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Editorial: Out Of Sight, Very Out Of Mind

It’s a magical time to be a sports fan right now, as the on-field story lines across the board are fantastic. Major League Baseball’s postseason has been nothing short of riveting. The NFL shrugged off its early-season refereeing embarrassments and now the focus is back on the battles on the gridiron—and, naturally, on Tim Tebow.

College football is rife with plot lines, including a wide-open national title race. NASCAR’s dramatic playoff Chase could be thrown into disarray at any second by another massive wreck.

Soccer fans have a wild start to the English Premier League across the pond, and Major League Soccer, which just drew 66,000-plus fans to a regular-season game in Seattle, is about to kick off its postseason here in the U.S. The Ultimate Fighting Championship has some mega-fi ghts brewing. And hoops fans are gearing up for an NBA season that has plenty to watch, from Los Angeles to Miami.

One sport missing from this list is hockey, and that’s because the National Hockey League—which struggles for attention even at its best—is in the midst of a work stoppage that is wiping out the beginning of its season. We’d get into the details of the conflict, but frankly we don’t care. Much like we didn’t care about the details between the NFL and its refs. And fans and viewers feel the same way.

Whether it is a sports league versus a players’ union, or a carriage fight between a group of networks and a distributor, be warned: In this day and age of endless choices for people’s entertainment time and money, it’s just gotten easier for us to find something else to do.

The NFL is in a league of its own: Commissioner Roger Goodell could mandate that you get punched in the groin every time you turn on one of their games and ratings would still be through the roof. Other than that, the leverage that any entertainment or sports property has is falling every day in the face of simply having more to choose from.

When a deal gets done well before a deadline—like CBS-DirecTV did last week—without all the ridiculous PR battles that never move the needle a single inch, they should be lauded. And they reap the rewards, as all that time and resources can be devoted to making the parties’ products better.

So, disappear if you must, like the NHL, but know the increasing consequences of your absence. Listen, we’d like to see the Rangers, Wild, Red Wings and Kings back on the ice by the Jan. 1 Winter Classic outdoor game. We’re betting that much like the NBA coming back before its traditional Christmas Day extravaganza last year, the NHL and its players won’t be dumb enough to miss it. But if they don’t come back, that’s fine—we have plenty to keep us occupied.