Prepare for a rant.
I've learned a lot these past few years.
I learned that there is a whole hockey community on the internet, that I can talk with other Penguins fans (and after growing up in the deserted island that is Vermont with nothing but Bruins news and anything to do with John LeClair (who, although I liked for being a Vermonter in the NHL, I hated for the Legion of Doom), being able to learn all of the things I missed in my younger years was incredible), that there are OTHER hockey fans, that are women and not painfully stupid, veterinary school is terribly hard to get into, Pittsburgh is a really cute city, driving to a Pens game takes 13, not 10 hours (mapquest, you are a lying bitch), having two cats and a dog are enough to drive anyone insane, and that beer and Wild Turkey and pepsi do not mix.
Recently, I have added a few more things to that list. Through a series of conversations and some careful internet research, I have discovered that the NHL and the men who play/run it are not as innocent and upstanding as I had once thought. Wayne Gretzky was involved in a gambling scandal, players have been accused of drug usage, drunk driving, and multiple sexual scandals. I've heard this all before, but I treated it as I might as news of someone hitting a deer: it happens, it's almost common, but not something that would ever effect me or the ones I loved.
Well, I've run over the deer, its trashed my car and my insurance isn't covering it. I know the exact moment it happened, I was reading a blog, just a quick post about someone, a Penguin, doing something he shouldn't have...and the deer stepped out into my headlights and it was all over.
Professional sports is riddled with things like this. Scandals (especially drug/sex related) are ever-present, especially since most men are horny bastards, with constant physical exercise only exacerbating the situation. But for hockey players, I never once thought that they fell into that group. It's the same old story, I've had many relationships, football, nascar, soccer...but with hockey, my childhood sweetheart, I thought it wasn't like that, that hockey wasn't like all the other sports...that it was different. Turns out it's just like the rest of them, and I can't help but be disillusioned and disappointed.
I've loved the game of hockey since I was little, and the Penguins since I was in grade school, but my knowledge was slim growing up, and my thoughts of them tainted by childhood rose-colored glasses of big, tough guys protecting shining heroes, like Jagr and Lemieux. How could these men do anything wrong when they are so noble, so brave and strong, fighting for that shining Cup, that grail of hockey righteousness? The first crack was when Jagr left (Mario retiring just broke my heart. I knew that he didn't want to go, but that he had to), and I bitterly hated him for a few years. As time went on, I matured and my sources expanded. I found out that Mario took a day to go golfing when he was supposed to be on IR for his back (although I don't blame him, really, golfing is a far cry from being checked into the boards), another Penguin knocked up a girl and paid her to be quiet, Ulfie wasn't just a 'tough guy', and how could they go bankrupt when there were so many people who loved them? I was willing to forget it all, however, in the fact that they were my team, and any news of them, good or bad, was at least news. Besides, this was just a few things, surely not all of the NHL slept around and did bad things under the cover of night...or in gas station bathrooms...right?
I suppose one word to describe my take on pro hockey players is 'naive', but why is it a bad thing to want to believe the best of people that you grew up idolizing? I knew the NFL was like this, just go to espn.com and you'll see stories of an illicit affair that a player had, a DUI arrest, and I saw on Sportscenter about a player who was pissed at his girlfriend and killed her dog. I never heard anything like this about hockey players, and although I knew that they weren't squeaky clean, I never expected to find the horrible wealth of information out there about their transgressions. People are people, and they make mistakes, but I'm going to focus on one particular, and seemingly most popular, choice of immoral activities: the sexual use of women in the NHL.
First of all, I'll state that I have nothing against puckbunnies and their ilk. They irritate me, and they give real female fans a bad name, but it's their choice of lifestyles and that is up to them. Yes, I do find hockey players attractive (there is seriously just something about goalies), but will I throw myself, panting and fawning, at the feet of the first man I see in pads and skates? Absolutely not. Attractive men add to the game, but they are not THE game. Do I think Sidney is cute? You're damn right I do, and I will admit to having a crush on the kid, but it is just that, a crush. I have a crush on pretty much the entire Penguins team, just like I have one on Lemieux (I don't care that he's twice my age), and Jagr, and Francis...because their looks, their nice shoulders, are secondary to their on ice skills and personalities. Would I still love Sidney just as much if he was a horseface? You betcha, just as long as he could pull off those incredible goals, sick passing skills, move his feet like he was on air, and be sweet and charming for the cameras and in the community.
