breaks in a player’s usual recipe of cliché commentary are played up as real charisma and hilarity. I don’t exactly blame the media; what else can they do with something that, from the start, is extolled as meaningless? But there’s a reason why the All Star Game is treated with breathless hysterics (“The Event of the Season!”) or total dismissal (“Should We Even Have One?”): the degree of coverage totally estranges the audience. It doesn’t even allow for some middle-ground perspective.
Here’s a suggestion: instead of ever-expanding the coverage in order to bleed some ratings into preceding and following days, why not treat the ASG like a regular season, albeit a unique, game? Why not refrain from bashing us over the head with it, blanketing every aspect of hockey coverage with one subject? Is there not a point at which you start to think advertising becomes counter-intuitive? (Think of all the times during a three-hour hockey game you’ll see the same Tim Horton’s of Canadian Tire commercial and think, “I’m starting to really fucking hate these guys.”)
So, yeah. Sorry for being a wet blanket, and for not putting anything up on Ottawa’s All Star Weekend. But ask yourself: what on earth could we have possibly written about anyway?