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.
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.