Thoughts On Boogaard’s Passing, Growing As A WriterShareThis
When I started writing about sports, I did it the way people talk about sports and athletes in general, which seemed like the obvious things to do. Sidney Crosby’s great, Matt Cooke’s a prick, etc. etc.
That type of black and white opinion-sharing is tailor-made for the blog world, especially when it comes to team-centric blogs. Half the people just want to read things that confirm their personal opinions (what a great writer!) so it’s easy for, say, a Hurricanes blog to appeal to Hurricanes fans. “We got jobbed by the refs last night,” “Cam Ward is underrated,” all that stuff is fine and plays well to an agreeing audience.
I’ve never been a flag-waving superfan of any NHL team, as much as I love the Islanders – for proof, you can pull up basically anything I’ve ever written about the team over the past couple years, which has been in disarray (but appears to be rounding some sort of corner with a potential new building and player development. Okay maybe I’m a little biased).
But I digress.
Point is, since I’ve never really been a super-passionate, blind fan (no disrespect to those who are) it was easier for me to transfer my writing to a site like Puck Daddy, where the people reading are fans of different teams. It’s allowed me to write in a grey shades, so you know when I do take a hard stance on something, I mean it.
Problem is, I’m not as good at going grey on players. In fact I’m awful at it.
I played the game at a high enough level to decipher who’s good from who’s bad, and I never quite shook the tendency to make harsh judgements about the guys I was competing against. It was part of being a player – you kinda have to think you’re better than your opponent, and maybe that’s stuck with me.
All that is a long way of saying – and thanks for joining me on that long journey to get here - that I’ve come to regret the way I fairly regularly talk about players.
When I read that Derek Boogaard died – and very possibly due to something that could be related to mental issues (I won’t get too into that whole thing since we don’t know anything yet, it’s just one of the possibilities that made me take a look in the mirror) – I realized it’s very likely that I never once typed, or said a nice word about the guy.
And that’s not the worst thing in the world, as long as I kept it to being about him as a player, where nothing has changed – I still don’t think he was a very good one – and not about him as a person. I simply didn’t know him.
Point is, it occurs to me that writing about players doesn’t have to be so….”team-centric-blog-like” - not long ago on twitter I explained to someone why I thought he was a useless goon (that feels gross to type right now). And there I was days later, reading quotes from people who actually knew the man in real life.
By all accounts, Derek Boogaard was a charitable, kind, well-liked teammate, and I have no doubt that that’s true. “Useless goon?” That’s just ignorant.
I hope hearing a constant barrage of words like mine (which were unnecessarily harsh) had nothing to do with his passing – after the season he said he was embarrassed about his season, and we know he was in the NHL’s behavioral health and substance abuse program, so it’s crossed my mind. I’d hate to think it was people like me, in the media, that made him feel that way.
By all logic he was just a guy who saw a path to fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL and get rich, and he did what he had to do to get there. And while I don’t have to respect his chosen line of work, I do have to admit to myself I’d have probably done the same thing, if given the option. And he got it done.
I hope whatever news we learn about his death in the coming weeks tells a different story, an accident, a condition, just anything better than my worst fear about how it happened.
If it turns out to be something other than that, I can still take the same lesson away from this. I’m learning to grow as a writer, and the latest step is to tone down the personal attacks.
RIP to the boogeyman. And condolences to his family and friends.
By the way, his family is donating his brain to the study of concussions in sports, which I think is excellent news.
Eastern Conference Final resumes tonight friends, let’s hope it’s a doozy!