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Simmons Podcast on Ovechkin's Villainy


2008 photo by Toni L. Sandys - TWP


Perhaps because I live in a D.C. sports media bubble, I was under some impression that, outside a few badly dressed Canadian media members and some rabid fans in dying industrial towns, Alex Ovechkin was fairly well-regarded in a national sense. "Everyone's second-favorite team," right? The camera loves him, right? The goofy gap-toothed Russian with the NBA flair, the taste for techno, the red hair dye and the amusing "Russian machine never breaks" quotes?

"Maybe I'm biased, but he's pretty easy to dislike," said Dave Dameshek, a native of a dying industrial town who was the most recent guest on Bill Simmons's ESPN.com podcast. "He's the most villainous superstar, Ovechkin..."

"I agree," Simmons said.

"Since Mark Messier," Dameshek continued. "And I'm not talking about hockey, I'm talking about in any sports. Superstar who just plays it dirty and is unlikeable in general, with that jumping around all the time after every goal."

"Yeah, it's great," Simmons concluded. "He's like out of a bad sports movie. I love it."

Unlikeable in general? Villainous? Easy to dislike? I mean, sure, if we're talking about Sean Avery, but a 50-goal scorer whose game is almost universally admired and who takes 1.7 seconds to celebrate goals by leaping into the glass, in much the same way that, say, Evgeni Malkin and Crosby have celebrated goals? Now, this Dameshek fellow is clearly a Pittsburgh partisan and all, and so earlier in the podcast, he had said this:

"Listen, I love Kid Crosby. I think if you watched this series, Kid Crosby, you don't know what you were looking at if you come away from it thinking anything other than this guy is the most determined superstar in sports."

So fine, the Iron-City-and-Coal-Smoke set go in for the villain talk, but Simmons played right along. He even--get this--dropped a Karate Kid reference.

"It's really too bad Ovechkin isn't French or German," Simmons said. "I think it would push him to another level, if his name was Alexander Lafleur and he was just this bad-ass French guy, we'd all hate him. He'd be like Cobra Kai. The Russian thing makes him more likable."

See, all these times that Mike Wise has written these columns about how hard-working Canadians are all rooting against the Caps, I sort of figured he was setting up some north-of-the-border straw men who didn't actually exist, that no real person in this day would actually be so bizarre as to hold a leap into the glass as some sort of barometer of sporting worthiness and villainy. Odd, is all I can say.

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 18, 2009; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
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Comments

Oh, Karate Kid reference - that's original from him! How are the Bruins and Celtics doing, Simmons? F*ckstick

Posted by: Kev29 | May 18, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Crosby? Better than Ovechkin? Yeah....right. Crosby scored most of his goals just by sitting by our net and tapping in rebounds and taking advantage of soft defense.

Posted by: MiggyErbs | May 18, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

1. Simmons is still using that Cobra Kai thing?

2. Hated? Really? Funny, I don't recall ESPN giving AO the Terrell Owens treatment. You know, non-stop analysis of how he's a great talent and bad teammate?

3. Simmons is an odd bird.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | May 18, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Really Dan? Kornheiser just got canned from MNF and this is the next bog post??

With apologies to Mark Jackson..You're better than that!

Posted by: burnsrb | May 18, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Simmons has been using the same tired lines for years i.e. Kobra Kai; which is why I tuned him out years ago. He is a Boston hack who thinks he is a sports genius. Ovechkin is larger than Canada which upsets the xenophobes to no end as he is a World Hockey icon. The Great 8 is the KING!

Posted by: mjwies11 | May 18, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I stopped reading Simmons years ago. He is the most biased homer in the national sports writing world. Its sad that ESPN devotes so much space to this hack. No matter what he is talking about, he somehow finds a way to bring it back to the greatest team in the history of sports, the old Boston Celtics. And no matter what you think about the Kentucky Derby, there is some way for him to reference the Boston Red Sox. It doesn't matter what it is as long as he can talk about how Boston is the greatest.
The worst part of it all is his actual writing style. He loves to use as many pop culture references as possible. Sometimes he will go off on tangents several paragraphs long that somehow relate Alex Rodriguez to Wes Mantooth from Anchorman. It doesn't make sense and its way too far of a stretch to be funny. The guy panders to one audience and for some reason people find his diluted, non-witty references amusing.
Please do not take what this guy says with any degree of seriousness. I GUARANTEE that if Ovechkin was on the Bruins, Simmons would claim to be the biggest hockey fan in Boston and would write column after column about how this guy is the greatest player in the world and Crosby is a puppet.

