So, if you’re not a hockey fan, this is probably as interesting to you as a stranger’s colonoscopy. But I am a hockey fan. An avid, no, rabid, hockey fan.
Being a hockey fan while the Stanley Cup playoffs are going on means you check ESPN.com/nhl 3 times a day and you count down the days until John Buccigross’ next column. That countdown was over yesterday and the latest installment is here: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs/2009/news?columnist=buccigross_john&id=4193279.
Somewhere in the middle, Bucci asks, “Why does everyone hate Sidney Crosby?” And he goes on to say, “It always has baffled me. Why is someone who dedicates his life to hockey — in how he trains, eats, lives and plays so fast and in such breathtaking and entertaining fashion — so reviled?”
This got me thinking, and I sent this on to the resident ESPN Puckhead:
In response to your “What a Cup would mean” column: the fact that people hating Sidney Crosby baffles you, in turn, baffles me. From my perspective, it’s a simple matter of a few things that form something of a negative synergy for the typical NHL fan — and by “typical NHL fan”, I mean one that does not root for the team that Sidney plays for but is forced to watch him in virtually every other nationally broadcast game for two years while uncomfortably listening to the color commentator fall just short of exclaiming, “I want to make breakfast for Sidney Crosby in the morning.”:
1. The NHL over saturated its fanbase with almost desperate Sid the Kid marketing in his rookie year. Suddenly, the game that so many of us have loved and faithfully followed for so long had been re-branded: “HOCKEY, featuring Sidney Crosby.” Or, if I am in a really cantankerous mood, the white noise began to sound like, “Tune in Sunday to watch Sidney Crosby play hockey and to see at least 7 spots chronicling Sidney’s childhood and his love for the game’s roots on Canada’s ponds.” Pardon me while I puke on my shoelaces.
2. He whined for his first two seasons. Period. No one can argue this point with a straight face while passing a breathalizer test. Yes, perhaps the scrutiny was more intense for a kid who could skate on the ice whether it was frozen or not, but the fact is that he was a whiner.
Combine this with reason #1, and you get the recipe for the annoying brat that’s most likely to be suspended by a jockstrap from the football field flagpole on homecoming Sunday in his sophomore year.
3. He is as charismatic as a box of hair. In the media, he seems to possess little genuine likability and garners virtually no unspoken respect. Add reasons #1 and #2 together, and one could surmise that Sidney has a non-trivial debt to pay off in the Guy I’d Like to Drink Beer With category. Unfortunately, Crosby does not seem to possess the power of persuasion required to make people like him if he weren’t The Greatest Hockey Player In The World.
But let’s be candid: I don’t know Sidney Crosby, so I can’t tell you if I genuinely dislike him. The real tragedy is that I *think* I dislike him, I *want* to dislike him, and I secretly want to see the league’s poster child fall on his face on the big stage, all as the result of the NHL botching its best opportunity to sell its product in almost 15 years.