I realize everything was bigger in the 1980s. A Flock of Seagulls’ hair. Gary Coleman’s bank account. The threat of immediate thermonuclear destruction. Still, it’s scary how the NBA and Stanley Cup finals have devolved into a footnote in the 24-hour sporting news cycle.

The Anaheim Ducks could win the most cherished prize in their profession tonight, and you would struggle to round up 100 people in allegedly hockey-mad Lewiston who give a rodent’s hindquarters.

Part of that phenomenon is the fact that the Ducks quack in a city where it’s 80 degrees year-round and that people still associate their name with a sticky-sweet kiddie flick.

Wouldn’t matter if the Canadiens were on the cusp of closing out the Red Wings, though. Precious few people south of Yakima or Coburn Gore would switch away from their dancing show during commercials.

There isn’t a person with a stake in the National Hockey League who can tell me with a straight face that the product is in a growth spurt or even a holding pattern.

Same goes for basketball. Its championship series pairs the premier franchise and player of this decade against the team and budding superstar poised to carry that baton in the next.

ESPN has placated the parent company by pushing Tim Duncan and LeBron James down our throat like pureed green beans to a toddler, and rightfully so. Even if it’s an impending sweep, this implied torch-passing should keep the league rolling in the clover through 2020. Emphasis on the “should,” there.

Neither situation hints at a diminished interest in team sports. I hear that all the time, and it’s hogwash. There is a reason you hear more NFL talk than NBA and NHL discussion, combined, during football’s supposed off-season. Football is king.

Baseball doesn’t capture our imagination the way it once did, but it has the benefit of knowing that a team from New York, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles almost assuredly will be in its World Series.

Hockey translates horribly to television. It also never filled the Wayne Gretzky vacuum. Mario Lemieux couldn’t survive the air up there. Sidney Crosby won’t, either.

Hoops struggle with various image problems, as well as the perception that Duncan is somehow a less intriguing character than Larry, Magic, Michael or even Sir Charles. Both those perceived shortcomings might underscore our ignorance as much as anything basketball has done wrong.

I don’t have all the answers, but somebody in charge better dream up a couple. Do it or die. Or lose your rung on the ladder to soccer.


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