Monday, March 1, 2010

Why all the hate?

Sidney Crosby. There's a lot of hate swirling around America. And I get that, I guess. I mean, I'm sure they're all Caps fans being bitter that even in international competition, it's little ol' Sidney Crosby that thwarts their ugly, golden boy of D.C.

And I spent an awful lot of time explaining to John why I couldn't root against Canada. I could root against Russia, I hate most of the players more than I love Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar. And I love them a heck of a lot, so that's saying something.

And sure, Mike Babcock is, well, cocky (Fitting name, eh?). And I hate Chris Pronger. 

And man, did Ryan Miller play inspired. There was nobody else who deserved that MVP name more than him. But still, no matter how deep I tried to dig, I couldn't rustle up quite enough patriotism to hate Sidney Crosby.

The youngest captain ever named in the NHL. One of the many who turned my fledgling and crashing and burning Penguins right around. One of the many who quickly delivered a Stanley Cup. A STANLEY CUP PEOPLE. That's Lord Stanley's Cup, the most hallowed of all sports trophies. The trophy that currently holds Mario Lemieux's name. And that image of Mario handing Sid the cup was one of the most amazing feelings I've had...ever. Anybody else feeling a little teary? No? OK, moving on.

The gold medal game was one with unreal expectations, and it delivered. I was happy when Zach Parise (who played OUT OF HIS MIND in the Games) scored that goal to send it to overtime. And I have this thing for rooting for underdogs, and well, for some reason, that was the U.S.

But. In the most exciting way to determine an OT winner (which is obviously hockey), the sudden death, the winner-take-all, the sitting on the edge of your seat because any shot could be THE shot, anything could happen. And when Sid scored a few minutes in, it was deflating for about...five seconds. Then I saw something familiar. Something happy. Something that warmed my heart and made me feel like I do every time Sid finds the back of the net.

He tossed off his gloves, threw down his stick, and acted just like any other Kid would, but this was Sid the Kid, the overgrown Kid, the one who allowed the entire country of Canada to erupt at one moment. The moment that every child growing up in the icy reaches of Canada will relive and reenact on ice ponds everywhere.

That face. It's pure joy, and a face with which I'm so familiar. When we won the Cup, that face was there. When we beat the Caps during that first playoff run, that face was there. When we beat the Red Wings two years ago in 5 OT that took about 20 years off my life, that face was there.

And every goal he ever scores, no matter if it's the seventh goal of the game, or the only one, or a shootout one, or the first of many, that face is there. And because his face is the face of Pittsburgh, I just can't hate him, or that he got something he's always wanted — a gold medal.

Plus, at 22 years old, a gold medal strung around his neck, his name emblazoned on the Stanley Cup, numerous scoring titles and honors sitting in his house and an entire country and the entire league on his shoulders, he's shouldered it better than anyone could have imagined. And certainly better than Alexander Ovechkin. Stupid ogre. 

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