A lot of controversy has surrounded a couple of my favorite athletes recently. First, it was the Tiger Woods’ accident and, most recently, his “transgressions”. Then it was the 2-game suspension handed to Alex Ovechkin for a knee-on-knee hit on Carolina’s Tim Gleason. Many folks have had harsh words for both of these guys, but I’ve been trying to avoid the frenzy surrounding both incidents.
The whole thing has made me wonder whether I am blinded by sports-related bias.
Let’s talk Tiger. I have been following this man’s career since he was on the amateur circuit. I remember the day he turned pro. I remember buying “I am Tiger Woods” t-shirts. I remember going to the U.S. Open the year he won his first Masters and stalking him around the course. I remember how awesome it was to be within two feet of what was sure to be sports royalty. I have followed every move of his illustrious career. And I can tell you one thing: I will not stop being an avid fan of Tiger Woods.
Everyone has their transgressions, and fans and the media can speculate as to what those transgressions might be. The obvious choice would be to assume he’s referring to extramarital affairs. And it’s an easy assumption. The fact that ESPN was reporting that he was cheating based on a report in the National Enquirer made me lose some respect for the world wide leader, but the allegations could certainly be true. I obviously don’t know whether he did or not, and everyone can believe what they want. But would I feel this way if you replaced the name “Tiger Woods” with “Phil Mickelson”? That I don’t know.
Whatever Tiger’s transgressions, that’s between him and his family. Is it really any of our business? It reminds me of A-Rod’s stripper scandal. The media pushed for details so much, I feel like I know more than I ever wanted to about A-Rod and his wrongdoings. If you really think about it, how many of our favorite athletes are cheaters? Probably more than you would think. It’s almost a way of life in professional sports. We’ve all heard the phrase “girl in every city,” have we not? I’m not going to stop rooting for Tiger because he cheated on his wife. My opinion is probably not the most popular, but that’s where my bias comes in.
Now in the case of Ovechkin, I feel that my opinion on his style of play and the ensuing suspension isn’t that far off of what most people think. I believe he plays with reckless abandon. Hell, I think he lives his life that way, too. I definitely thought he deserved a suspension. I think he needs to think about his safety sometimes, and if a suspension does that than so be it. He’s arguably the best player in the NHL, and if he wants to keep that moniker he needs to use his head more in regards to his and others safety. The thing that concerns me most about Ovi is that he is now being labeled as a “dirty player”. That doesn’t sit well with me. Sure he’s made some questionable hits, but what good hockey player hasn’t? The fact that people have been putting Alex Ovechkin in the same league as Sean Avery astounds me. Now is that my Caps bias talking or a rational hockey fan?
This discussion has been ongoing in the comments at one of my favorite haunts, Japer’s Rink (go for the content, stay for the snark), since the hit happened on Monday night. While I personally wouldn’t label Ovi a dirty player, I wouldn’t say he’s innocent in all this. He was handed a major penalty and game misconduct last Wednesday for a questionable hit on the Sabres’ Patrick Kaleta. (Kaleta is well-known for being the giver of many hits like the one he received from Ovechkin, if not worse. In the Sabres’ next game after the Ovi hit, Kaleta was suspended for boarding Flyer Jared Ross.) Here’s video evidence of the hit.
I apologize for the video quality, but CSN had the best angle on the hit. Fast forward to about the 40 second mark to see a slow-mo, down-the-boards angle. Kaleta is obviously looking up ice, and Ovi leads the hit with his shoulder. This hit was definitely not worth a major + game misconduct call, maybe a 2-minute minor, at best. Now fast forward to Monday night. I think if the Kaleta hit is penalized correctly, Ovi doesn’t get suspended for the hit on Gleason. But that really doesn’t matter. Here’s video evidence of the Gleason hit.
Now, Ovi was going for the check, but Gleason moves at the last second, and Ovi has already committed. At about the 1:10 mark, you can clearly see Ovi committed to the hit and Gleason try to cut back in to the center of the ice. I’m not making excuses for Ovi, though. It’s still a dangerous play. Gleason wasn’t even hurt by the play, despite the on ice dramatics. He never missed a shift. Ovi, on the other hand, was injured and had to be helped off the ice. He is listed as day-to-day with a sore knee. He’s lucky it wasn’t a more serious injury.
Of course my opinion on the situation is going to be viewed as biased because I’m a Caps fan and lover of all things Ovechkin (minus his face, most of the time – see above photo). I think it’s hard, as fans, when our favorite athlete/team is being criticized by the media. It’s hard to not overreact and immediately defend his/her/their actions. I tried to stop drinking my Tiger Kool-Aid and remove my red-colored glasses when assessing both Woods’ and Ovechkin’s situations, but it can be hard. I feel more biased in the case of Tiger because I seem to not share the same opinion as the rest of the masses. He’s been my favorite golfer for more than half of my life. Unless he turns into OJ, I’ll still be his fan.
As for Ovechkin, I can only hope, as a Caps fan, that he’s learned his lesson, and will be more careful on the ice. I don’t want him to change his style of play because, face it, he’s freakin’ unbelievable. He plays on the edge, and that’s not always a bad thing. In this case, it didn’t help endear him to non-fans. I’ll continue to support both of these men, despite their recent actions and what others may think.
So what do you, our loyal Ladies… readers think? How do you feel about Tiger or Ovi? Am I uber biased, thinking clearly or a little bit of both?