There’s a fallacy out there that any All-Star Game is “for the fans.” That idea flew out the window long ago, especially for the NBA and NHL. The All-Star Game is merely a junket for the league’s biggest sponsors to get the chance to hobnob with the game’s top stars, a reward for their support of the league and more importantly the money they provide. Oh, and it’s also a chance for the players to get drunk with each other for a couple nights, which along with various contract bonuses, is what they’re really interested in. Most of the tickets are held for sponsors and whoever else connected to them.
So any pearl-clutching over Nikita Kucherov’s total tanking of the skills competition is pretty silly, especially as he was hardly the only one waiting around until it was time to drink. Ask most of the players to give you an honest answer with no consequences and most would tell you they would have preferred to have the weekend off. Kucherov was just being honest about it physically, if not verbally.
The skills competition was set up as some some sort of pentathlon, and it was pretty clear that Connor McDavid was going to win it. Probably having something to do with Connor McDavid designing it. Once Kucherov realized he wasn’t going to get the millions bucks, why should he care? This going on his future Hall of Fame plaque?
Those fans were booing that Kucherov was merely making it clear how stupid this all was, a truth they were trying to ignore after paying the surely supercharged prices for the Not All-Star Game, to have worse seats than various marketing execs. Which, sadly, is the truth for most any game at Rogers Centre for the Leafs.
Kucherov’s paid to play for the Lightning, to help them win a Cup. If guys choose to enjoy the weekend, that’s their prerogative. Kucherov told the league’s bosses basically to shove it, which is cool, too. It’s not in his job description to put on a show for business partners for something that doesn’t count in the standings. Hero.
We’re doing this Kylian Mbappe thing again
Maybe this time it’s real?
We’ll forgive you if you think you’ve heard this all before. Because you have. Mbappe U-turned on Madrid a couple years ago for his bananas contract with PSG that also basically gave him GM powers. Mbappe wasn’t able to construct the team he wanted in Paris after two years, so he’s going to bugger off to Spain.
Mbappe is one of the best players in the world, and certainly any team would be improved with him. And if Mbappe were content to simply play as a No. 9, everything would work out fine with Vinicius Jr. on the left and basically any dimwit who can stand up on the right, with Jude Bellingham behind that. Except Mbappe has made it quite clear he liked playing from the left with a central striker to run off of, which Madrid don’t really have at the moment. Maybe he’ll five into the 4-4-2 diamond that Carlo Ancelott has been running this year, paired with Vinicius up top. Or maybe he’ll force Vinicius off the team altogether, which as crazy as it sounds, wouldn’t be a gargantuan improvement.
But that’s for another time, when Mbappe proves this isn’t all a play to hold PSG up for more money and power like it was last time. If it does come to pass this time, there is a Durant-ness to the whole thing. PSG gave Mbappe a say on transfers and roster construction. They hired the technical director and manager he wanted before last season. He watched Neymar leave the club, whom he never really enjoyed playing with. PSG have started over basically, with a younger team that’s less star-filled in order to grow into something slightly more organic than Mercenary FC that they tried winning the Champions League with for the previous decade. And he gave it two seasons before deciding he was going to ditch it all for the ready-made platform of Madrid.
Hey, that’s cool. Madrid legends live forever and that’s hard to turn down. Bellingham and Mbappe could form something historic together. Mostly, fans probably just want to stop hearing about it.
And then there is this gem
Let’s end with the other side of The Beautiful Game, and that’s Chloe Kelly pulling off an Olimpico.