Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Odd Spectacle of the Trade Deadline

Yesterday was the NHL trade deadline. If you didn't realize it, I can't blame you. Nothing much happened. The big names stayed put, no surprising moves were made, and even the Canadian media's best attempts to hype things couldn't really make anything interesting. And that all gave me plenty of time to think about the ritual of trade deadlines in the Modern American Sports Industrial Complex.

I don't have any objective data to back this up- and thus, shame on me for asserting it- but it really seems like no one paid as much attention to trades when our parents were our age. Anecdotally, my dad has told me that he noticed the big moves, obviously- things like his beloved Yankees signing Reggie Jackson- but that he didn't really know the rules of trades. He didn't even know that there WAS a trade deadline. My dad enjoyed sports just fine without this knowledge. But I'm still pretty sure I'm better off.

I like that the curtain has been pulled back a little, that we all get a little better understanding not just of what happened, but how and why. It's a slim measure of accountability. It's not much; the big decisions are still all to often made by guys with no accountability and little real knowledge, but at least they don't get to do it all in secret now.

It also gives us more knowledge, and I think, as a general maxim, that we're always better off knowing more than less. Listen, we're going to waste a lot of time on these sports; we may as well actually understand how they work as best as we can. It's kind of a way of taking a measure of ownership of them; we don't just let the front offices decide that we don't need to know something.

Most importantly, it makes fandom more interesting. Now, it's not just about scoring 50 points a season; if a guy only scores 20, but only costs $1 million against the salary cap, that's still a good value. Likewise, if he scores 50 points but costs $45 million, that's not really good enough. We have more ways to evaluate these guys- which means more arguments over evaluating them, which is really the hallmark of fandom.

The other edge of the sword is, well, yesterday, when the hockey media brought out all the fanfare for...nothing, really. NHL Network had all day coverage, Puck Daddy did an 8 hour live blog, and the best they could report was that Detroit moved Commodore and Vancouver moved some guy I can't even remember (And I could look it up, but it rather makes my point the way it is, doesn't it?). That gets as obnoxious as cable news networks, no doubt. But there's an easy solution: just change the channel.

So, as much of a forest-from-the-trees problem as we can have sometimes, I really do think we're better off knowing more about trades, league rules, and sports finances in general. I rather doubt many fans would be willing to give up this knowledge. And if you don't believe me, just ask my dad about A-Rod's contract sometime. But...bring a lawn chair or something, so you aren't on your feet the whole time.

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