Thursday, May 22, 2008

No room on this wagon dude

By Michael Rushton

(Phanatic Magazine) - Very rarely am I one to agree with loud-mouthed athletes who just continuously feel the need to spout off at the jaw time and time again, but for once, even if it was years later, I can see where they are coming from.

Former Flyer Jeremy Roenick sparked a bit of a stir when he told fans who perceived NHL players as spoiled during the league’s lockout to no longer attend games or watch them on television.

Oh, his rant, which he later claimed was taken out of context, also included the line, “kiss my ass.”

In my humble opinion, those so-called “fans” were the same ones who hardly pay attention to the league, condemn its violent nature and plainly know nothing about the league itself.

So, I echo Roenick’s words to Michael Smerconish.

In a clueless and misinformed opinion article appearing on Thursday, Smerconish of Big Talker 1210/AM attacks the violent nature of hockey, knowing full well that he is likely to be called a “wimp” or worse.

Not only is Smerconish’s article just plain laughable and lame in nature, but the content itself is weak compared to the Mike Wise’s article from the Washington Post in mid-April that drew such negative scorn from Philadelphia faithful.

Smerconish instantly destroys his credibility when he writes that he spent “many years away from the sport” after growing up a fan of the Broad Street Bullies, adding he only began watching the Flyers again this year during their playoff run due to the sudden interest his son had in the sport.

That’s like Dane Cook showing up at a local comedy club barking out orders on how to be funny. Sorry dude, nobody is listening.

Smerconish attacks the sport as barbaric with too many fights. He mentions the infamous I-95 bulletin board that was also referenced in Wise’s piece, not only failing to identify Riley Cote as the player on the board -- unlike Wise, who at least knew who he was writing about -- but also completely misses the point of “vengeance” being on the ad, something fans who endured the 2006-07 season completely get.

(He also slyly mentions he took a picture of the ad with his Blackberry, informing us readers that he is cool enough to have one.)

Smerconish’s argument seems to be based on one incident, a fight between Philly’s Scottie Upshall and Tyler Kennedy of Pittsburgh. Was it a brutal encounter? No. Was the overall series physical? Yes. Was it as bloody and fight-filled as it was thought it would be? Not even close.

Much like Green, Smerconish, born in Doylestown, is obviously oblivious to hockey. He claims to have been a big fan as a youth, but appears to have forgotten its lore to the public.

Hockey, you see, is the perfect combination of finesse and toughness on ice. Watch Washington’s Alex Ovechkin use brute force to create a scoring chance in one game or Pittsburgh’s Marian Hossa dance through the offensive zone around and between defenders before effortlessly directing the puck into the back of the net, then tell me different.

No, Smerconish is an idiot who wanted to stir the pot and get people talking about his opinion. Sure, I fell for it but I’m taking it beyond water-cooler talk.

Violence has, and always will have, a place in hockey. Even with the ridiculous instigator penalty, the players on the ice still can police themselves, cutting down on cheap hits and first-shot-wins sequences that plaque basketball, football and baseball.

Take baseball for example. Often, if a team seemingly hits an opposing player on purpose, both benches are warned. This prevents the other team from retaliating on its own terms, leads to festering rage and often culminates with high-intensity violence and brawls.

No so in hockey. If you have the stones or the stupidity to take liberties on the other team, you better be prepared to back it up.

So, to you Mr. Smerconish, kiss the NHL’s ass.

Michael Rushton can be reached at or

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