Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind, don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind. ~Dr. Seuss
Girls just wanna have fun ~ Cyndi Lauper
Make some fun, happy time ~ Alex Ovechkin

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You Gotta Have Heart

Recently, I have seen tweets that accuse Alex Semin of being lazy and selfish. I have also seen tweets that call Mike Green a wuss for not playing with his injury. Geesh, I even saw one that said Alex Ovechkin is statistically on pace for only 41 goals and 82 points this season, "what a bum". (Yes, I recognize sarcasm.) And then there are the tweets that Vokoun lost the game for "us". Seen them all. There are a lot of stats floating around that could back some of these things up, but one thing stats do not convey is the heart and soul of a player and a team when times are tough.

I know every fan of a team is disappointed when they lose. I feel your pain. But let's get real here, folks. Pro athletes are human. Shit happens. I will admit, like so many others, I joke when Semin causes a penalty. Do I think he does it on purpose? Not usually. Do I think he is selfish or lazy. Nope. Do I think Mike Green is a wuss for not playing injured. No way. Yes, I get frustrated when I see Ovechkin standing on the ice waiting for a pass and I'll yell "Move Ovi, get in there". Do I know why he's doing this at this particular time? Not a clue. And nobody else except Ovi does either. (Well, maybe the other players on the ice do too - I hope).

Lest we forget, hockey players have a lot demanded of them, not only in the aspect of the game itself, but outside forces brought on by fan expectations and physical limitations. Football players get at least 5 days between games, sometimes 12-14 days if they have a by week. Even baseball pitchers are on a 5 game rotation. Their league recognizes the need for them to rest between outings to stay healthy. Hockey often requires back to back games, with travel in between; very constant physical activity while playing and many situations of possibly extreme exertion.

So, all statistics aside, let's examine the human factor. The heart. How can anyone know for sure if a player's heart is in the game? You can look at so many examples and draw conclusions, but would you be right? Does anyone really know what goes on in a player's head at any given moment?

Remember back when Ovi got a two game suspension in December of 2009? He was quoted to say afterwards that he would not let the suspension effect the way he plays. But when he returned, I thought the opposite. Watching him play, he seemed to be more cautious when it came to hitting players. All sports psychology aside, he seemed to take the suspension and criticism to heart and; to me; he adjusted his playing style accordingly. The key word in that thought was "heart". This man is one of the "Faces of the Franchise". Don't think that affects him? You gotta believe he would be the last person who would want to be known as a dirty player and human instinct is going to kick in.

So, what do you think Alex Semin is thinking when he sits in the penalty box for a stupid mistake? Well, what would you think if it were you? Of course, you'd be muttering "shit, shit, shit" (or whatever the Russian equivalent is), who wouldn't? Thinking that all of Semin's penalties are because he is lazy or selfish only shows that you have left out the human factor of "heart". What you "see" can be diametrically opposed to what you actually "know". Just watch his face break out into a beaming grin after he scores or assists on a goal, and you know his heart is in it. Maybe his lack of interaction with the media in the past has given people the impression that he is aloof and uncaring. If so, I'm glad he's finally breaking that boundary and beginning to speak up. It might help fans see his human side. It could go a long way to correcting some bad impressions people have of him.

And what about Mike Green being a wuss for not playing while injured? When your personal stats rely on games played, shots blocked, protecting your goalie and the net, goals scored and minutes on the ice; sitting out due to injury only makes your numbers look worse. But what does that do to a player's heart? Do you seriously believe Green enjoys sitting out games? Of course he wants to be out there. But do you; or your team for that matter; jeopardize a player's health or a team's win by letting an injured player actually play? Maybe in the playoffs, but not now. Hopefully, once he gets back into a game, his heart will be more into it than before because, not only is it his job, it's who he is, it defines him.

How about people calling Vokoun out for letting in goals and losing the game for "us"? Think back to his reaction to his first loss as a Capital. The guy was truly regretful about letting the game get to that point, he spoke from the heart. Would you want to be thought of as the reason your team lost the game? Seriously? Vokoun's heart as a player was fully evidenced after that game. Why would it suddenly change? It's going to take time for him to get used to playing with a team he is still learning about. Yes, we all hope he's got it figured out by now, but if you got a new job, how long do you think it would take for you to figure out all the nuances of your co-workers? Shit is gonna spring up to throw you for a loop long after your first day on the job. Still doesn't mean your heart isn't into it, just that shit happens. You learn from your mistakes and move on.

As you can tell, this post is a total opinion piece. Am I going to stop yelling at Ovi on my TV? Nope. Am I going to stop cussing at Schultz for "letting a goal get by"? Nope. Do I expect them to give 100%? You betcha. I'm just speaking from the heart, hopefully getting to the heart of the matter, and now I'm going to go play "Heart and Soul" on the piano.

1 comment:

  1. Love love love your point here. It's so easy to sit and judge from our seats in the stands, or on the couch...or from Botswana :) But how much can we say with confidence about how the guys feel about their game? Really well written, my dear!