Baseball has had its Subway Series; let the 2011 Stanley Cup final be known as the Schoolyard Series.
Regardless of which team wins, the Vancouver Canucks or the Boston Bruins, this final has already set new standards for childishness. It has become a your-mother-wears-army-boots contest with finger biting, finger wagging, diving, faking, whining and infantile insults, none so petty and silly as TV analyst Mike Milbury dissing Vancouver's struggling Sedin twins as "Thelma and Louise."
Or how about the two goaltenders? Vancouver's Roberto Luongo says the puck that teammate Maxim Lapierre plucked off the backboards and fired behind Boston's Tim Thomas for a 1-0 Canucks victory Friday would have been an "easy" save for him. Then he says Thomas hasn't said a single nice thing about him even though "I've been pumping his tires since the series began."
"I didn't realize it was my job to pump his tires," Thomas countered in Boston Sunday. "I guess I have to apologize for that."
"Things get blown out of proportion," Luongo said a half-hour later. "I'm one win away from the Stanley Cup, all that stuff is noise to me."
But such noise. Someone in the Vancouver dressing room asks Alex Burrows if his feelings are hurt by being called a serial "diver" in the game. "I could care less," he snaps.
In the Bruins' dressing room, Patrice Bergeron just shakes his head and says count him out, he's not interested in joining the head games: "I'm not a guy who's going to give you guys much juice right now."
Perhaps it's the jet lag, players, coaches and media exhausted and cranky from so much flying back and forth across the continent, some media having encountered so many delays due to bad weather that their journeys have become all-day affairs and, in some cases, two-day grinds.
Whatever is causing it - jet lag, June hockey, weather patterns, Twitter fatigue - this Stanley Cup final makes you giggle from the endless absurdity. The Boston Bruins even station a "guardian" in their dressing room to make sure no one dares step on the sacred "B" logo, an act that would surely cause the team to collapse in Monday's Game 6, which is now a must-win situation for them. In Vancouver, they cover up the sacred Canucks logo with a rug to ensure it isn't fouled by the media, then roll the rug away so the players, in their skates, can scurry across it on their way to the ice.
The only person making much sense this weekend turned out to be one of the Sedin twins, Daniel, showing remarkable Swedish maturity as he turned Milbury's mouth - last noted when he spoke out against the "pansification" of hockey - right back on him.
"He made a bad comment about us, calling us women," Daniel said on Saturday. "I don't know how he looks at women. I would be pretty mad if I was a woman."
Boston coach Claude Julien, who should know better, let himself get dragged into the Thomas-Luongo tongue-scrap by telling the media "you guys are making more out of this than Timmy will." Then he made more out of it on Timmy's behalf, pointing out that Thomas has allowed but six goals in five games while "the guy that made the comment [Luongo] I'm not quite sure how many he let in." Fourteen, for anyone keeping score of the goals rather than the "shots."
As if enough foolish things hadn't been said, Vancouver defenceman Aaron Rome, suspended for the series after that devastating hit that lost Boston's Nathan Horton to concussion, stepped up to say he didn't think the hit was late and he'd do it again.
"If I could go back," Rome told the media, "I'd wish he didn't get hurt, but I don't think it would change my decision on the play. I've got to step up and be physical, that's part of my game. It's just unfortunate."
Even without the schoolyard name calling and the sniping, this has been a most curious final series. The Vancouver Canucks win at home, always in a game so tight it comes down to a single goal (1-0, 3-2, 1-0). The Boston Bruins win at home in blowouts, 8-1, then 4-0. Luongo looks like the greatest goalie in the world in Vancouver, like a beer-league call-up in Boston.
How bizarre can it be that Vancouver stands one win away from Stanley Cup glory, yet the stars of the team - the Sedins and Ryan Kesler, at one time a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy - have but one goal among them while Thomas boasts a ridiculous 1.2 goals-against average? Taking such statistics at face value, it would seem a Boston sweep.
"Statistics this time of year," Burrows says, "are thrown out the window."
On Sunday both teams skated and both fought hard to focus on the task at hand. The Bruins must win to stay alive. The Canucks should win to avoid a Game 7 in Vancouver on Wednesday, where a single goal, a lucky bounce, could decide the Stanley Cup.
Tim Thomas, in a serendipity moment considering how immature this series has been, even talked about how he planned to deal with such pressure. It shouldn't matter where the rink is packed or empty, he said, and shouldn't matter whether the crowd is for you or against you.
"You try and get the same focus that you had as a kid when you were out playing on the pond and you're just enjoying the game."
A child's game, played this year by a great many still childish.
Asked how it would feel to lift the Stanley Cup here in Boston where he is so reviled by the fans, Vancouver's Burrows shook his head.
"It's not in my mindset to rub it in anybody's face," he said.
With a straight face, by the way.