What is it about Sidney Crosby that makes people so crazy?
Is it his face, that crinkled half-smirk and that fuzzy, pubescent mustache that makes it seem as if he's constantly projecting superiority? Is it the fact that he's a classic hit-and-runner, a player who likes to stir up trouble, then scurry for protection? Is it the fact that he is, in every sense of the word, a weasel - a guy who in the midst of frustration, pulls hair and swats a hockey glove away from an opponent?
Sidney Crosby is the kid we remember from the schoolyard who would bring the new ball he got for Christmas, then take it in the middle of the game and go home because we weren't passing it to him enough.
And his locker-room response after the Penguins' embarrassing display in Game 3 of the series against the Flyers, after he knocked Jakub Voracek's glove away just as Voracek was about to pick it up, was downright comical.
"I don't like them," Crosby snipped.
"Because I don't like them."
Who's writing Crosby's material, Dr. Seuss?
And now, Flyers fans will have to put up with Sid for at least one more game.
In all of your sports-viewing history, can you ever remember a player who was one of the best in the game, and yet who acted like some petulant, spoiled brat? Michael Jordan? Nope. Joe Montana? Nope. Wayne Gretzky? Nope. Not even Barry Bonds, who may have been a cheater, but when pitchers brushed him back, got back in the box and usually slammed a missile to the seats.
We are used to the great players being the stoics, the ones who don't have to resort to cheap shots and other such nonsense because their game stands on its own. OK, the newspaper cover that had Crosby's helmeted head Photoshopped onto the body of the Cowardly Lion may have been a little juvenile, but was it that inaccurate?
Now here's the part that really sends us into therapy: Despite all the shenanigans, we'd take Sidney Crosby on our team in a second.
Oh, we can talk the good game. I heard from at least 20 people on my radio show last week who swore they wouldn't want a player with Crosby's lack of character on the Flyers. Oh sure, Skippy. I listened to the same thing last year when folks were saying they didn't want Jose Reyes because he was a hated Met. Those same people, bemoaning the Phillies' lack of offense this year, are now clamoring for the Phils to make a trade for David Wright. Point is, we'd welcome anybody who could help our team and, like the fans in Pittsburgh, look past the misbehavior of a player with the spunk to knock away an opponent's glove.
You want examples of the weasels we worshipped? Here goes:
Bob Clarke. Of course, none of us ever saw Clarke, the greatest Flyer of all, use his stick like a Star Wars lightsaber, right? He broke a guy's ankle once to give his team the edge. And while he was forging his marvelous, Hall of Fame career, Clarke was the original hit-and-run bandit - a poke here, a slash and a glove to the face there, and then a call to Dave Schultz to fight his battles.
Ken Linseman. Linseman was Crosby Lite. A small but swift and talented center, Linseman was a fan favorite in Philadelphia in the 1980s for his agitating style. He had 92 points for the Flyers one year and 275 penalty minutes. Linseman once tried to kick an opponent in the head with his skates, which kind of makes Crosby's glove poke look humble. His nickname was "The Rat," and Flyers fans so celebrated Linseman's aura, they often threw plastic rats to the ice in tribute.
Chase Utley. Many of the things Utley does on a baseball field would be considered bush league. He intentionally gets hit with pitches. He sometimes blocks second base with his leg on a tag play. He flicked the baseball back at Jonathan Sanchez in the 2010 playoffs just because Sanchez hit him with a pitch. But it's clear that in this town, Utley can do no wrong.
Andre Waters. We knew he was a dirty player. We didn't care, so long as he blasted some rangy wide receiver in the middle of the field.
And don't even get me started on Pete Rose.
As long I've channeled a little Dr. Seuss, here's a little ditty of which Seuss might approve:
You may not like us on the ice, but you should come for our advice. And the advice is this: Clean it up.
You're a great player, Sid, one of the premier players in the league. But your behavior brings you down to mucker-and-grinder level. It's unnatural. In the offseason, which for you may begin in a few nights, it's time to change.
Let the Bobby Petrino caper be a lesson to all middle-aged big-time football coaches: It's all fun and games until you get caught with a 25-year-old woman on the back of your motorcycle. The latest Petrino papers reveal that he wooed Jessica Dorrell, who was young enough to be his oldest daughter, with lunch, some chocolates, and a kiss. Real smooth.
But if you think this scandal has caused the end of Petrino's coaching career, you are badly mistaken.
I predict that within three years, some just-below-big-time Division I-A football school will hire him as the architect of its program. Maybe a school from the MAC. Maybe one from the Big East or ACC. But he will get a job, because at the end of the day, it's the lure of winning that turns on athletic administrators, and previous scandals find their way to the shredder.
And before we bestow sainthood on Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, consider that Long was the guy who hired Petrino, even though the coach's track record suggested he's a bit of a creep. Back then, see, it was all about building up the Razorbacks' stature in the SEC. Had Petrino not wiped out on that scooter, this extramarital affair would have been tolerated for as many years as Arkansas won games.