Sports in America: Match-up #4

John BucoCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2008

With Tiger Woods leading golf past tennis in our last match-up, we move to a rather intriguing contest between hockey and leisure sports.  Before I delve into the game, let me explain what I am classifying as leisure sports.  I am lumping horse racing, poker, pool, bowling and any other sport that fits into this playful category.


Horse racing surfaces about three times a year:  the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness.  If a horse is close, all three are scrutinized for the Triple Crown.  Sometimes a horse comes along, like Barbaro, that draws the media’s attention and the sport gets some serious media coverage.


Pool and bowling phase in and out and can mostly be seen on ESPN2 on weekday afternoons.  Not the most prominent spot for exposure.  Now, the dark horse here is poker; namely Texas Hold ‘Em.  Poker has recently been recognized as sport that requires skill and patience.  Like golf, though maybe not quite as extensive, poker has become a favorite of America’s rich and famous.  If you turn on the Worlds Series of Poker, you will often find a couple celebrities, athletes, and sometimes politicians.


Having said all those nice things, leisure sports have a huge obstacle to overcome in the form of hockey at the collegiate, Olympic, and pro level.  Hockey, known more as Canada’s past-time than a United States sport, has gained much support in the most recent past since the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season.  Much of that is a result of Canadian teams being unable to win a Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadians did it in 1993.


The Detroit Red Wings are one of hockey’s best teams with a rich history and several solid dynastic teams.  Hockey also boasts, arguably, the greatest moment in sports history:  1980 – The Miracle on Ice.  This is easily my favorite sports moment and as magnificent and moving as any other sporting event in America to date.


The bottom line:  Hockey wins decisively on the back of the latest Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup victory and young stars with a face such as Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Rick Nash, to name a few.  Poker becomes more and more popular each year, and, if a horse can manage the Triple Crown, horse racing will be pushed back into the press again.  But for now, hockey remains supreme and a tough opponent running into the later rounds.


The next match-up is also potentially intriguing, as it pits NASCAR/Formula 1 racing against Pro Boxing.