Spare me the fake moments of all-star games

by Gary Shelton on January 25, 2020

in general

Hedman will represent Lightning in all-star game./CHUCK MULLER

SATURDAY, 4 a.m.

Star forward Alex Ovechkin says he's skipping NHL all-star weekend because he's "listening to his body."

His body, presumably, is shouting at the top of its lungs "get me away from anything resembling an all-star game."

I don't know about you, but here's the way I feel about all-star games: The taste was chewed out of that gum a long time ago.

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Look, I love sports. I've spent a lifetime chasing balls of every particular shape around the yard, and I've been enthralled by the characters who play. I've covered great players, and great teams. I've covered awful players and miserable teams. Either way, there is a plot line to every team.

But all-star games?

No thanks.

The underlying problem with all-star games, of course, is that they're glorified exhibitions. You cannot replicate the most important aspect of sports. They matter. Despite all the cheaters, despite all the losers, they matter. Someone is usually playing for something.

That beats a forgettable pass by an all-star any day of the week.

For Ovechkin, it is the second straight season he'll sit out the all-star game. I think he's onto something. If I followed the Capitals, I'd much, much rather he prepare for a regular season game than score six goals in a 12-11 victory for his all-star team.

I'll be honest. I'm intrigued by the skills competition. The target shooting is incredible to me. I like the fastest man competition.

But if you're trying to compare it to hockey -- real hockey -- then you're better off playing a video game.

I've covered a couple of NBA all-star games, and God forbid anyone ever play a lick of defense. The one NBA all-star game that was worth watching was in 1992. But that wasn't because of the game -- it was because of Magic Johnson. Johnson had sat out all season with HIV, but came back for the game. He scored 25 points, including a three-pointer at the buzzer, to win the MVP.

Except for that game, though, the NBA all-star game is less interesting than the slam-dunk competition. Which was fun for about 14 minutes.

Then there is the NFL Pro Bowl, which yawned its way out of Hawaii because players kept skipping the long flight to make it to the game. That, and too much Don Ho.

Again, it isn't real football. It's a simulation. I'd rather watch the Jets play the Browns.

If there is anything close to an exception, it's the baseball all-star game. There is a history of great moments there. And it comes as close as any game to approximating the real game.

But you know when the baseball all-star lost me forever? I mean, just reached out and turned off my television set. It was 2002, when the game finished in a 7-7 tie because the teams ran out of players. What game -- especially a game so important that they spend days getting ready for it -- ends in a tie?

Look, I'm all for honoring all-stars. But for playing a fake game with half of an effort? No, that won't do.

I know. Instead of watching the all-star game, why not rent Slap Shot one more time. Or Miracle. Or Mystery Alaska.

Who knows? Maybe Ovechkin should rent it, too.

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