At this point, a lot of people are complaining about excessive Sidney Crosby fawning in the media. Others think he got too much credit for his first performance - after all, it was just the Islanders. The majority of folks are just sick of hearing about him. (Hell, we even commissioned a post on the ridiculous amount of coverage of the guy.)

But I say to hell with it all. I don’t care if I end up in the very post I asked to have written. That was some shit last night.

There are very few people in sports who have the ability to reach beyond “great” plays and “great” moments and do something exceptional, so I root for those people. I love being pulled out of my seat, actually excited, hair-standing on end. We suffer through too many horrible sporting events each year to poo-pooh the great moments when they happen.

It’s why I root for Sidney Crosby, it’s why I root for Tiger Woods, it’s why I root for Lebron James. I don’t have to like these athletes as people (save for Crosby, I don’t) to root for moment-makers like them. I just love watching exceptional athletes perform exceptional feats. I want them involved in all the biggest moments.

I want to believe that an athlete can be that much better than the best players in the world, at anything. In a society where so many (almost all) of our heroes turn out to be horribly flawed, where we get disappointed at every turn, isn’t it fun to have someone that still seems capable of hero status who hasn’t crushed our hopes yet? Or have we become that cynical that we’re incapable of believing in anyone? That’d be a horrible thing.

A huge percentage of individuals in North America walk around with cameras and camcorders in their pockets thanks to cellphones, and this has led to us knowing more about every celebrity and athlete out there, often revealing them to be a little scuzzier than we’d like. Hell, I watched video of a drunk Shia LeBeouf getting his ass-kicked outside a bar in Vancouver last week.

Yet this is all we know of Sidney Crosby, even in our TMZ-friendly climate: his whole life, he’s wanted to be the best hockey player in the world. Single focus. He gave himself wholly to the game, worked like a dog and was a household name in Canada by the time he was 14 (he was also blessed with ridiculous amounts of talent, of course). He had all the pressure in the world on him by the time he came to the NHL at 18. It was nearly impossible to live up the hype.

Years later, the Kid has won a Stanley Cup, a Hart Trophy, an Olympic gold, and captain’s his NHL team.

Then, the game he loves was taken away with a weird, murky brain injury. He spent days in dark rooms waiting to get better, but it just wasn’t happening. He missed a Cup run where his team got eliminated in a seventh game. He missed the start of the next season. He missed 10 months.

Then he returns to much hype, much fanfare, and a huge audience. ”12-14 minutes of ice time” his coach says. “Limited role,” we hear.

And in just over two minutes of playing time, he scores an electrifying goal. 15 minutes and 54 seconds of ice time later, and he’s been the runaway first star, tallying four points and eight – eight – shots.

And people want to downplay that? The Islanders are bad, sure, but everyone else on Pittsburgh was playing them too – nobody else looked like he did.

And yes, other people have given their lives to hockey. Others have suffered concussions. This isn’t about that. It’s that when the spotlight is on, he’s the extremely rare athlete that seems grow bigger than the moment, almost infallibly.

It’s just a hockey game, and he’s just a hockey player, but he’s also a part of hockey history. I remember both of Mario Lemieux’s NHL returns to this day. When you get older, it’s cool to say you saw the best at their best. That you watched something people will talk about for years on end, live.

I don’t know if Crosby can play that well all year and beyond. I’m not saying he’s as good as Mario Lemieux. We never know the answers to these questions until we have a full career to digest.

But I do know that very few people have a chance to get into the conversation of the game’s all-time greats, and the 24 year old Crosby does. If he ever manages to get there, we’re guaranteed to see some pretty spectacular moments.

And that’s why we’re back here again. I want moment-makers. I want more of the excitement I felt last night.

So, I root for Crosby, selfishly.

Nobody know when the ride is going to end, but it sure was fun to be a part of it last night, and it will be going forward.

Comments (13)

  1. A-flippin’-men!

    I had to leave the house for a little while last night and, probably for the first time ever, PVRed a regular-season hockey game. Guys like Sid (or Tiger or Lebron) have the ability to make you believe they will do something you don’t want to miss when the spotlight is on them. (It’s no coincidence that Sid is the guy on a team full of stars who scores the winner in the gold-medal game at the Olympics!) As usual, Sid delivered.

    And your point is right on the money: enjoy this guy while we have him.

