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Trending Topics: Stop pretending you don’t care about the All-Star Game

By Ryan Lambert

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Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

Frequently, when something distasteful about the NHL All-Star Game is brought into a conversation, the whole subject is dismissed with a single sentence.

"Yeah," people generally scoff, "no one cares about the All-Star Game."

But that really isn't the case. People do care about the All-Star Game. They care about the All-Star Game a Whole Lot.

That's why about one million articles get written every year about who got snubbed and why they're more deserving that this idiot who got the call instead. That's why everyone talked at length about whether guys should or should not have the right to stay home if they want to, particularly if they're super-old like Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom. That's why people got all up in arms when Alex Ovechkin got all teary-eyed about his suspension and chose to stay home instead. That's why Jets fans, particularly those who get press credentials, are complaining the team isn't represented. That's why people are saying "It's not the same without Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin." That's why you all watched the team draft last night.

It is, obviously, a waste of everyone's time and attention. There's no doubt about that. It's the amassing of the 40-something greatest hockey talents on the planet (save for those who are too old, injured or pouty to participate) and letting them halfheartedly compete in games that feature 25 goals or so in 60 minutes. Or, if we're terribly unlucky, a little more than that.

But that doesn't mean you don't care.

You can say a lot of bad things about the All-Star Game: It's shinny and it's a chance only for the league to glad-hand with the sponsors and it produces few if any memorable highlights. Certainly the "Owen Nolan calling his own shot" moments are the exception to All-Star history, not the rule. That all makes perfect sense, though why people complain about that year after year does not.

No one's pulling the wool over your eyes. The first meaningful body check thrown in an All-Star Game, one assumes, is going to ride out from a fiery sky a few paces behind War, Pestilence, Famine and Death.

All-Star games aren't about competition and, as far as contact sports go, never were. Look at how unwatchable the Pro Bowl is every year, or the NBA's All-Star Games coming in with average combined scores approaching 300. The only All-Star Games that ever truly resemble the sport in its regular form is baseball, because if pitchers didn't try to throw 98-mile-an-hour cheese, batters would be doing conga lines around the bases after hitting 42 consecutive 500-foot home runs.

There's a very good reason why, deep down, even if you don't actually torture yourselves by sitting through it, you really do care about the All-Star Game. It's what the game represents to you as a fan.

It says that your guys are what you always believed them to be: The best in the league. It's validation that your team's forward or defenseman or goalie are really great players. You watch them every night and you see how good they are. "How could anyone think [insert player here] isn't the best [insert position here] in the world?" Well, now he proved it by being selected to the game.

Which brings us back to the concept of snubs and why [guy on your team] is more deserving than [Alex Ovechkin] this year.

That's why everyone was so happy when Scott Hartnell, a deserving All-Star this year — though never before and never again unless he keeps playing with Claude Giroux — finally got named to the team. It may have taken six dozen players being injured or begging off (he's the closest thing to a war-time All-Star we're ever going to see again) to get him in, but he got the call. This validated what everyone could plainly see, and even cut through the usual All-Star qualification process that places prestige over performance.

When you say you don't care about the All-Star Game, really, is that you don't care the outcome of the game. I couldn't tell you now if Team Lidstrom beat Team Staal last year or how many times North America downed The World, but that was never the point.

So have fun this weekend. You know you'll be watching. Even if you spent the last few weeks telling everyone how little you care about it.

Know what else people care about? Tim Thomas

We are now a full five days out from that time Tim Thomas embarrassed his teammates by not showing up to the White House over political differences that he adorably pretended wasn't to do with any one political party.

Oh, the furor we have seen in that time. It ranged from, "Well technically Tim Thomas didn't violate the constitution by not showing up but you have to respect him having the courage of his convictions," to "Tim Thomas is a jerk and a [expletive] selfish [expletive] who put himself before his teammates, none of whom like him, by the way."

In general, people who were level-headed about the whole thing thought it was farcical and silly and a noteworthy event in an otherwise quiet week of hockey, and that was it.

But not fanboy Bruins bloggers, who spent the week on Twitter attacking anyone that dare speak a breath against their Tea Party nutjob goaltender as malcontents who just want to generate drama, cleaving sadly to the idea that this is somehow media-fabricated.

Whether you think the team would, could, or should trade Thomas is another story entirely, and that's a debate worth having, but the adults who can't put down their pom-poms long enough to bang out a coherent "This is a non-story" post choose not to see it that way.

It's the media's job to report stories, and the Thomas thing was a big one. So in that way, it was absolutely media-driven. But it's not media-generated and it's certainly not something only the media cares about.

In fact, as Hockey Hall of Fame writer, Boston Globe columnist and the guy who was arguably most instrumental in ginning up the bad public perception that drove Joe Thornton out of town, Kevin Paul Dupont relates, Bruins fans seem to care very deeply about this indeed.

"Thomas column on Tues brought some 1,200 reader comments to, 700 direct [emails]. So, 'People don't care' just doesn't fly," he tweeted yesterday.

There was, he further pointed out, also a poll that asked what people thought of Thomas' decision, where respondents could vote, "Agree - he has every right to make a statement that way," or, "Disagree - he shouldn't have stolen his team's spotlight." At the time this is being written, there were 16,445 voters (62.96 percent of which voted "Disagree").

That's a lot of people caring about a story people don't care about.

Pearls of Biz-dom

We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?

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If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.


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