Posted by: MeatSweats | May 18, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Simmons' reaction might be a short-term reaction typical of people who don't follow hockey -- they don't know much about Ovie, saw his dopey hockey stick celebration, and concluded he was full of himself.

Long term, however, people are going to choose to favor either Crosby or Ovechkin, kind of like people chose to either like Magic or Bird. Crosby seems to be as much fun as a librarian, while Ovie has the personality to enjoy having Cooley throw a football at his groin. Ovie will likely win the battle for fans' hearts over the long term, especially if the Caps start advancing in the playoffs.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | May 18, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

My wife is from Crosby's home town of Halifax Nova Scotia. While visiting the maritime town for the Christmas/New Year holiday. I was wearing my Portis jersey at one of the local sports bars watching the Redskins play the 49ers. I was shocked to see an Ovechkin jersey framed and prominently displayed in a bar in Halifax. I told one of the locals I was shocked to see such a thing. He and his friends went on to praise the Great 8. In fact they had nasty thing to say about Sid. Saying how cocky he is and how much they didn't care for him.
I'm going back in a weak and I'll be sure to wear my Ovechkin shirt to the same bar for the playoffs.

Posted by: epostell | May 18, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I guess people hate athletes who enjoy playing their sport now. God forbid someone show emotion. And Simmons really isn't worth anyone's time. If you want to talk about someone who has clearly overstayed his welcome, look no further than Bill Simmons, whose pop culture references are wildly overplayed. As a columnist, he's jumped the shark, and he's hardly relevant. He knows a good deal about the NBA, but not much else, so his opinions about the NHL and its players should be taken lightly. And here's some news for Mr. Simmons: The sports world doesn't revolve around Boston.

Posted by: CDon | May 18, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I like Bill Simmons, generally. I even enjoy the constant Karate Kid and Rocky and Hoosiers references; it's his schtick, and he's honed it pretty well.

But of course he doesn't really know anything about hockey, and would probably be hard pressed to name anyone currently playing beyond Ovechkin, Crosby, and whichever Bruins players' names he picked up watching Game 7 of the last series. So, applying his usual pop culture lens to what little he knows about hockey, uh, let's see, Crosby is Daniel-san and Ovechkin is Johnny Lawrence (both cocky), or Crosby is Rocky and Ovechkin is Ivan Drago (both Russian), or Crosby is Hickory High and Ovechkin is South Bend Central. It's pretty obvious, if all you know about hockey is that its two superstars are a hard-working, humble, Canadian kid named Crosby and a gap-toothed, grandstanding, Russian showboat named Ovechkin. So whatever.

I agree with Dan, though; it is weird to think of Ovechkin framed as the villain. I wouldn't go by what Damashek (hopelessly biased) or Simmons (hopelessly clueless) think, but it does make me wonder a bit how he's generally seen in hockey culture. I've always just assumed that he was mostly loved. Perhaps something has changed after the stick-on-fire incident, or it's just that the Caps aren't losers or loveable underdogs any longer.

Posted by: bikng | May 18, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Just as puzzled as you are, Dan--I remember watching the NHL All-Star Game and skills competition and Ovechkin seemed really popular in Montreal. He seemed to get more cheers than anyone besides Habs players.

If Ovy played for the Bruins, Simmons would refer to him as the Hockey Jesus, or whatever the hockey equivalent is to whatever he calls Larry Bird.

Posted by: TheFingerman | May 18, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The hockey world is divided into several groups when it comes to Ovechkin:
People that like him because they respect his supreme talent (most hockey fans, including MANY in Canada).
People that like him because he shows emotion in a game full of emotionless superstars (newer hockey fans).
People from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
People that don't like him because they are bitter that he isn't on their team (Rangers fans).
And people who don't like him because he is not from western Canada (Don Cherry).
Then hockey writers who want to have a Crosby vs Ovechkin story line (good vs evil)

Posted by: MeatSweats | May 18, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Simmons? Really? This Chicago native and Blackhawks fan, rather indifferent to the Caps and wouldn't dislike the Penguins if Crosby wasn't on the team, doesn't care what some blowhard from Boston thinks.

Posted by: aaronsinger | May 18, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

1) Bill has said on a number of occassion that he dislikes DC as a City.

