|Islanders fans - at least your goalie didn't get hurt last night (photo stolen from USA today)|
As far as comebacks go, two goals and two assists isn't a bad way to do it. Even if you're not a hockey fan you might have heard that Sidney Crosby, or as I like to call him "Canada's Tebow", made his return to the NHL after post-concussion syndrome sidelined him for more than ten months. So much ink has been spilled about the topic I figured another 1000 words wouldn't hurt.
Normally, I would pass anything Penguin related to occasional guest columnist and hockey guru, Link. Unfortunately, he's currently on the DL himself recovering from some off-season surgery and making him bang out a couple of pages one-handed on an iPad seemed to be a bit cruel. So like Dave Johnson filling in for Pete Harnisch with the 1989 season on the line, I'll try my best.
Mixed in with all of the deserved superlatives that Crosby's performance garnered was the typical backlash that followed along. As with most of the anti-Sid animosity it seemed to be directed at the media "over-hype" then his actually abilities on the ice. To a point, I can agree with some of the rage that fans across the country felt seeing the U.S. and Canadian media descend upon Pittsburgh as if it was the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. To listen to NBC/Vs. on-ice reporter, Pierre McGuire, spend most of the night in a state of rapture was particularly grating.
Why so delirious? Well, we can probably owe it to a couple of factors. First, the NHL has spent the last 10 months without knowing if its best player was ever going to lace up the skates again. Secondly, the never ending media machine needed something to feed on.
The NHL knows that with the NBA on an extended hiatus this is their best chance to garner the affection of the casual sports fan. They need their number one marketing tool on the ice, and that tool is Sidney Crosby. Link, despite his injury, did send me the following comment: "The NHL builds itself based on star players and rivalry matchups…no star (esp. in Canada) is bigger than Sid".
Look, I don't like it any more than the next fan. I rolled my eyes when McGuire rolled out his "one of the most glorious nights you can be a part of" line. However, I understand that NBC/Vs. doesn't care about me. I'm already hooked on hockey, I'm not going anywhere. They are trying to sell it to the mass public. If you know why "Alexander Semin plays the bongos" is funny, or follow BizNasty2point0 on Twitter, then the broadcast isn't aimed at you.
Should they sell other players in the league more? Of course. But, skilled Russians with limited English don't play in Peoria. For all of the magic that Pavel Datsyuk can wield with his hockey stick he isn't someone you plaster across a billboard. Alex Ovechkin had his shot to establish himself as the best player in the league while Crosby was out. Instead, all he led the league in was tramp stamps and time spent at Russian night clubs.
Crosby has the perfect blend of on-ice talent and off-ice humbleness that public relations folks drool over. The Duchess doesn't know the difference between icing and off-sides yet she knows who Sidney Crosby is ("Of course he's going to get attention. 'Cause he's hotter" were he exact comment). When you have a player you can market to everybody, it's in your best interest to do so. You suffer the discontent of your dedicated fans, because you know they're not going anywhere.
There are fans that argue Crosby isn't the best player in the league. They complain that he whines too much, or that he is a "diver". Heck, even I managed a "Crosby is a diver" joke last night at one point. Why? 'Cause it's an easy joke to make and I'm an extremely lazy writer. Does he yap at the officials? Of course he does, but so does Marty St. Louis and nobody calls him "Mary St. Louis". In fact, if you watch a lot of hockey, you'll notice that a majority of the stars in the league spend a fair amount of time jawin' with the refs. It's just part of the game.
The other reason everyone made such a big deal about "Merry Sid-mas" was the media itself feasting on whatever story they could. We have to live with the fact that moving forward, every news story is going to get blown out of proportion. When I was growing up, national coverage (i.e. Sportscenter) was in its infancy. Crosby's return would have gotten a lot of play locally, but only limited coverage across the nation. The Baltimore Sun probably would have devoted three A.P.-sourced paragraphs and moved on with what was wrong with the Orioles at the time.
Now, everyone gets to sound off about it. Look at me. I'm a Tampa Bay fan who lives in Chicago and I'll still get at least 40 page hits out of this post. And half of those hits will come because I'm posting a picture of Sidney without his shirt on (it's all about the page hits, folks!). So writers who actually have a large following need to cover the story and find new ways to do it.
|Drink it in ladies. (photo stolen from GQ)|
In my old industry, the phrase "trying to drink from a fire hose" was bandied about anytime a vendor came in to talk about the latest new product. Monday night NBC/Vs. did their best to fire hose the casual fan when it came to explaining why the game was so important. When McGuire interviewed Crosby between the first and second period I'm surprised he had the audacity to look his Penguin deity directly in the face.
Think of all of the words written while he wasn't playing. From February to November it seemed like a day didn't go by where there wasn't an article or two posted about his status. Was he coming back? Was he still sitting in a dark room? Should he retire? Will he be able to take a hit when he did come back?
The day he actually returned to play was predestined to be a spectacle. Now it's over and the hockey world can move on. We can also continue to hit the mute button anytime Pierre McGuire is talking.