Tag Archives: sportscasting

The Unnecessary Beauty of Ice Hockey

the goalie in an ice hockey game dives for the puck

“Sports! They are absurd and superfluous—and hockey is the most absurdly superfluous of them all.” Kent Russell loves hockey, a lot. I don’t and I have no idea who Eddie Olczyk or Doc Emrick are, but Russell’s writing about the game and its players (“two to six men fighting for the puck in a corner like two to six pigs wrestling over a Milk Dud”) is utterly engrossing, including a section on how television and play-by-play commentary change our experience of sports.

Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that watching a game on television as opposed to IRL at the arena is roughly analogous to watching a drama on a screen as opposed to a stage. In the arena or theater, I am responding to a total scene unfolding. My eye can wander while I take in everything at once. But onscreen, the play gets filtered through a camera lens, gets dislocated temporally so that the network can edit out a fourth-liner screaming FUCK! Onscreen, the play has its point-of-view shifted regularly—wide shot, now a behind-the-net shot, now the overhead shot, here’s the crowd shot. So that I apprehend the game not as drama but as mediated narrative. And I suppose I need all manner of commentary to help me thread together the disparate strands of that narrative.

I don’t know. Am I alone here? Does no one else think that Eddie Olczyk’s enthusiasm relates to the play only insofar as the play relates to whom Eddie Olczyk bet on that day? Does no one else hate that Doc Emrick calls games like a hen that wears a bonnet?

Read the essay