2) He knows virtually nothing about hockey, and freely admits this

3) The only people who dislike Ovie are the "Old-School" Don Cherry types. If hockey is ever going to be one of the big sports again, its going to be on the success of Ovie not Crosby. There are very few people who are dying to watch Crosby play that don't already love the game. Ovie can bring a whole new audience.

Posted by: Natstural | May 18, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Messier was a villain? Granted I grew up in NY and was an Isles fan so I hated him. I was also like 14 at the time. Rangers fans obviously loved him. I just figured that anybody who wasn't an Isles fan loved him. Wasnt he like the standard for everything that was ever great in hockey for some time?

Unless Messier was indeed a villain, I think the Dameshek guy loses credibility right away.

Posted by: makplan20002 | May 18, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"Saying how cocky he is and how much they didn't care for him."
---

For a Canadian thats like "F*** You". right?

Posted by: alex35332 | May 18, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Simmons (who is a complete and total jackhole...I was on a flight with him and caught his "do you know who I am" act) forever lost me with his pretty xenophobic and otherwise racist 'diary' about the NHL draft a few years ago...mocking how 18/19 year old draft-eligible kids dress and the structure of the draft, and mocked how they spoke (un-American). He's never been inside an NHL dressing room and wouldn't last six seconds if he did.

Being Canadian...a fair few people back home have been rooting for Washington, and when I'm back home of late I'm shocked at the number of kids that have Ovechkin sweaters.

Cherry has been downright effusive of late about Ovechkin and Washington. He showed a clip of Ovechkin with his head down on the bench at the end of Game 7, talking about how much it means to guys like Ovechkin; that's some high praise by Cherry's mind (he also ran a clip of Luongo getting choked up after the Canucks were eliminated). In the past, the comment about Russian players is that they didn't care about the playoffs...times change. He's said a ton of nice things about both Laich and Erskine, showing Erskine doing some solid puckhandling. About Green, he poked fun of his haircut, but scolded Team Canada to "not use this series to keep him off the Olympic team", and used Washington as an example of how to dress before games (showing several Washington players wearing suits and ties...saying "that's how to look...first place club there!" (in a December clip he mocked Ottawa and Tampa for looking dissheveled).

I can only hope Simmons enjoyed watching his beloved Celtics lose last night in game 7. Maybe he can write some 5000 word magnum opus to how the refs screwed the Celtics or something.

Posted by: jcurrin | May 18, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with bikng 100%.

Simmons is a complete Boston homer, and it gets annoying at times, but overall he's a very entertaining read/listen. He's admitted to only just getting back into hockey, so I guess it makes sense that he just went along with what the Pitt fan DD said.

I'm still confident that fans outside of Pitt (even in Philly) generally respect Ovie and see him as a good guy.

Posted by: SilentAlarm | May 18, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Simmons (who is a complete and total jackhole...I was on a flight with him and caught his "do you know who I am" act) forever lost me with his pretty xenophobic and otherwise racist 'diary' about the NHL draft a few years ago...mocking how 18/19 year old draft-eligible kids dress and the structure of the draft, and mocked how they spoke (un-American). He's never been inside an NHL dressing room and wouldn't last six seconds if he did.

Posted by: jcurrin

Have you ever noticed how Simmons never has a single compliment for a black coach or quarterback - usually classifying them as overrated or incompetent? Hmmmm... classic Boston racist.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 18, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

"For a Canadian thats like "F*** You". right?"

------------------------------------
yeah, I should have put it in quotes or brackets. I guess I'll have more Canadian quotes next week.

Posted by: epostell | May 18, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't get why people are surprised or upset by this. When you are a great player and cause damage to other teams their fans are going to hate you. In Canada Alex is a rock star but the minute he beats a Canadian team in the playoffs he will be despised. And that's how it should be.

Posted by: bulldog23 | May 18, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

bikng and silentalarm are right. i really dont think simmons was really calling Ovechkin out as much as just diagreeing with DD, who in listening to him on the BS Report is probably more of a homer then Bill.

I think Bill is simply saying how this is what hockey needs more then calling out Ovie or being racist. THat the NHL has these two stars that dont like each other is great for the sport. Obviously he isnt the world's biggest hockey fan, but he has in the past considered hockey to be his favorite sports, so he does know SOMETHING about the sport.

