Saturday, December 24, 2011
Don't read this, Eduardo:
The 1970s Flyers. Mike Tyson on skates.
SORRY, PUCK. My wife is excited about the Winter Classic, Flyers against Rangers. The papers are devoted to showing us the high-tech graphics of the goalie masks on both sides. Slick? Yeah. But I still prefer the blank malevolence of the mask above, which Bernie Parent wore in winning two successive Stanley Cups for Philadelphia. (What he'll also be wearing in the alumni game a day before.)
The best thing about the Winter Classic is that it allowed us non-HBO subscribers to see the slam-bang documentary about The Broad Street Bullies on cable. Which we watched last night.
Jeez. The whole thing is here.
I don't even know what the best thing is. The two Stanley Cups? The fact that Slap Shot was a poor imitation of a real and much better team? The unexpected iconography of Kate Smith? The only ever fair treatment of Philadelphia sports fans in a major media product? Or the humiliation of the Russian Red Army Team, when they'd crushed the NHL's best and suddenly the most hated team in hockey was conscripted by a commissioner who loathed them to defend the honor of the NHL, Canada, The United States, and our way of life. Oh yeah. It's the last one.
Forget the Miracle on Ice. This wasn't like that. It wasn't the Olympics. It was Philadelphia. The Russians came into town riding a wave of victories over NHL royalty. The disreputable, no-talent Flyers began by preventing them from penetrating the blue line, which no one had ever done. When they'd accomplished that, they set about beating the shit out of the Russians. Who left the ice.
Until they learned they wouldn't get paid for quitting. Then the Flyers rubbed it in. The Flyers way.
In the Cold War, this was maybe the second closest we ever came to Hot War. If you've never seen the story of the Broad Street Bullies, watch it. It's not hagiography. It's a warts and all account. But as someone who had to follow this history at a distance, in Boston, home of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, a city seething with angry contempt of the Flyers, I was thrilled to see Bruins of that era acknowledging what so few in The Hockey ever do: that the Flyers won not because of their thuggery but because they could play The Hockey.
Watch the Winter Classic. It's a spectacular once-a-year event.
Merry Christmas, everyone. And a Happy New Year too.