Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just Shut Up


Michael Farber throws on the hair shirt like no one else. It ain't going to win you that Pulitzer, though, Mike. So stow the histrionics and hyperbole.

I'm just not buying all this soul searching in the face of this recent spate of violence in the NHL. If you don't like it, fine. But those of the punditry who sit there and either decry it, decry others for it, or try to assuage their aspirations of high brow acceptance of an intrinsically low brow sport are simply kidding themselves.

If nothing else, the NHL has offered zero evidence that it wants to rule those kinds of shenanigans out of the game. One need only look as far as the league's track record on supplemental discipline to see that.

If the league wanted this kind of stuff out of the game it would employ a disciplinary system that meted out meaningful justice. Instead, well instead we have what we have.

Frankly, the surprise isn't that this display of thuggery has popped up, it's that, as a reflection of the passe attitude toward individual acts of violence that the league has adopted over years and years, it doesn't pop up more often.

To my mind, complaining about this from the NHL now is like complaining that they don't take the designated hitter out of the American League. You may want that, and you may think it's better for the game. But the MLB has done nothing to give you any reason to think it wants the DH out of the American League. You may want a lot of things in baseball, but if baseball doesn't want them, you're SOL. You may as well be asking for home runs to count double or to be able to use handguns to shoot a running back if he gets past the secondary on a rush.

This is what hockey is. Always has been. It's a violent game. It's an ugly game. It's a game that rewards brutality and skullduggery as readily as it rewards skill and grace. That contradiction is one of the marvelous things about the game of hockey. And the NHL both knows that and is obviously reticent to actually do anything to try to change it. And I'm okay with that. I'm guessing the NHL is a strict adherent to the age-old marketing tenet that there is no such thing as bad advertising.

So I will not be making any apologies for the game. I certainly will not be making any apologies for the NHL. They wanted this, they got it. If they didn't want this, then they shouldn't have fostered the atmosphere that was so conducive to it, for all these many years. If someone out there decides hockey's just too violent for them, fine. Go away. Don't ever come back.

And to the Michael Farbers of the world: give it a rest. Accept hockey in general, and the NHL specifically, for what it is or just shut up already. Don't sit there and try to atone for something that hockey itself doesn't consider a sin. Because you're not seeking redemption or absolution for hockey at that point, you're seeking redemption and absolution for yourself.

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