This past week, in the course of my usual travails around the web, and its cousin the blog-o-sphere, I came upon an article on www.atlas-hugged.blogspot.com that argued we should all layoff A-Rod/A-Fraud because he is a hero, and in today’s society we need more heroes. While I am not about to discuss if he is actually a hero (just know that the person who wrote that article is a die-hard Yankee fan, and they typically are as rational as a Leafs fan planning their parade route after a three game winning streak), it got me thinking about heroes, and sports, and society’s worship of athletes.
No matter how often it is lamented, for whatever reason, we look upon our athletes as role models. We do this despite knowing, and reading about their frequent brushes with the law, and their reputation’s as philanderers and occasionally drug cheats. It makes me wonder why, someone like Charles Barkley (who admittedly I like, but do not worship or remotely consider a hero) is glorified, and why many other players toil in anonymity despite exemplifying many of the “hero attributes” we claim to be seeking. The best answer I can come up with is marketing, which, given how this is a hockey related website, got me thinking of the marketing of NHL players.
I remember reading a Bill Simmons running diary of the NHL Draft from a couple of years ago, and he remarked somewhere about the fifteenth pick into the draft that already the amount of two parent families had exceeded the combined totals of the NBA and NFL drafts of years past. Of course, as Simmons is known for doing, he engages in hyperbole, but often you hear from the media how NHL players are (Sean Avery notwithstanding) the most articulate, polite and respectful of all the professional athletes. So why don’t we hear about more of these players? Why doesn’t the NHL do a better job emphasizing that these NHL players, of all the athletes in the sports world today, are the ones who should be the heroes. The ones who should be the role models. The ones who should be idolized. Not only by rural Canadian kids, but also by inner city kids who need positive role models, not the “thug life” options they often are subjected to in the NBA and the NFL.
The most recent NHL marketing campaign I remember was some convoluted series of ads portraying NHL players as gladiators, or warriors of some kind. Dressed in funny costumes, and wearing faux armour this was supposed to draw casual fans to the game. Needless to say, it flopped. The NHL needs to abandon this type of campaign, and instead focus on its strongest attribute at its disposal; the players. Articulate, polite, well mannered. I know that I, as a hypothetical parent, would be far more eager to spend my dollar taking my child to a game featuring an athlete they could look up to, than spending it at an event that would glorify cheaters, criminals and losers like Alex Rodriguez, Allen Iverson, Jeremy Shockey, and Terrell Owens.
For Illegal Curve, I am Drew Mindell.
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