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On Greatness



New Puck Daddy: What it feels like to get absolutely rocked on the ice. (I rarely like my own stuff, but think this one’s kinda good.)

New USA Today: Full power rankings


On Monday, Ryan Lambert wrote a few words on Sidney Crosby (“Cindy Crysby,” as his detractors like to call him), so some people started the standard PD commenting procedure of setting fire to their hair, mashing the keyboard, and hitting post. 

I get it, some people don’t like him.

But goddamn do I want that superstar to succeed, for the same reason I want Steven Stamkos to never stop his scoring rampage and the same reason I want Alex Ovechkin to bury so many pucks goalies start looking like the girl in The Exorcist from checking their net so much.

Better. Than. You.

That reason is greatness.

It’s the same reason I still root for Tiger Woods - I was never rooting for his fidelity or his parenting, I was rooting to be awed by the true mastery of a sport that regularly leaves me flummoxed. It’s an honor to feel the type of thrill like the one he provided with the chip in on 16 in the 2005 Masters.  In your LIFE have you ever seen anything like that?

It’s a gift to see greatness, and every time a superstar comes along I want to say I got to watch the best of all-time in his prime.  I want to see records come tumbling down.

How fun is it to sit on your couch with crumbs on your shirt and watch someone who has taken an inhuman amount of god-given talent and worked with a singular focus to become that much better than the rest of the best in the world at something?

To make the top ranks of a pro sport is impressive, let alone to own it.  It’s humbling knowing I could devote the rest of my existence to that same game and never get to that level.

It’s mind-blowing for me that someone can watch Sidney Crosby (or Stamkos, or Ovechkin) play and think “man, what a whiner.” 

You’re doing it wrong.  

Nobody’s perfect - Gretzky had the same rep, but I think it’s safe to say he’s become universally respected as one of the top few players to ever play the game.  His name is revered.  People who saw him in his prime were treated to watching one of the best at something in all of history, and I think we’re in those years with Crysby.

Better. Than. You.

When it comes to the best of the best of the best, I don’t need them to be flawless all over, I just want my jaw to drop in awe a couple times a game, pour a drink in my open mouth, close it manually, and wait for it to happen again.

You hope they’re good people, it’d be nice.  But I still love watching Michael Vick play football, despite his tattered soul.

From basically everything I’ve heard, Michael Jordan was a complete jackwagon.  But there’s nobody I’d rather watch play basketball to this day.  I could care less if he wants to funnel away shmillions on a bad double down in Vegas.

If Ovy wants to push the camera out of someone’s hands at the airport, do you not still want to watch him uncork a slapbomb on a 5-on-3?

People with a grasp of a sports’ big picture know that Crosby isn’t just competing with his opponents for scoring titles, he’s competing with history, the way Tiger makes Jack Nicklaus his primary opponent.

As I said before, we want them to be good people, to be honourable and noble and without weakness.

But they’re human.

Humans with flaws who make some very poor decisions, who just happen to be very very very good at something and work very hard at becoming better at it.  And it’s a treat to watch, the same way that someone can put in time writing a book and you can enjoy it; they’re getting paid to entertain, so hell yes, enjoy it.

I know I am.


13 Responses to “On Greatness”
  1. Blake says:

    I completely agree.

    I’m one of the Sid-Haters, but damn is he fun to watch. Part of the reason why I hate him, I think, is because he’s just so damn good (with little-to-no personality). Also, I feel that he’s a pretty dirty player, so there’s that too.

    And just a completely random side note — Did anyone else notice that the two pictures for the last two posts (Lidstrom for the last one and Sid for this one) are just about 100-percent identical the way the two players look?

  2. Jeff says:

    If you can remember the hit you weren’t hit hard enough haha.

    But seriously it was a good piece on PD, those couple of moments after where you have no idea why you can’t get up or why the volume got turned down in the rink are just weird.

  3. andy says:

    loved the PD piece. i recall looking for a glove once after a big hit, only to discover that i was still wearing it….
    my jaw hurt for a solid month after that hit. and i was wearing a cage.

    i understand the ‘sports hate’ thing, but i dont get the people who rag on a player who is an obvious superstar (crosby, ovechkin, kovalchuk, etc). people put way, way too much effort into something that has no real impact on their lives. still.

  4. Deirdre says:

    I’m wondering if this HBO 24/7 thing will introduce us to the personality of Crosby…he can’t be that neutral *all* the time. Can he?

  5. liverning says:

    I recently came to the conclusion that I strongly disliked Crosby because I was being bombarded with all the Crosby hype. It seemed Crosby was what everyone was talking about. I learned to mute the Versus Pens games and avoid Crosby-centric articles. And guess what, I now like and admire the guy. I love to see what he has to battle through (being the man to stop, ditto Ovechkin). If you were the main focus for every team you faced, you would have talks with refs from time to time also. Being a hockey fan I eagerly await those moments that pull me upright on my couch (and thereby creating snowfall-like crumb conditions), regardless of who creates them.
    Really good article Mr. Bourne. Thanks.
    P.S. Methinks that last paragraph needs a little editing.

