The New American Sports Cultural War: Hockey Fans Hating On The NBA

Jason ChaeContributor IApril 1, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 3: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls signals on court against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 3, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Perhaps you aren't aware of this, and if you live in a city that doesn't share a NBA and NHL franchise, you probably aren't. There is a new culture war brewing through sports in America. I've witnessed it first hand living in the Chicagoland area. The resurgence of the Blackhawks as one of the NHL's premier league draws has brought out an ugly side to hockey fans. 

Over the course of this hockey and basketball season, Dan Bernstein, co-host of the afternoon sports radio show "Boers and Bernstein" on WSCR 670 AM in Chicago, stated on air a couple months ago he has had numerous Blackhawks fans ask him why the Blackhawks aren't talked about more on his show.  He gives his response, then callers add, "Who cares about the Bulls? The NBA sucks."

Search on Google and you'll find numerous articles and blogs from hockey fans gloating about how NHL attendance eclipsed the NBA this season and lists why the NHL is better than the NBA. 

Why the NHL fanbase has decided to make the NBA their own punching bag might be some sort of mystery, but I believe it's turned into some sort of cultural backlash.  It's no secret the majority of NHL players and fans are white. 

The NBA has more fans from all the minority groups: Black, Asian, and Hispanic. The NBA has become a part of hip-hop culture. Rappers for years have dropped the names of NBA players in their rhymes and rappers such as Usher and Jay-Z both own portions of teams. 

I simply think the hip hop influence in the NBA turns off a lot of people, especially people who do not understand the culture. Do you remember the outcry from that Knicks vs. Nuggets fight 06-07 season? The participants were called thugs and cowards by many observers.  

I wonder how many of these people who were offended by the actions of Nate Robinson and Carmelo Anthony are offended by the fights that are much more common in the NHL.  "But fighting is a part of the sport, it's in the rules," they say. Really? That's news to me.

Then why isn't fighting allowed in Europe, College, and the Olympics?

Because fighting has as much to do with playing hockey as it does with playing basketball, which is not much at all. Fighting while playing a game is usually unnecessary and childish. I'm not naive though, I know in a physical sport people are bound to fight.  It happens. 

But the fact that fighting is embraced in the NHL and yet called "thuggish" and "criminal" in the NBA is a hypocrisy I've never understood. 

I believe this all goes back to Ron Artest, who has done more damage to the league than I think most are aware of. The image of him and Steven Jackson wildly swinging punches at fans gave the NBA an image problem it won't be able to shed for years to come.

But that's what people want to associate the NBA with: out-of-control, tattooed black men who supposedly can't behave. 

Never mind that people like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, Michael Redd, and Shane Battier are well-mannered people and wouldn't fit into the hip-hop stereotype that is associated with the league. I'm not saying that people who hate on the NBA are racist, but the issue itself is racial and cultural.

Hockey is a fine sport; I have no issue with it. I've watched my fair share of Blackhawks games this season. If given the chance between attending a Blackhawks game and Bulls game right now, although it would depend on the matchup, I'd probably lean towards going to a Blackhawks game. I've never been to a NHL game and I'd like to attend one.

But why are NHL fans constantly trying to put down another league to increase the enjoyment of their league? NBA basketball is exciting and there isn't much in the league I'd change. I'd like to see more games on ABC to give the league more exposure, but the NBA is doing fine overall.  Enjoy your league, NHL fans, but you shouldn't need to say negative things about another league to make your league look better.