Thursday, July 26, 2007

NHL Scandal: Half the Calories and Twice the Taste

The recent Staalgate scandal has sent the hockey blogosphere, the message boards and even the mainstream media into a bit of a frenzy as everyone (myself included) clambers over each other to have the last snarky word. It's an entertaining story to be sure, but as a wise man points out, it's really much ado about nothing.

Underaged drinking? Shenanigans at a bachelor party? Someone alert the media! Oh...wait.

The tale of two wealthy Canadian youngsters and their friends living it up in thrilling Minnesota is certainly a seedy one, isn't it? In a summer of scandal this has to trump them all.

Let's recap:

- Steroid use continues to cast a shadow over America's pasttime as the record of a beloved legend stands on the brink of collapse from one of the most notorious "alleged" users of performance-enhancing drugs. That'll make a nice byline in Cooperstown.

- A potential gambling conspiracy threatens to shake the foundation of professional basketball, with implications unknown as names are named and fingers are pointed. Yeah, because the NBA had so much credibility to begin with.

- And everyone's favorite feel-good story of the summer, Virginia's native son Michael Vick has been indicted and will stand trial for participating in a competitive dogfighting conspiracy, buying and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the operation across state lines. Vick has been suspended from training camp and the Falcons want to suspend him for 4 whole games, although they've been asked to hold off by the NFL.

My favorite quote? Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who had this to say: "We are committed to doing the right thing on and off the field. No one will compromise what we stand for."

Uh-huh.

It's just fascinating to me, the double-standard that we place on culture and society in general. I've long since accepted the fact that certain allowances are made to ethics and morals when it comes to sports and other facets of pop culture, that things people do in the real world are judged on a far different spectrum then things done by people in the spotlight.

But even taking that into account we have our limits - in movies, books, even the quasi-real world of celebrities, we don't outwardly root for the bad guy. We don't cheer for the evil villain or applaud Britney Spears when she drops her kid on his head. We root for the plucky underdog, the scrawny kid with glasses and a weird scar or the child star turned legitimate actor who bypasses the legal/mental/drug issues that divert so many talented youngsters.

Yet we cheer for guys like Barry Bonds, so clearly a villain whether he abused steroids or not. We tune in weekly to watch a league filled with guys who, while maybe not heading a major dog-fighting ring in their home, are certainly not angels. We buy shoes and soft drinks and cars from these so-called role models, we put them on a pedestal, we shake our heads lovingly and we say "boys will be boys".

I'm sorry, but that is not what I see. The Staal brothers doing a little celebratory drinking, that is "boys will be boys". Ed Belfour being stun-gunned after a little tussle with police, that is "boys will be boys"...and hilarious. The rest? It's nothing more than sanctioned stupidity, paraded before the masses as harmless fun and celebrated by a country that is seriously mixed-up.

Viva la NHL - home of the harmless misdemeanor, the Staal brothers, the battle of Ovechkin vs. Crosby, the hip check, the tricky deke, the glove save, and the best role models in the sporting world.

Edit: As if on cue, ESPN.com's Terry Frei comes out with this piece to wipe a bit of the smug off my face. Okay, okay, so all of it could happen in the NHL. It's still the best damn league out there.

7 comments:

Chris & Sarah said...

At least they weren't drinking and driving, which seems to be a common occurance in the sports world, and on more than one occasion has had some tragic consequences in the hockey world.

Joe said...

You didn't even mention the Tour De France. What a mess they've got there.

Bryan said...

I love the NHL greatly, but I don't think we should pick at the steroid scar to much. I have a feeling that it wouldn't take much digging(their current testing is very weak)to find some unsavoring performance enhancing.

CapsChick said...

Chris & Sarah: Very true. And I definitely am not condoning what they did (although I'm pretty sure most people drink before being legal).

Joe: Also true - it's unfortunate that what should be a celebration of one of the great athletic achievements is being dragged through the mud...but I like to focus my overly scrupulous eye on the big 3, at least for now.

Bryan: Yeah, I'm sure there are guys in the NHL who have some artificial help, and I'm sure it's prevalent in any league. But your greats, the guys who topple records, probably aren't - anyone think Gretzky was juiced up? Crosby? Ovechkin? Doubtful. Not impossible, just doubtful.

Schnookie said...

I hate to be a stick in the mud about steroids in hockey, but I read something today that seemed a very significant point to remember when we fans of sports that haven't been rocked by steroids scandals get too high-and-mighty laughing at sports that have: riders on the Tour De France get caught doping with alarming frequency because they're tested with alarming frequency. As are Olympians. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the NHL (or MLB, or NBA, or whatever) put a much more stringent testing regimen in place and we discovered a lot more guys are doping. I think it's really a case of setting one's self up for disappointment to approach this issue without a healthy does of cynicism.

Isleschick said...

I agree with Bryan and I think it's a matter of time before another player gets nabbed.

Elly said...

Just about died on the Belfour comment. Thanks for that. :)

And, hear hear! If that's all that we have to worry about in the hockey world (and lord knows it could happen here too...but it hasn't yet) then we might as well pack it up and call it a day.

Besides, my biggest gripe about the whole Staal thing is that they got CAUGHT. Didn't anyone teach them the rules of backwoods parties when they were in high school?