  6. PA says:

    I’ll never understand why people yell “you stink” or “you suck” at NHL, MLB, NFL or NBA players. Seriously. Are they that unaware of the process, the years of work, the practice, the commitment, the pain gone through, etc., in order to play at that level. And then you have the athletes on a totally different level like Sid, Ovie, Stamkos, Halliday, Pujols, Durant, Adrian Peterson, Brady, etc. But even for the player who pulls a Moonlight Graham and only gets into one game – he’s still got to be pretty good. So for guys like Randy Ireland, Jamie Ram, Layne Ulmer, Neil Hawryliw, Tyler Larter and Don Cherry (yah, that Don Cherry), good on you. You didn’t suck.

  7. Neil says:

    Those are great pics, the one of Crosby mid-air is awesome. I love Crosby, I’ve never really understood where the Sid hate comes from.

    “…someone who has taken an inhuman amount of god-given talent and worked with a singular focus to become that much better than the rest of the best in the world at something?” so true, well said.

    From what I’ve read the NHL isn’t suspending Staal, thank god. The fact that people were even talking about a suspension for that it worrisome. I’m starting to think that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of open-ice hitting in the NHL. It’s awful to think that a guy might soon be able to skate across the blueline and be immune to a big hit because he’s leaning forward/small/looking at his skates/whatever. Soon there will be no more hitting the Tyler Ennis’s and St.Louis’s. Enjoy it while it lasts. :(

  8. Sherry says:

    Nice one on PD today.

    Here’s this about Sid from Pgh Mag (for some “inside information” – not terribly informative, but more than one usually sees) Here’s hoping we do get to see more in the 24/7 show.

    And two random bits from this past weekend…

    I was given a packet of “boob aprons” as a belated birthday gift by some friends I’d sent the link to after seeing it on your blog JB (it was a big hit). And yes, the titkerchiefs were taken out for a test drive amongst the group throughout the evening – once by my husband.

    And, I know I am probably late to the Maru party, but if you haven’t seen this, it’s funny…

    Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

  9. marc says:

    I realize this is totally anathama to the majority of men in this culture but you know what helps me really enjoy the superstars’ game play?

    Stop. Watching. ESPN.

    Just stop. Put it on mute if you still need to catch the highlights during sportscenter. Don’t listen to whatever the hell they have to say. They’re worse than the 24 hour news networks desperate for more talking points. I dont care what Farve is thinking about doing next season. I dont care about Black Ops commercials. I just like watching professionals play and be good at something I enjoy watching.

  10. KForbes says:

    Right now, I’m reading Michael Leahy’s book ‘When Nothing Else Matters’. It’s a look at Jordan’s last comeback and his last two seasons with the Wizards. The one thing that I’ve really liked a lot about it thus far is how much ink Leahy is devoting to the role of sports media and the incestuous relationship between the media and the sport when it comes to selling tickets, selling papers and making gods out of men. This is especially true in the book, where Jordan comes back like a king in exile, and is a step slower with so many ‘challengers’ to the throne. But it doesn’t matter, because he was already a god and nothing sells better then seeing a god or watching a god fall.

  11. KForbes says:

    Also, while I remember…

    Anyone else watch (or know about) the ‘Oil Change’ series that TSN is airing about the Oilers?
    So far there’s been three episodes (I believe) and they’re all available on the Oilers website (I believe), but they’ve covered the Taylor/Tyler decision, the making of the draft list, the draft itself, free agency, naming Renney as the full-time coach, training camp and pre season and now the beginning of the season.

    I highly suggest it, really interesting stuff.

  12. minnesotagirl71 says:

    I love to watch the best of the best light it up…against somebody else’s team. When the best of the best are playing against any of my favorite teams, then I love to see my team shut. them. down. I get a gleeful little moment of teeheehee – my-practically-unknown-outside-of-MN-favorite-defensemen kept Ovy to 0 points – teeheehee.

  13. Derek says:

    Enjoyed both articles. I will never completely understand the Crosby hate. It reminds of how some people regarded Gretzky when I was younger, which I never understood either. I’d rather see greatness on a team I don’t like than see mediocrity on a team I do like, if that makes sense. I will always remember watching Eric Lindros play for Oshawa. It didn’t look fair how much bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled he was than everyone else.

    On the PD article: I think I have three huge hits that I took that stand out to me. The first, I was hit while racing to beat the d-man to a puck behind the net and he hit me as we crossed the goal line. I hit the boards to hard and loud (and head first) that the ref immediately blew the whistle and the trainer rushed on the ice thinking I was dead. I didn’t hear it, got up and picked up the puck and was just utterly confused as to why everyone was just standing there and the trainer was on the ice. Apparently I blacked out for a second and didn’t realize it.

    Number two, I took a suicide pass and got creamed Thornton-Perron style. The puck went down the ice a bit and the defenseman from the other team picked it up and started skating back up the ice. I was doing my best Sami Kapanen impression trying to get back to the bench, saw the d-man skating up the ice and tried to throw a check at him. As I’m trying to peel myself off the ice to finally get to the bench, I realize that I actually laid the guy out and was still standing. Took heat for awhile from the boys, as it looked pretty funny as I was doing air push ups trying to get up while standing.

    Third one was a slow-moving ring around on the breakout. I hate those. You know you are gonna get creamed but gotta pick up the puck anyway. I get rocked, face bounces of the glass and I am out cold. Sort of. I don’t even fall down and skate to the bench. I don’t remember any of this though. I remember the d-man firing the puck around and then waking up in the hospital.

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