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The absolute silliest thing in sports this weekend had nothing to do with the NBA All-Star Game

BOSTON -- Did you watch the NBA All-Star Game? Whole lot of fun, that one seemed like.

Despite the fact that the NBA All-Star Game has been a joke from a competitive standpoint for quite some time, people seemed really bothered by this one. Scott Van Pelt seemed a little mad about it on the internet. Bob Ryan called it a "disgraceful farce". David Aldridge called the exhibition "irredeemable." The biggest headline coming out of the game was Charles Barkley lamenting the homeless situation in San Francisco. The teams combined for 168 3-point attempts, with the East hitting 43 percent of their 97 attempts en route to a 211-186 victory. (Not a typo.)

NBA commissioner couldn't even pretend to be excited when he presented the trophy to winning captain Giannis Antetokounmpo, saying, "And to the Eastern Conference all-stars, you scored the most points ... . Well, congratulations."

Thrilling stuff.

With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, we've all entered this dark period of the sports calendar. The NBA and NHL regular seasons are trudging along, with about a third of the season left to play. That may create some decent drama for teams at the bottom of the playoff picture fighting to get a spot, but other than that? These seasons are long. Baseball is still six weeks away, with the NFL Draft coming several weeks after that.

And it's cold out. Gray and cold.

It's rough.

The folks at the National Hockey League, though, seemed to recognize this. So they scheduled a pair of outdoor games -- a Stadium Series, if you will -- at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey over the weekend. It was a pretty solid idea, as it incorporated all three New York-area teams (Rangers, Islanders, Devils) while also welcoming the fine people of Philadelphia to the mix as well.

The games themselves were pretty good. On Saturday night, the Devils whooped the Flyers 6-3, a victory no doubt inspired by the team dressing up like Sopranos characters for their entrance into the stadium. 

Then on Sunday, the Rangers beat the Islanders, 6-5, in overtime. A good time was had by all (except Flyers and Islanders fans).

The concept was good. The hockey was good. Well done.

Except ... well, we can't just continue on with our lives without letting this one go. Because for whatever reason, the NHL made one of the wackiest, weirdest, and most unnecessary decisions of all time when it not only decided to go with a "park theme" for the area around the rink ... but also opted to employ fake parkgoers to really solidify the experience.

If you don't understand what that sentence meant, then you are a normal person. A clearer explanation: There are parks in New York. And New Jersey. New Yorkers and New Jerseyans? They go to parks. Love 'em. Can't get enough of the parks. So to honor these people and how much they just adore their little parks, the NHL made the field area look like a park. And the NHL hired people to walk around in various states of park enjoyment for the weekend.

The end result was just so silly.

This one video from a fan laughing at the spectacle racked up over a million views on X by Monday morning:

A close-up look from Julie Stewart-Binks provided a nice glimpse of the doll sitting in a carriage. (Thank goodness the NHL didn't opt for putting a real baby in there, I suppose.)

They did use real dogs, though.

You may be wondering, "But wait. Does this goofy spectacle look any less goofy in still photographs?" The answer, dear reader, is no. No, it does not.

NHL Stadium Series
A woman walks a pretend baby in a pretend park on the field at MetLife Stadium during a Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Devils.  Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images
NHL Stadium Series
People pretend to enjoy a fake park on the field at MetLife Stadium during the NHL's Stadium Series. Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images
NHL Stadium Series
A person sits on a fake park bench in a fake park on the field at MetLife Stadium during the NHL's Stadium Series. Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

The reason for all of this? 

"If you talk to anybody who grew up in New Jersey, they'll tell you the town they grew up in and the park they spent their childhood at," NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said in the NHL's announcement of the park theme. "That's pretty commonplace around these parts."

Going to parks is commonplace everywhere, though. Isn't it?

Either way, even if we leave that aside and offer our sincere congratulations to New Jersey people for having parks so closely aligned with their identities, we're not sure why we needed to see people riding bikes, walking dogs, hula hooping (?), pushing baby strollers and selling hot dogs. 

It was like "The Sims" come to life.

It was weird, man.

And it leaves us all with a lot of questions. To wit:

--Why did the NHL do this?

--How much did these actors get paid?

--Did they have the freedom to freestyle? Like the guy doing backward lunges ... did he come up with that on his own? Or did someone tell him that he must do backward lunges, and if he deviates from his routine of backward lunges, he will not be getting paid?


--Why hula hoops? I won't pretend to know as much about going to parks as the people from New York and New Jersey (those people love parks, according to the NHL), but I have never seen much hula hooping going on during my forays into parks.

--Did they hold auditions? Did they make that woman idly sit on a park bench while staring off into the distance? Was someone like, "Oh ... she is good!"? And did some people audition but not get the job? How devastating, if so.

--Was there a designated pooper scooper hiding in the bushes somewhere? One thing about dogs is ... they go to the bathroom sometimes. I have to assume there were no incidents, or we'd have seen the footage online. But still. That's a risk.

--Why does the NHL have to be so goofy all the time?

We may never get those answers. We may never see such a spectacle again. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (The NHL did have beach volleyball on the field at Dodger Stadium for the Stadium Series game there, so there is some precedence for the goofiness.)

But does some harmless park cosplay demand 1,000 written words of ridicule and mockery? No, probably not.

But it's mid-February. The days are dark. We all need a little something to get through the day. In that sense, we can all send a sincere thank you to the NHL for making this wholly unnecessary, entirely peculiar decision to have actors pretend they're in a park during an outdoor hockey game. We may never forget this moment in sports history.

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