Friday, February 26, 2010

Why Hockey is Better -- Reason No. 3,298

Today's reason why "Hockey Is Better"... in the other major professional team sports and in some individual sports, on-field exploits are chronicled exhaustively, adding to the legend of such figures as Peyton Manning in professional football, LeBron James in professional basketball, and Derek Jeter in major league baseball.  All of them and many others are athletes who deserve praise for their on-field/court achievements.

But in those sports we see chronicled just as exhaustively the 'off-field" problems of too many of the players in those other sports -- substance abuse accusations in professional football and major league baseball, run-ins with the criminal justice system, behaviors that might be described charitably as "immature."  Those problems are those of a small minority of players, to be sure, but they are problems that seem to persist and damage their respective sports.

Meanwhile, in these last two weeks hockey fans have basked in the joy of seeing the best athletes the sport has to offer playing under their respective national flags.  Almost without exception, it has been an advertisement to the grace, skill, and grit that is hockey.  But it is not without its off-ice interruptions, and here is where the sport parts ways with other professional sports.  Over the last two weeks, perhaps the biggest off ice story of the Olympics was a certain player being surly with the media.  One commentator, in fact, stated that for the player in question, "it's unacceptable for a player of his stature not to fulfill his obligations as a spokesman for the game."

Gee, that's it?  That's all you've got for "controversy?"  A player not speaking to the press on demand?  A couple of seconds with a camcorder?  Truth be told, I would have wished that Alex Ovechkin had been a little more accommodating to the press; I think it is in his interest, the NHL's interest, and the interest of the Olympics (including the 2014 Games in Sochi).  But I don't stand in his shoes.  I don't know what pressure he feels to get ready for these games on the international stage, where the burden largely lies on him for the results of Team Russia (I could say the same for Team Canada and Sidney Crosby, but that is a much deeper club and better able to take the performing pressure off of the young center).

If this is the biggest "off ice" problem hockey has at the moment -- or Canadian women celebrating a gold medal enthusiastically (like I'd bet a lot of the press did when they were in college and their sports teams won big games) -- then hockey is in pretty damn fine shape.

1 comment:

Darla said...

Media's perception of "entitlement" is what causes such things. It's appalling, in my opinion, that there was no alternate exit for players, that they were required to pass through the media hounds in order to leave the facility. At a time when a person would like to mourn privately, he's hounded by jerks and expected to cater to them. That's wrong.