Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reveling At Injuries - What Is and Isn't Okay

Rather than watch the Red Wings implode today, I've been watching Top Gear and reminiscing about a topic that gets kicked around from time to time and was brought up again by Nick Cotsonika following Sidney Crosby's latest injury.

I responded with level headed assessment but it got me thinking more in depth about the subject, and I posed the question: at what point do you move from basic fandom glorification and schadenfreude and cross over into rejoicing over someone's injury? And to expand off that, is there any level of "rejoicing" or happiness that is acceptable when an injury happens.

And let's be clear: I do hate Syndey Crosby. Oh I'm sure he's a good person and part of my hatred for him isn't really his fault. Yes, he is a bit of a whiny douche hat on the ice, he dives a lot to draw penalties while simultaneously cross checking guys in the back and throwing temper tantrums. A lot of guys do that in the NHL, and it's annoying when they do it too. Much of my hatred for him is the NHL and much of the hockey media being absolutely insistent on focusing on him at the expense of other world class players. And I'm not just talking about the Red Wings. Toews, the Sedins, Loui Eriksson, Martin St. Louis and Stamkos, Ovechkin, Gabriel Landeskog, and so many more guys deserve a ton of attention, praise and accolades. Not to mention Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

But back to the original question, when you see a player on another team get hurt, is it acceptable to be happy even the slightest?  In my mind there are a couple of factors:

1: How serious was the injury?

It was announced today that Crosby will be out indefinitely with a broken jaw. Initial reports were that the injury was largely cosmetic dental damage, but obviously it's a lot worse, and obviously this injury is considerably worse than a cut from a high stick, or a pulled groin. And I think the seriousness of the injury has to weigh into your reaction. And I'll give you an example from my life that illustrates this point perfectly.

Back in my hockey days, I spent some time playing indoor roller blade hockey, and one summer I was on a team with a bunch of my friends and during warm ups, I was standing with my friend Jeff at the blue line. Jeff says to me, "Hey Mike, I betcha I can put it in the top right corner". Now, Jeff had been playing ice hockey for years and I knew he could, and he did put it top right corner, if by top right corner I mean square into our friend Kyle's head. And we laughed. Very hard. Until Kyle took his helmet off and bled all over the surface. It stopped being funny at that point.

So Crosby getting hit in the face with the puck? Yeah, it was a little funny, because he took a puck to his stupid mouth and it was originally reported to be largely cosmetic. Until you found out he had a broken jaw and then it's not really that funny anymore.

So you can laugh and "rejoice" so long as the injury is minor.

2: Does the player have a reputation for hurting other people?

The point I made to Cotsonika is that as much as I dislike Crosby, he's not Raffi Torres. For those unfamiliar with Raffi Torres, he's pretty much only known for doing this:

Now, there's a lot of historically dirty players, and they've done a lot of terrible things to the game of hockey. It's already a brutal, physical, dangerous game. Once you inject people into that game who seem to be hell bent on diving over the edge and dragging the careers of other people down with them, you go from a hard hitting clash of the titans to a street mugging.

I've caught flak before because I felt that there was some poetic justice in a guy like Chris Pronger going down due to concussion problems. The man assaulted and manhandled endless numbers of players throughout his careers, causing untold numbers of injuries - and the fact of the matter is, if that happened to anyone outside of the sporting world there'd be a mostly unanimous response of "serves 'im right!"

Do I wish all of the terrible things that will chronically plague Chris Pronger as the result of concussions for the rest of his life? No, I wouldn't really wish that on anyone. But to feign sadness or shock or indignation would be dishonest. If and when someone finally takes Torres' head off his shoulders, I'll shrug my shoulders because to some extent, the guy has it coming. However, the preferred method for dealing with these problems is not to have guys destroying each other, but rather the NHL step in and make meaningful progress from weeding these kind of behavior out of the game.

The big concern for me regarding Sidney Crosby is the that the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins may have been responsible for or complacent in his injury. As we all know, he was hit once and possibly concussed, and then kept playing and hit again and was concussed for certain. It's one thing for us to encourage faster skaters, bigger hits and flashier goals and it's completely something else that a player be kept off the injured list in order to make sure your figurehead can keep bringing in viewers and selling tickets.

I should also say, a penalty is a penalty, and a cheap shot is a cheap shot. I don't want a penalty being called for Zetterberg that isn't called for everyone else simply because he's Zetterberg. Or Crosby, or Brad Richards. We should protect all players, not just the ones whose names are on the marquee.

So how should we react?

We cheer for a big hit. We cheer for a fight. And with a guy like Crosby, it's natural to think that someone should wipe that smug smile off his stupid face. And when someone lines him up with a good hit, you cheer that much louder. And when he takes a puck to the face, you laugh, and when you realize it's more than a few broken teeth and a wounded ego, it's time to tone it down.

When Datsyuk deked Logan Couture so badly his legs exclaimed "fuck it!" we all laughed. Had Couture been hurt on the play, I would have kept laughing. Had he been seriously hurt, I would have wished him the utmost of luck in his recovery, but it still would have been funny. Because that was a hockey play. It's different than when Torres or Patrick Kaleta decides that someone's head would look better removed from their shoulders or buried into the boards.

After all these people are people, and there is a certain level of human decency and respect that they deserve.We shouldn't be asking for bad things to happen to people, that's just kind of one of those rules. One of those rules above and beyond sports and the game of hockey.

If you're sitting there hoping that Crosby gets another concussion and never can play again, you're just an ass. If you were sad because Hossa recovered from the Torres hit, you should probably re-evaluate your moral compass. What exactly have these guys done to you besides push the limits of human athletic achievement to provide you with the utmost pinnacle for professional hockey? Oh they scored a big goal against your favorite team? Sidney Crosby is a whiny, diving prissy boy who is coddled by the NHL? Fine, hope that the Penguins gambit this year blows up in their face and next year they don't win again.

But don't wish for injuries to strike players. Even those who are exceptionally god awful individuals. You can ask for them to get laid out with a huge body check, you can demand that they square off in a fight and get their face smashed in, but what you should really be hoping is that Gary Bettman and Brendan Shanahan will set these guys down for good.


  1. Fair enough I agree and I don't wish injury on (many) others. BUT you can't tell people how to feel, or what to wish for. Especially since them wishing for it will have absolutely no bearing on whether it will happen or not. Don't act like people wishing for Crosby to be injured made it happen, and they can love it as much as they want to. Their moral compass may be broken, but its THEIR moral compass, not yours. You would have a valid point only if their wishes actually affected what happens.

    1. Well you can't force them how to feel or wish for, but you can attempt to change their minds, which is all I've tried to do here. And I know wishing an injury on someone doesn't make it happen. But it's more a question of the sport fan culture.

      Thanks for the comment

  2. Yeah you shouldn't wish evil on others (unless it's Torres), but it doesn't actually matter how much people laugh at Crosby.

  3. Actually, it really DOES matter, Anonymous. If you were playing hockey and had the same injury happen, would you enjoy people writing posts all over The Internet about how much they enjoyed watching your bones break and teeth fly out? Also, Anonymous #1, it may be THEIR moral compass, but Mike has every right to express his opinion on the topic. Just like you have every right to express yours.

    1. Good point. There was the guy in college basketball last night who suffered a horrid compound fracture. And it gets shown over and over again and everyone. It's definitely one of those things where if people are cheering about it, then those people are terrible basketball fans.

      Thanks for the comment, Brandon.