It's the team, the men trying their hardest and sweating, bleeding, and crying for their wins and losses that make me, and other female fans, fall in love with them. It's the passion for the game that makes women fans devote themselves to a player, a team, instead of the puckbunnies, who are too busy imagining what a particular forward would look like naked to yell about a blown call or notice icing. Examples? Going from the Pens, T-bo is doing okay, but I still don't know if I'm going to hop on his bandwagon. He is, however, rather handsome. Army, on the other hand, I love dearly (that game winner the other night was a beaut), and while he has something cute about him, he isn't someone that you'd pick out on the street. More examples? While I certainly don't mind watching Malone (and hello, check out those tattoos!), he is sometimes painful to actually watch on the ice (he is on the better side of a +2 right now though....hopefully he can keep that climbing. Another hat trick?). I have nothing on Sidney, though, he's an incredible player and cute as hell - the man has it all.
I digress, but the point is that even really unattractive players will get tons of women throwing themselves at them....and I suppose that I had never considered that almost all of them aren't able to resist and keep it zipped. Hockey players are mulleted, toothless yokels with concussions that love throwing a shoulder and tussling with other men...when did this change to mulleted, toothless yokels with concussions that like to throw a shoulder and are attractive? There were always a few, Lemieux, Gretzky, but it seems like nowadays that the entire NHL is populated by them. Look up the Canucks' roster, the Pens, the
Blue Jackets Magic Wands...with a few exceptions, they're all handsome. Is this what is attracting female fans to the game now, a cute guy with a tight butt and great shoulders? What about the checking, puck handling, fantastic acrobatics by goalies (not to mention goalie fights!), and some good trash talking? Girls go to games dressed up, make-up and hair done perfectly, in an effort to catch a player's eye. Is it a vicious cycle, the players encourage it so the girls do it, or do the girls do it so the players take advantage of it? Both?
People cheat. I sometimes don't understand exactly why, but it happens, and it happens fairly regularly. It isn't just professional athletes, but everyone. Out of five of my friends, I know three that have, at least once. For players, I suppose it's rather easy, a girl in every city to keep them company. But, as with drugs, I'm just boggling that no one seems to worry about, disease, STDs, or the effect that this will have on their game. Playing hockey is their job, and sleeping with Betty-sue one night, and her friend the next, exposes them to all sorts of risks. I'm sure that they aren't all 100% careful, or ask for an STD test before continuing into a physical relationship (Magic Johnson, anyone?), and one little misstep can end their career, not to mention their lives. Even the diseases that aren't fatal are still harmful, and can be spread even with the use of a condom....maybe even to other teammates, if there is a bit of passing around. How would a player explain that his nighttime adventures just gave half the roster HIV?
Another aspect of this that I thought was interesting was not the players themselves, but their wives and families. How much of a lack of respect does it show to them that the men can go out and sleep around and the come back to open arms? Even if the wife knows, it's disrespectful to them, and to the women that they use like old tube socks. Do they care that they can potentially give something life-threatening to their wives? Most STDs take 6 months to present, and a lot of slumber parties can happen in that time. To be fair, I know people who have open relationships, and it works for them...but they aren't famous NHL stars that travel across the country, and really, if their wives/girlfriends are okay with it, then good for them...but the risk of infection is a lot greater in an unknown environment. I've even heard that some wives/girlfriends of the players go so far as to not only condone this, but actively participate in the sexual merry-go-round in the teams (ride a penis, sit in a little boob-shaped cart?). Whatever happened to having a little self control and just having lots of sex with your partner?
I'm sure that there are more things going on than I know, naughty pictures, orgies, who knows, but I still just can't believe that it happens in the NHL as often as it seems to. My brain is having a difficult time grasping the fact that my team, my hard-luck Penguins, do this too (although Sidney, as far as I can find out with my meager gossip skills, has no dirt on him...meaning he's either a real good boy, or he's a really good boy), just like the rest of the league. Do I find players attractive? Hell yes, I'm not blind after all, but I can't imagine actually living in this supposed lifestyle of hedonism and not going crazy. Am I wrong? Have I taken this new-found information and gone way out in left field with it? I can rationalize quite a bit, I can even excuse a long-standing mistress, but blatant girlfriend swapping and random sex? Seriously, when do they have TIME for this? Between practice, games, traveling...hell, I don't have to sleep some nights, but then again, I'm just a peon, a lowly student and waitress.
Through bad management, terrible coaching, retirements of the best, angry partings, dismal scores, even worse season records, and completely awful playing, I've been a Penguins fan....a hockey fan....and it makes me sad to think that all of this hasn't upset me as much as finding out that the players aren't as lily-white as I thought they were. I will always enjoy the game of hockey, it's the best sport you can find, but I feel slightly jaded about the NHL now. I enjoy the game, and I enjoy following the players and their interactions with people and other players, but now I can't help but wonder what else they're 'interacting' with. I'll get over it eventually, since it really doesn't effect me personally, but I don't think I'll ever watch hockey with such pristine eyes again. The glasses are off now, and maybe the gloves too, but I think I've lost this fight and will just go to sin bin along with the NHL. 5 minute major for naivety.
24 February 2007
Prepare for a rant.