September 15, 2012. With apologies to Charles Dickens, for this fan it’s the worst of times and it’s the best of times. First the worst occurred at the stroke of midnight today. Really do not have the heart to waste much energy over the NHL owners’ determination to destroy professional hockey just when the game is riding the crest of an enormous wave of popularity and poised for a even more exciting season this year.

© AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Greed and confidence that the league can bring the players to their knees in capitulation as it did after the 2004-05 Lost SeasonCommissioner Gary Bettman and the owners who pay his $8-million salary act like over-confident bullies.

Believe they have grossly miscalcuated the players’ response and the fans’ willingness to endure another lost season. Personally, hope the players organize their own series of games in non-NHL venues and play some World Cup-style matches—US vs Sweden; Canada vs. Russia; the Slovaks against all comers. Take the games to the fans. (Hint, hint, there’s a great venue in Atlanta…) Go play in Europe.  

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Meanwhile, NASCAR continues to deliver the excitement fans demand. The Race to Make the Chase came down to a flawed pit stop strategy, with Kyle Busch losing the opportunity to compete for the Sprint Cup on pit road, and veteran Jeff Gordon claiming that last slot. Gotta love a guy who vows to grow a retro 90’s mustache if he makes the Chase—and is following through on that promise (though admittedly a bit sparse after a week’s growth).

NASCAR’s most popular driver has also been its most consistent driver this season. Is this the year that Dale Jr. finally claims his championship? We’ve seen a new Junior this year—more confident, aggressive on the track; winning that race bounced the boulder off his back, and most importantly, Junior’s enjoying racing again.

Did you see Dale Earhardt, Jr’s “Letter to Dale, Jr at 16” on CBS This Morning this week? What an amazing glimpse into the character of this intensely private man. Following the #88 through the next ten races will certainly offset any lingering sadness over the NHL’s madness.

Perhaps Commissioner Bettman and the NHL owners should take a page from the NASCAR manual. Fans come first and neither NASCAR nor the drivers ever forget this mantra.

Yep, this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup’s the very best of times for this fan!

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