Also, a couple weeks ago the May 5th podcast Bill and Jack-O talked about Crosby and Ovechkin and didnt make any comment about Ovie as a villian. I am a Simmons fan and love the podcasts but I still don't think he was completely going after Ovie just merely agreeing with DD that there was a bad-ass tinge to this whole thing, and as a casual hockey fan that was piquing his interest

Posted by: Plantman182 | May 18, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm still confident that fans outside of Pitt (even in Philly) generally respect Ovie and see him as a good guy.

Posted by: SilentAlarm | May 18, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I wore a Caps t-shirt to a Nats-Phillies game over the weekend and random Phillies fans kept stopping to talk to me and tell me how much they love watching Ovie (and conversely, hate Crosby. The crying about the hats must have come up 50 times!) Over and over, they kept saying how they wished the Caps hadn't been so injured (a couple suggesting the fix was in with the refs....) and how enjoyable Ovie is to watch, "even if we don't actually, ya know, like you guys...."

Posted by: RedBirdie | May 18, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

YUCK, this bog is terrible.

Posted by: NatyBG | May 19, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Simmon's whole schtick is that he's a homer. That's the whole point. Complaining about that is like complaining that the post employing bald sports columnists.

Plus he has written many times about how he was burned by the Bruins and avoids hockey. This podcast is as serious as a Boswell column about anything besides baseball, i.e. not very.

Posted by: M__N | May 19, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Simmons has one column basically. Karate Kid, Celtics, Sports Gal. It was funny the first 6 times, but the next 70 are insufferable.

Posted by: mischadc83 | May 19, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Basically, I never listen to what any of the commentators or analysts say because they are all biased in some way. Crosby was better in the series, more complete. Ovechkin is fun to watch but he does take cheap shots (take a breath, it is true). Washington should just stop whining about losing, you were beat by a better team.

Posted by: TLNF | May 19, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I love how you all get so upset when it feels like poor little defenseless Ovechkin is getting picked on in the playground. GROW UP. He does alot of things to make people not like him. Who gives a crap. It's ok to trash Crosby who has done nothing but be a respectful and hardworking representative for the NHL but my goodness don't say one bad word about Ovechkin. I'm pretty sure he can take care of himself. You all talk about BIAS but you sure don't mind being biased toward Crosby. Open your eyes, he's got massive talent and puts out 100% effort every night he plays. He's the first guy at practice and the last guy to leave. He lives and breathes hockey. I guess that makes him bad. Talk about being blind and stupid.

Posted by: TLNF | May 19, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"It's really too bad Ovechkin isn't French or German"


yeah coz nobody is more likable than a German.

Posted by: Andoy | May 19, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

"dying industrial towns"???

Come on. If you're such a super clever sports blogger, try and come up with a more original insult next time, Mr. Steinberg. That stereotype is more tired than Marion Berry jokes about DC.


Posted by: LonnieBeale1 | May 19, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I just find it funny that the state of America's geo-political relations is such that anyone finds the Russians, as a general rule, less villainous than the French or the Germans. Whither the Evil Empire?

Posted by: JamesDougan | May 19, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"Villain"? Gaack. Sounds like a 14-year-old complaining about the opposing team.

Posted by: OvechkinFan92801 | May 19, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Complaining that Dameshek or Simmons is a homer is completely missing the point - they are sports fans, they actually like a team rather than want to crucify it, and they enjoy sports.

If you want objectivity, read a boring AP account of a game, if you want guys that invent stupid fake controversies in the name of "not giving a free pass", listen to sports talk radio. I'll stick to Simmons and Dameshek because they are entertaining.

Posted by: twcunningham | May 19, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't care/notice when haters hate, but to decide there is a widespread belief in this is BS. I'm surrounded by Rags fans and they all love Ovie. He is great, who cares if he knows it? You going to tell me Cindy Crysby doesn't believe that he's the greatest thing since sliced bread? Puuulease, prima donna is convinced he is queen of the ice.

And if ovie is so hated why would NHL players vote him guy they would most like to switch lives with? They def didn't say that about Cindy.

Posted by: mrszilla | May 19, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

TLNF=obvious pens fan. "It's ok to trash Crosby who has done nothing but be a respectful and hardworking representative for the NHL" and I guess jumping the guy off the faceoff and the nut punch is "respectful". Talk about us being blind and stupid.

Posted by: dfe1 | May 19, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

"Have you ever noticed how Simmons never has a single compliment for a black coach or quarterback - usually classifying them as overrated or incompetent? Hmmmm... classic Boston racist. "
===
Except the columns and podcasts with Mike Lombardi where he's raved about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. But hey, don't let facts get in the way.