  2. Justin, you’re so right. He beat the team I root for into the ground. He made their best players look foolish. Crosby IS the greatest the game has to offer. Do I think some of the media attention is too much? Yes. But do I think Sid should NOT be celebrated for all he has gone through? No. He should be. He is everything this game should be. And the biggest thing Sidney Crosby is? Freakin’ amazing!

  3. I found myself excited all day to go home and watch a hockey game on a Monday night with 2 teams I don’t even cheer for.

    • Exactly! My team isn’t even in the same conference, but I was looking forward to the game all day.

      It’s great too that he seems to be an incredibly talented but honest and polite player. I can’t say I root for the LeBron’s and Wood’s of the world, despite their skill. A guy like Crosby, you see that talent and character, and you want him to succeed.

  4. This was a refreshing read! I don’t get why so many people hate him and were grumbling about how much attention he was getting. He is 24 and probably wondered if his career was over – those must have been some dark days! It was awesome to see him come back and be so successful. I feel like his talent is something for every hockey fan to celebrate.

    Did anyone else notice how they covered up his mouth in highlights of his first goal shown this morning? Apparently the phrase he shouted in celebration is ok for night time viewing, but not ok for morning highlight reels. It made me laugh last night – he shouted it in pure joy!

  5. “I just love watching exceptional athletes perform exceptional feats. I want them involved in all the biggest moments.”

    Amazing that someone feels the same as me – love it. I was rooting for Tiger at the Aussie Open and I don’t even really like golf. I just want another story, another rise, when watching his biography story 15-20 yrs down the road. “I remember that!” Moments like that, as a human, feel great.

  6. I didn’t like him when he was a bit whiney. But, damn, do I love watching him now. I read somewhere that most scorers have their best years before 26. I hope we get more than 2 more years of him.

  7. Sid is always giving us moments that seem like movie scripts. Couldn’t beleive it happened again last night…he had me at the first goal, and I just didn’t think I could get any more thrilled. Until…..
    Thank you for writing so well about my feelings…..oh, wait, those were your feelings!
    You know how to say it, JTB!

  8. I agree completely with this article and would like to add:

    The point many miss is this: As with this blog, sports news etc.. sports is entertainment, and writers write about what people will read. It’s called RATINGS/page hits etc. With all the SID media coverage, all the stories, all the streams of the interviews and games last night, each Crosby story was getting a lot of hits, and high ratings.

    I have often said the NHL doesn’t ‘market Sid’ as much as the NHL uses Sid’s name/fanbase to Market the NHL. There is a big difference. Sid is the draw, the NHL is his employer.

    So when folks start whining about Sid being given too much attention, reflect that someone is reading all those stories or bloggers would quit writing them.

    I laugh even harder when folks say “NHL should market all teams equally or other players.” As anyone with marketing experience knows, it just doesn;t work like that.

  9. Great to see Crosby back skating. It is obvious that he used his down time well!

  10. For me Steve Yzerman was kind of the epitome of the “better than great” idea. It’s possibly an artifact of when I started watching hockey (early 90′s), as I never really saw Gretzky or some of the others in their prime, but one of the things that always stood out to me about Stevie Y’s game was that you could *see* him, in the middle of a game, decide to Make Things Happen. He’d get the puck, his shoulders would shift a bit, and then he’d just take the puck and put it in the net, regardless of who or how many were trying to stop him.

    It was that ability that I think made Yzerman an amazing leader-by-example; there’s not many excuses you can make when your captain goes out for a shift and single-handedly makes something happen. :)

    Crosby in some ways looks very similar to me. His first goal in the Islanders game, for instance — yeah, he had speed through the neutral zone and the defender’s gap control was… not the best, but you could kind of see Crosby, as he crosses the red line, decide that he’s going all the way. All of a sudden he hits that extra gear, puts his shoulder down to protect the puck, and then puts the puck backhand shelf almost as an afterthought. Brilliant stuff and a treat to watch.

    • ” I never really saw Gretzky or some of the others in their prime”. That’s a good point too, when we talk about Crosby. He is my Gretzky or Lemieux. I know the legends and I’ve seen the highlights of those great players, but I wasn’t here to see them from game to game, season to season. They are more of a myth, while Crosby is real. I think that’s part of why it’s such a pleasure to watch him. Who knows how long he can play at such a high level, but for now, he’s making special memories for a younger generation of hockey fans.

    • It’s probably worth remembering that Steve Yzerman was Crosby’s favorite player growing up. He wanted to play hockey just like him.

      So far, so good.

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