Sidney Crosby turned 33 today, and the Montreal Canadiens got together to give him a trip… out of the qualifying round and back home to Halifax.
Why have I always found it so easy to root against Sidney Crosby?
Could it just be an accident of history? I’m a Red Wings fan, and the rise of Sid’s Penguins corresponded with — and brought about — the end of Detroit’s long tenure at the top of the League.
Or is it human nature? Are we all prone to reflexively disdain one-dimensional excellence? Give us a flawed striver with whom we can identify, not some hyper-talented golden boy! Crosby, deemed “the Next One” since he was a tween, was drafted first overall and then didn’t even have the decency to pay off all that hype with a spectacular flop. Instead, like a jerk, he panned out for the Pens in an infuriatingly big way for (most of) 15 years and counting.
Is he obnoxious about how great he is? Cocky in interviews? Not really! He’s fine! But even his practiced media skill can, in itself, be off-putting. With the press, he comes off as the hockey analog of Justin Long’s Mac from the “Get a Mac” campaign, quietly self-satisfied. We root for John Hodgman “PC” type characters here. (Ilya Bryzgalov, Phil Kessel, e.g.) We admit this might say more about our own insecurities than about Sid’s merits.
But no, none of this is at the heart of our antipathy for Sidney Crosby. At the heart of our antipathy for Sidney Crosby is the whining.
Good Lord Stanley of Preston, the whining. It seems like Sidney Crosby is aways bellyaching at the nearest referee over some injustice he’s suffered since the last whistle.
Does he often have a case? Sure! No doubt it’s frustrating to be the object of special attention from every team he faces; taking hooks, holds, and cheap-shots from players less skilled, but more guileful; wearing a couple double-teaming opponents all night every night like a Snuggie. Such is the price of excellence.
And while the captain’s C authorizes — nay, obligates — its bearer to plead the team’s grievances before the officials, Crosby’s petulant, palms-up body language in these proceedings always puts one in mind of the antagonist from an ’80s ski comedy. Don’t you know who his father is!?
As a human being, Crosby seems perfectly decent. “Down to earth,” every profile calls him (and there have been sooo many profiles). Used to have a little; now he’s got a lot — he’s still Sid from the same Nova Scotian suburb as the Trailer Park Boys. Even his sworn enemy from the team across the state Claude Giroux ultimately conceded, once the two were Team Canada rostermates, “obviously, off the ice he’s a great guy.” Gross.
My sister sent me this “Cry-Baby” t-shirt around the time of the dynastic shift between the declining Red Wings and ascendant Penguins. I don’t wear it much, but I have always found it funny. The last time I put it on, my youngest asked me what it was about. It somehow seemed less hilarious as I explained to a kind and earnest first-grader that it was basically some name-calling/light bullying I was doing, via my clothing, at a stranger.
Maybe it’s time I let go of my animus for Sidney Crosby. It’ll be easier now that his Penguins’ fortunes — like those of the Red Wings before them, and like me in real life — are on the downturn.