Posted by: hubcap | May 19, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Simmons is a goofball. Occasionally funny but he has openly admitted to only following playoff hockey, and even then its half-hearted. I haven't read him much over the past year, so maybe he jumped on the Bruins bandwagon. Bill Simmons' opinion on hockey holds about as much weight as the lady who couldn't operate the bar code scanner at Safeway last night when I was trying to checkout.

Posted by: SombreroGuy | May 19, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what that idiot thinks. Ovechkin is a wonderfule hockey player with tremendous charisma. You need to look no further than DC to see what his impact is on the game. Hockey has never been anywhere near this popular in town and Ovechkin is the main reason it has reached previously unthought of heights.

Posted by: blackandred777 | May 19, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Wow, this is amazing. I listen to Prime Time Sports out of Toronto and it is near unanimous from the talking heads on that program...and these are people that generally cover hockey...that Ovechkin is more likeable and dynamic than Crosby.

I'll take the opinions of McCown, Brunt, Kelly, etc. over Bill Simmons on hockey anyday of the week.

Posted by: freakinandpeakin | May 19, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Who is Bill Simmons?

Posted by: poguesmahone | May 19, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Who is this Simmons idiot and why do we care what he thinks? ESPN, you say? The place that still has sour grapes because the NHL left them? The dying former sports leader who is too elitist to survive?

Posted by: farmgirl19C | May 19, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm from Pittsburgh; just throwin' that out there so you don't have to infer it from my opinion. Here's my take: Ovechkin isn't a supervillain - he's a brilliant shooter and one of the best in the game right now, perhaps ever. Crosby isn't the savior of the game - he's got great vision and hands, and determination to succeed, and he's done the best he can with the media hype to sell the league, but he's not the Messiah. Both have weaknesses - Crosby's actions early in his career earned him the "whiner" and "diver" tags; Ovechkin's showboating may irk some people (not me, except maybe in Game 2.) But I believe Crosby has matured beyond the whining. He's the captain now; he's allowed to talk to the refs. Ovechkin can do what he wants to celebrate, the only thing that bothers me is if he's taunting the opponents (skating by their bench pointing, for example). Leaping into the glass isn't what got people up in arms, it was the taunting and warming of hands by the fire. Both guys are flawed (I'm sure if we tried hard enough we could find a flaw in even Gretzky or Lemieux) but without them, the game wouldn't be as exciting right now. Hating your opponents' star players is just part of the fun of the playoffs. I love seeing the pacifiers and hearing the "Crosby Sucks!" chants in Philly and DC - they make it that much sweeter when Sid beats them.

Just curious, Steinberg; when was the last time you visited our "Iron-City-and-Coal-Smoke"? Pittsburgh has had some dark years, but the loss of the steel industry has gradually given way to a boom in medical and technology fields, as well as removing most of the main sources of the infamous pollution. And ripping on the cities that made America what it is today is a really classy way to diss their sports teams. I'll make fun of my Wings/Pistons/Lions fan friend if his teams are losing (*cough* 0-16), but I won't mock him because Detroit's working class are suffering while the Big 3 experience the results of poor management combined with a faltering economy...

In the end, I guess it comes down to this: Pittsburgh's team and Crosby are playing hockey right now, and DC's team and Ovie are... not.

Posted by: philmatt24 | May 20, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like all the Caps fans are still a little sensitive about the whole "losing" thing. Enjoy the golf course this weekend while we watch the Pens vs. Canes.

Posted by: CapLoseAgain | May 20, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

So when Ovechkin is watching tv this week, if he drops his remote control into the corner, does he have to call a linemate up to go get it?

And how about on the golf course, what happens when he hits it into the rough? Does he just tap his 9 iron on the fareway until a linemate rolls his ball to him?

Crosby > Ovechkin. You get the same scoring + defense and grit.

Posted by: schmeck | May 20, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: likebags | May 21, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

so in addition to debating and questioning a couple of ESPN bloggers/"writers" and their obviously biased perspective, you insult the city of Pittsburgh?! I guess when you have nothing else to write about, because all of your teams are sitting at home, putzing around the basement of the NL East, or speed racing in their suped up sports cars around the beltway (when they should be getting their teeth fixed), you have time to insult a great city (and an even better sports town).

get a life dan...and nice butt-chin dork.

Posted by: DCisforcrackheadmayors | May 23, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

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