As a die-hard sports fan, my eyes have been glued to the television for the entire playoffs—not just for basketball, but both the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, and every second has been exciting.
That was until a feeling of letdown or disappointment came across my mind. Sitting back to take in the pregame festivities prior to Game One of the NBA Finals, I was left wanting more. In regards to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no such idea raced through my head.
Tuning in to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, even from afar, a sense of community, camaraderie, and intensifying excitement electrified the arena. The emotion began to rise from ground level all the way to the rafters, and the excitement of the pregame festivities ultimately spilled over into living rooms across the states watching this spectacle.
Granted, the excitement that was experienced was due to hype and pending start to the game; however, there were certain historical traits and ideals that the NHL focused on and the NBA disregarded ten fold.
The National Hockey League is a very tradition-oriented league, and rightfully so. The NHL brass holds their “Original Six” teams to a much higher esteem than any other mainstream domestic league. Even down to the trophy awarded to the winning organization, “Lord” Stanley’s Cup, is ever-changing but still embodies everything that the NHL powers hold dear: tradition-rich values.
While watching the NBA Finals on Thursday, the only hype about the pregame entertainment revolved around player introductions. Sure, announcing where the player was "educated" is informative, but nothing of the like is going to hype up the crowd for Game One of the Finals. Sure some players add their "personal handshakes" and own flare to introductions, but a ticket holder sitting in the nose bleeds with his son will not be swayed to root on their team because of that.
Liven the environment up! I know the NBA is a players first league, but enough is enough!
The NBA might not have been lucky enough to get their first choice in the finals, LeBron versus Kobe (once again player vs. player); however, a tradition and history-rich series between the Lakers and Celtics is in no way a second rate treat for the fans.
The biggest fumble that the NBA missed on was not intertwining past rivalry moments into right before the tip-off to get the Staples Center crowd jumping from the opening tip. Granted, it is Los Angeles, and fans tend to arrive late and prefer wine and cheese to beer and brats, but this is the NBA finals, and there is a time for off the wall rowdy activity.
Sure, some people might consider more and more tradition and historical flashbacks to Bill Russell, Jerry West, Magic, and Bird to be somewhat over the top, but the NHL and respective teams might hold tradition a little closer to the vest due to superstitions. Nonetheless, superstitions, the spooks, or not, the bottom line illustrates that the “turn back the clock” national anthem tributes rile up the crowd from the inception to final whistle, and the action in between only raises the temperature even further inside arenas.
Crowd excitement and enthusiasm inside the arena sets the stage to a guaranteed epic night of entertainment. Hockey captured that moment with Jim Cornelison singing the National Anthem just as he did back in 1992, the last time the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup Finals. Nearly the same repertoire was in place at Wachovia Center for Game Three.
Kate Smith, a longtime famous singer known for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, is even remembered outside of The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Old video and footage of her was playing in the arena for Game Three, while Lauren Hart, daughter of longtime Flyers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster, Gene Hart, sings “God Bless America” live. The Flyers’ record when “God Bless America” is played stands at a remarkable 86 wins, 22 losses, and four ties as of today.
Certainly, momentum or the final result is not impacted by which National Anthem rendition is superior or which squads’ pregame festivities elevate the crowd's excitement to a whole separate level. However, going to sporting events is still about entertainment value, but early into the first quarter of Game One of the NBA Finals, the buzz in the arena felt like another regular season game, and in the second half, the performance on the court became one sided, just like a regular season game.
Although, taking in a Stanley Cup Finals game for the fans, spectators, and players on the ice, a regular season feeling will be the furthest from the truth, and that is the way it should be.