Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Grow The F*** Up, Part II: Legislating Class

Stand together… with Sean Avery.

Did those two phrases just make you throw up in your mouth a little bit? I am a bit taken aback myself, because the sound of those two phrases in the same sentence just sounds... out of place. Very out of place.

This is Sean Avery, who had his own NHL rule named after him in 2008. This is Mr. "Sloppy Seconds." The list goes on, but those are the two most incriminating hits on Avery's hockey resume.

But now, just for fun, lets see what the entire sentence in question looked like. Someone tweeted (and someone else retweeted) one day last week: "Stand up with equal marriage rights supporter Sean Avery and tell the NHL that homophobic slurs have to stop."

You'll recall… Sean Avery did something over the summer that actually seemed… human.

Avery spoke out this summer in support of equal marriage rights for homosexuals.

Regardless of how you may feel about the issue politically... you have to give some credit to the fact that Sean Avery -- yes, that Sean Avery -- actually stood up for something that wasn't completely about himself.

Now, does that make any of his previous irritating, unsportsmanlike, chauvinistic, allegedly racist actions/statements on and/or off the ice any more excusable, and does it make Sean Avery any less of an a**hole?

No.

However, it also doesn't make him a f****t.

Unless you ask Wayne Simmonds, of course (allegedly).

Last week, the NHL declined to punish Simmonds for his alleged homophobic slur on Avery, citing a lack of definitive evidence of what was said. Simmonds was vague about what happened, saying that "[Avery] said stuff I didn't like and maybe I said stuff he didn't like," but could not recall exactly what he said.

However, the next day, he was a much more committed in denying he used the slur, and shared that Avery had been running his mouth and threatening Simmonds' teammate Claude Giroux, a monologue that was apparently captured on-air.

Ummm... okay.

Since the Simmonds/Avery video seemed to have disappeared within 48 hours, we can't look at it anymore. What is interesting, however, is reading subsequent coverage. A couple players commented on the incident essentially said guys do stuff like that on the ice all the time out of habit, and you wouldn't expect guys to be "tattling" about it in most instances.

Aaaah, I see... this is the "schoolyard taunt" argument. With so many wonderful four-letter words to choose from that you can call a person or say to a person, "f****t" is the first thing that pops into a professional athlete's head?

Wow... that's makes me feel better, how about you? Anyone?

Yes, Sean Avery is an a**hole, and his threat against an opponent before the slur further proves it. However, Avery could have actually attacked Giroux, and that wouldn't justify calling him a f****t.

Wouldn't a simple "f*** you" suffice? Where's a good "your mother" joke when you need one? Better yet... just freakin' hit him. Sure, it's not much better, but you get the point.

Here's an unfortunate fact... because Colin Campbell did such an inconsistent job when he was in charge of discipline, that the fact that he did nothing while standing in for Shanahan (who is understandably busy) is not surprising. Sure, the "strong statement against racial and homophobic slurs" is admirable, but it's still after the fact, and it doesn't really resolve a damn thing. The video of Simmonds saying it seemed pretty damning... ESPN wouldn't blur his mouth for nothing, right?

The other unfortunate fact... it has become apparent this "gentlemanly" sport is no better than its counterparts in the "Big Four" sports. Instead of sending a message that this stuff will not be tolerated by actually taking action...

...the NHL sent a memo. A copout that says, "Meh... we can't really legislate class in pro sports."

Sad, but probably true. If pro sports could legislate class, maybe John Rocker's career might have been shorter. Maybe it wouldn't have taken a second accuser to make Ben Roethlisberger think to himself "Gee, maybe I should make a switch to a consensual relationship."

Despite the fact that I'm really looking forward to the season starting on Thursday and Friday, I am relieved that preseason is over and there are a few days this week in which someone isn't doing something to embarass themselves, the league and the sport. Slurs... targeting the head... mashing guys into the glass from behind... this all comes from a blatant lack of class in the game.

I'd bet money Brendan Shanahan never imagined he would be this busy in the preseason. You would have thought the public outcry over guys getting away with dirty hits in the Playoffs... or Aaron Rome's missing the rest of the Stanley Cup Final after his cheap shot on Nathan Horton... or having to re-clarify the rules on cheap shots and hits to the head would have made a difference.

It's a sad commentary on the game.

However, maybe by the weekend, players will have learned something from the past couple weeks.

The puck's dropping. Grow up, shut up, and play hockey.

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