Boudreau, Mariotti and Ovechkin
About an hour after Alex Ovechkin's suspension was announced on Monday, Bruce Boudreau talked to a few media folks in the lobby of the team hotel. Mike Vogel from Caps.com asked how much the media can influence the buzz around a possible suspension, and Boudreau accepted the challenge. (See video below.)
"Well, I think it creates a stir," Boudreau said. "I mean, we've watched TSN [replay] some sort of hits this year, and they won't let it go away, and they stir up every other media outlet that would normally have let it go....I think media has such a power these days. And then you've got all the individuals that blog on it and comment on it, and you have to be almost inhuman not to be hearing any of this stuff or reading this stuff. It's hard to turn a blind eye.
"And if this was Sidney Crosby doing this, everybody outside of Pittsburgh would have cried foul - you know, suspend him for the year. I don't think it does the game any good to have Alex suspended, but that's just me, again, that's my opinion. I've watched him for two-and-a-half years, and he's so much fun to watch that I think the game is hurting when he's not playing."
'Course, the second part of that isn't really related to the media, but Boudreau's answer reminded me to brush up on some of the finer media work in the wake of the suspension. In fairness, most of what I've read has been fine, even-handed, informative stuff. Plenty of columnists have taken issue with seeming inconsistencies in the NHL's discipline, and plenty of pointed out both the positives and the negatives of Ovechkin's playing style. Still, I'll highlight three disturbing examples.
The content itself is actually good work, a fun and useful compilation of some of Ovechkin's worst moments. The issue is the headline, combined with the fact that Complex Blog last tagged an item with Alex Ovechkin in March of 2009, after the hot stick celebration. Maybe he did something else noteworthy during the year in between those incidents? Clearly, the pop culture image is being cemented into something a bit nastier than what Caps fans might prefer.
And I quote:
The disciplinarian was losing his teeth, just as the player is finding a new, dangerous set of his own. One seems like he has been doing his best not to offend anybody, while the other is becoming a menace on the ice and petulant off of it, as he walks the corridors of NHL arenas like the anti-Crosby: dressed in torn up jeans and Affliction t-shirts, a cell phone on his ear and members of his posse covering each flank.
Wearing torn-up jeans does not make one petulant. Nor does wearing "Affliction t-shirts" or using mobile phones. I betcha -- and I have no proof here -- but I betcha Mark Spector has placed a cell phone to his ear at least once in an NHL arena.
As for the posse, on Monday night, Ovechkin, Semin and Varlamov walked out of a Florida hotel together. There were apparently no bodyguards, organized criminals or random thugs in sight. I suppose Ovechkin was in the middle, which technically means posse-members Semin and Varlamov were covering each flank. So the real lesson here is never walk in groups of three, lest you want the end walkers to be deemed posse flank-coverers.
As for Spector calling Ovechkin "an increasingly dangerous predator," well, that sounds scary indeed.
Big shocker here, I know. But Mariotti runs away with the crown. From factual errors (calling Mike Knuble a defenseman, an error that was later changed without any acknowledgment) to ridiculous mistakes (completely misinterpreting what Ovechkin meant when he said he didn't think the penalty "has to be five minutes"), Mariotti gave the haters plenty of easy ammo.
And basing his column around the word "goon" was perhaps just an easy way to attract attention; lots of players have offered fair criticism of Ovechkin in recent days, but no rational commenter has used the word "goon," in the same way that rational commenters haven't called Bush a fascist or Obama a socialist.
But where Mariotti really rises above the rest is with stuff like this:
He should respect the soil on which he makes his living, remember how many Americans viewed the gold-medal game on TV -- 34.8 million at the peak hour, or almost nine percent of the national population -- and try to keep selling what's most alluring about the sport. Instead, he's turning into some sort of crazed, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em loon, too eager to crush opponents with hunt-down hits that border on dirty and threaten to sabotage his team's Stanley Cup chances....
For whatever reason, Ovechkin would rather be Tie Domi than Wayne Gretzky. It's one thing to change a game with a big hit, as he did in the Olympics in a memorable sequence that broke Jaromir Jagr's visor and fueled a Russian rally. It's quite another to prioritize lighting people up over lighting the lamp, which used to be one of the true treats in sports before he began to overwhelm his profile with his petulance. That's what this is, too, an out-of-control ego fueled by a power trip that apparently won't end until he takes a run at everyone in the league.... Like any bully, Ovechkin somehow claims he is the victim.
Ovechkin -- almost certainly one of the game's most popular and alluring players -- needs to change his playing style because a lot of Americans rallied around a national team during the Olympics? A guy who leads the NHL in points, is second in goals and is tied for 51st in penalty minutes -- behind such goons as Evgeni Malkin -- would rather be Domi than Gretzky? A player who hasn't (yet) claimed he is the victim is now portrayed as a player who has, um, claimed he is the victim?
It's just obvious trolling for page views. And hey, God bless Mariotti for that, since I've done the same. I'm also guessing Colin Campbell isn't being influenced by such bursts of genius. But Ovechkin's play has definitely created an atmosphere where "Ovechkin is a crazed out-of-control goon" pieces aren't immediately laughed away by editors, and that's one of the enduring and unfortunate things that will come out of this week.
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