Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rooting for laundry

Just some brief thoughts while I watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  A couple things in the last few weeks have sparked some thoughts about sports fandom.

My formative years were in Boston.  In particular, the Boston of the 1970s, which featured very competitive teams in hockey and basketball, a couple noteworthy Patriots' seasons (albeit without any playoff victories), and of course some fear and loathing at Fenway.  If I had to rate my fan intensity at the time, it would have been 1) Red Sox, 2) Bruins, 3) Celtics, 4) Patriots.

That order changed in 1979 for two reasons: a) my family moved to Connecticut, and b) Larry Bird.
Hartford had its own new NHL team, the Whalers featuring Gordie Howe and, briefly, Bobby Hull.  The Whale was interesting for a few season, but their management in the late 80s and early 90s seemed to function more as a feeder system for the Penguins (Ron Francis!) than a respectable team.  In terms of my perspective, this meant a lot less local coverage of the Bruins.  On the other hand, Larry Bird made the Celtics an extremely exciting team, one which played a few games per season in Hartford.

So what I'm saying is that the Bruins dropped off the radar.  I did follow them in their Finals apperances in 1988 and 1990, but the Gretzky-era Oilers completely smoked them.

So over the years I followed basketball more and more and hockey less and less.  And then I moved to the DC area.  Now if anything could cure a person of NBA fandom, it might be the local presence of the Wizards.  So when I started watching the Capitals at Landru's, I saw an interesting team, esp. Mr. Alex Ovechkin, an exciting, charismatic player.  We saw this goal live:

But then I found that when the Caps played the Bruins, even though I'd completely lost touch with the team, I couldn't root against my favorite from childhood.  And I starting following Chara, Krecji, Lucic and the boys as they ran to a Stanley Cup title.  Yay!

Point is that I felt strongly about the logo, about the big B inside the spokes that makes the Bruins' logo.

My second point is different.  It relates to the murder investigation that has enmeshed one of the Patriots' star TE's, Aaron Hernandez.  I won't relate the details here.  Let's just that it looks very bad.  It looks like he was somehow involved in the murder of a guy who had been involved with his girlfriend's sister and that he actively tried to cover it up.  Some facts are indisputable, including that he brought in cleaners to clean the house, and that he destroyed his cell phone and his security system (presumably to get rid of incriminating evidence).

So this is a guy that all Patriots' fans loved just a few weeks ago.  He's a key part of their two TE offense, which has created all sorts of matchup problems for defenses.  But really, we don't know anything about the guy.  And it's depressing to feel that it's likely that he's just an overprivileged gangster, a jock who's never had to learn how to be a decent human being. And where the NFL (and most sports leagues) hold up their star players to be role models, the truth is that the ability to play football is no guarantee that a person is not a scumbag.  We've seen that with Ray Lewis, Mike Vick, Rae Carruth, etc., etc.

So here the point is that we need to be careful when we walk down the path of fandom, of rooting for laundry.  Because it may well be that the people being exalted don't really deserve it.