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Rocket's Red Glare: Why the Red Wings are better champions than the Lakers

Posted by: Michael Rand under Sports Updated: May 11, 2011 - 3:01 PM

Each week commenter Rocket writes about hockey so we don't have to. Rocket?

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Are Mike Babcock and Nicklas Lidstrom better champions than Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant?

Ever since I first started writing this guest post about 15 or so years ago, I have steadfastly refused to do a generic “Why hockey better than basketball” post for three main reasons.*
 
1. Hockey is a beautiful, exciting, amazing sport that can stand on its own without any pointless apples-to-oranges comparison with another sport. Sitting around coming up with reasons why what you like is better than what someone else likes is immature, petty, and a waste of time and energy, particularly in light of…
 
2. People who like basketball never seem to feel the need to make these types of comparisons. Hockey fans, particularly those outside of the regions where hockey is popular, have what can only be described as an inferiority complex, whereas basketball fans just don’t care. It is sort of like a younger brother trying to convince an older brother that he is cool by telling the older brother how Miley Cyrus is hotter than Katy Perry while the older brother ignores him and keeps staring at his Katy Perry poster.
 
3. Any time a this-sport-is-better-than-that-sport conversation comes up, Stu thinks he has free reign to blather on about his favorite “sport.” NOBODY CARES ABOUT COMPETITIVE EATING, STU!
 
And yet, this week I could not help but be struck by how the two most dominant teams in their respective sports over the past decade have handled themselves in the face of adversity. Both the Detroit Red Wings and the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves in deep holes in their second round matchups with the San Jose Sharks and the Dallas Mavericks respectively. The Lakers responded to the adversity by basically going belly-up. The Red Wings, on the other hand, still might live to see another day.
 
Before this conversation goes any further, we should also probably acknowledge that hockey is a predominately white sport and basketball is a predominately black sport. How race operates in our society is more complicated than many of us acknowledge or realize. Consequently, regardless of our own backgrounds, we often subconsciously can be quicker to criticize or ascribe blame to minorities for what we see as deficiencies than we are for non-minorities.
 
That being noted, we also should not be afraid to critically analyze the facts. Down 0-3, the Lakers not only laid an egg in Game 4, but they behaved like childish punks on their way out of the playoffs. Ron Artest had already committed a cheap, stupid foul in Game 2 to get himself suspended for Game 3, which was typically Ron Artestian. But Lamar Odom and especially Andrew Bynum took it to another level in Game 4. The Bynum elbow is going to go down as one of those “highlights” that we will see on SportsCenter for a long, long time and condemn because it didn’t happen to Stu.
 
Down 0-3, the Red Wings showed the heart and resolve that you want to see out of a championship team and have crawled their way back to a Game 7. The Wings have gutted out a couple of one-goal games before the 3-1 victory in Game 6. Everybody (including me) keeps waiting for this team to get too old, but they keep showing a level of determination that you would expect from a multiple Cup winning team. Love them or hate them, the Red Wings deserve your respect.
 
This really isn’t a hockey-is-better-than-basketball argument that I am making. One can undoubtedly find plenty of examples over the years of hockey teams laying down and gooning it up in the same fashion the Lakers did. Nonetheless, I was struck at how similar circumstances exposed two aging, accomplished teams. The comparison made me appreciate just how amazing the Red Wings were and still are. Whether they come all the way back or fall just short in Game 7, you have to give them their due.
 
* Don’t tell me I haven’t been writing this post for 15 years. You don’t know what I do with my spare time.

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