There is a perception that despite their accomplishments this year the New York Rangers are treated like second-class citizens by the media and fans within their own market. While the Rangers have played consistently strong throughout the season they rarely get the amount of coverage their MSG and seasonal-sport counterparts, the New York Knicks, receive on a daily basis. It isn’t just the Knicks either; the coverage afforded to the Rangers pales in comparison to that of the Yankees, the Giants and the Jets, no matter the season.
This perception carries over to the players on each team as well. While star players with other New York City clubs are practically idolized by the average fan in and around the city and consistently pushed upon that fan base for their consumption by the media, athletes wearing Rangers sweaters are relatively ignored.
We here at Ranger Nation work hard to bring our readers the best possible Ranger-related content on the internet. Part of that responsibility entails that we are on the internet constantly reading as much material pertaining to the Blue Shirts as we can. Recently, our founder and illustrious leader stumbled upon this article (http://www.cavemag.com/the-curious-case-of-ryan-callahan/) by Jay Adams of cavemag.com in which the author describes the same perception problems mentioned above.
More specifically Adams also compares how Rangers captain Ryan Callahan is viewed and portrayed within his own market compared to star players and/or captains of other New York franchises. Some of those Callahan is compared to in the piece are: Derek Jeter, Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Callahan’s name doesn’t resonate like Eli’s, Carmelo’s, Derek’s or even Mark’s. He’s not mentioned on Chelsea Lately, TMZ or David Letterman. He’s not a staple of newspapers, sports radio or online message boards. He’s not even a regular topic of discussion amongst NHL analysts and experts.
But the 27-year-old forward might be most underrated player in today’s NHL. And in that sense, he’s probably the most underpublicized star athlete currently residing in the Empire City.”
He then goes on to list the attributes which make Callahan the player he is, the captain he is and the player all Ranger fans love and admire. Goal scoring, minutes played in all situations, leadership and heart are just a few of the characteristics pointed out by Adams.
Finally, Adams brings it home:
“And that’s what makes Ryan Callahan’s case so peculiar. He possesses all the characteristics an NHL general manager could want. He plays in the media-hotbed of New York City. He’s the captain of the best team in the Eastern Conference. Yet, for some odd reason, he simply fails to generate any significant media attention.
Because of this, the relative anonymity of Ryan Callahan might be the most compelling NHL story we’ve never read about. And for now, maybe that’s fine.
But it certainly won’t last much longer.
I’d guess June, at the latest.”
There is much in the article I can agree with. The point that the Rangers and Callahan in particular may not get the accolades they deserve is spot on. But the question is why this is the case?
First it’s important to remember media outlets are in the business of selling, whether that’s newspapers, magazines, ad space or what have you. The bottom line is their job is to give the public what they want. So how does that apply with each of the players Adams compares Callahan to in his article? Why might those athletes be more newsworthy than Callahan?
Jeremy Lin – Everyone loves a good underdog story. The 1980 Miracle On Ice. The Jets upset of the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The New York Mets winning the World Series over the terrifically talented Baltimore Orioles in 1969. Those stories grabbed the nation because they weren’t supposed to happen the way they did. The Jeremy Lin story fit that mold too; at least for a while.
Lin, an undrafted graduate of Harvard, a point guard of Asian-American descent, a player cut twice before landing in New York City, became a national sensation overnight. Subbing into the Knicks lineup because of injuries, Lin took the league by storm and helped lead the team to several improbable wins. He briefly gave a fan base desperate for a championship hope that the team’s biggest weakness was solved by an unlikely source.
Lin represents the prototype of underdog stories. Is it any wonder the fans and therefore the media jumped all in on Lin?
Carmelo Anthony – A hometown kid acquired to add star power to a club desperate to win. The results have been middling so far for Anthony in New York but as Adams pointed out in his piece, Anthony is also known for a VH1 reality show. That’s bound to bring extra, if perhaps undeserved attention to any athlete.
Tim Tebow – Tebow has been a national phenomenon since he was winning Heisman trophies as a collegiate QB for Florida. Maybe it’s because he’s so vocally and demonstrably religious. Regardless, now that he is in the media capital of the world the Tebow story is only going to draw more attention.
Mark Sanchez – The “leader” of the most dysfunctional NFL locker room in the sport. Head coach Rex Ryan puts the club smack dab in the spotlight with his annual Super Bowl victory prognostications and that puts more pressure on the guy manning the most important position on the field. Coupled with his struggles to fulfill Ryan’s prophecies, Sanchez is still one of the more recognizable names and faces in all of sports.
Derek Jeter – Captains are not too common in baseball but nonetheless Jeter has held the position for the most storied franchise in the sport and has been part of five world championship clubs. Take one superstar player on a high profile team with big time success and you get Jeter.
Eli Manning – Has two world championships; the first of which came against the previously unbeaten and seemingly indestructible 2007 New England Patriots. The improbability of that first Super Bowl win elevated Manning to the top of the New York athlete food chain.
It’s understandable then that Callahan takes a back seat to several other New York athletes. But there is a much simpler reason Callahan doesn’t get the attention he may deserve: Hockey is simply behind the other three “major” sports on the popularity scale. Check the U.S. TV ratings for each of the sports and hockey has typically placed last among those four. That’s the reality. Of course the media is going to talk about stories involving the players and teams that more people want to see or hear. That’s the business of media and it’s simply good business.
A detail I don’t agree with Adams about is that Callahan flies under the radar (so to speak) even among hockey analysts. That is not true. It is nearly impossible to hear or read a hockey analyst talk about the Rangers without them mentioning Ryan Callahan’s name. They acknowledge the Rangers style of play and therefore their success derives directly from Callahan and his on-ice contributions. He has garnered Selke mention (not necessarily as the winner but as a deserving candidate) from well-known hockey pundits like Pierre LeBrun of ESPN and TSN, Kevin Allen of USA Today, Fluto Shinizawa of the Boston Globe, Adam Proteau of THN and Elliote Friedman of CBC.
Callahan was also a surprise inclusion to Team USA’s roster for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Granted that roster was selected by Brian Burke, David Poile and other NHL GM’s or executives and not by the national media but still I can’t recall much grousing over Callahan’s presence on that roster. His play there showed he could handle the pressures of big-time hockey and may have helped convince Torts (an assistant coach on that team) to entrust Cally as his captain starting in 2011-2012.
It takes a lot for a New York Rangers captain in the crowded New York sports market to get his name mentioned in the same sentence as other elite athletes. It can happen (see: Messier, Mark) but it will take the deliverance of the club’s 5th Stanley Cup championship in order to do it. Is Ryan Callahan ready to do that; to take his spot among the greatest captains in New York sports history? Check back in June to find out.
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