Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ça suffit: Part One: Oh Captain, My Captain

The rapacious sports journalists in Montreal. Now there's your elephant in the locker room.

Many in the Montreal sports media, the Habarazzi, go beyond the borders of hockey and they do so in vitriolic manner. None has endured such character assassination as the team’s captain, Saku Koivu.

Koivu has heard and read it all, mostly in the French media about his lack of leadership and character.

Doubt rained over Koivu even before the trainers had finished stitching the first C on his jersey.

He wasn’t fit to captain the team because he couldn’t communicate in French.

His stamina was questioned after his remission from cancer.

His desire to will the team to victory seemed unconvincing.

His apparent lack of mentoring skills has left the younger players scrambling in all directions, leaderless. Funny how most young players on the team enjoyed banner seasons in 06-07.

His quiet demeanor has failed to lift the team during its struggles.

Anyone who questions Saku Koivu’s character must arguably not have grasped the full spectrum of the meaning behind the words cancer, remission, comeback, charity. Saku Koivu is everything that is good in sports today. Forget the trivialities of a hockey season, his leadership away from the rink, where it really matters, should leave most of us in embarrassment; we have not achieved a fraction of what he has while carrying burdens far too enormous to fathom on his small shoulders.

You can question his play, his lack of scoring prowess, his inevitable scoring droughts that have impacted the team around Christmas time over the last few seasons. You can’t, however, doubt his leadership. Nobody can. We owe many thanks to this courageous young athlete and his supporters should run the gamut, from the most devoted hockey fan, to the numerous beneficiaries of the PET scan machine his charitable foundation donated to the Montreal General Hospital.

Today, the ever present media has become an ambassador of sorts. In so doing, it communicates in two directions. It both relays its perceptions of the team to the public and voices the issues and sentiments the public may want to address with the team. Sometimes, the message has been distorted and at times the media has been guilty of delving into pure fabrication. On other occasions, they have simply crossed the line.

Koivu not being a leader falls into the realm of fabrication.

His dedication to overcoming devastating odds speaks so loudly to the contrary. While others may possess more raw talent he is blessed with splendid devotion to hard work, an intangible that eludes even the most talented on this earth most of the time. He plays possessed in the playoffs days after returning from a cancer that wiped away an entire season and, more importantly, almost extinguished his life. He comes back this year with a blind spot in an eye he almost lost as the Habs were leading the eventual champion Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in last year’s opening round series. He then silences his doubters by producing his best season, despite the cataract left in his eye.

The public doesn’t really care about Koivu not commanding the French language. Did it care when Kirk Muller wore the C? This would seem to contradict the fact that Koivu continues to receive the loudest cheers from the fans at the Bell Centre. Does any player on the team regret Koivu’s inefficiencies in the French language? Is the media really sending the public’s message to the player or is it merely frustrated that it doesn’t have the most quotable captain in sports? Is he paid to win or to conjugate?

Should Koivu have endured a commando like raid in his hospital, with flashes blaring in his injured eye simply because he is a public figure? Some in the francophone media did in fact see that to be the case because those photos were disseminated. In publishing the fruit of this intrusion they displayed disgraceful ineptitude. The line that journalism in all its integrity must view with such consideration was crossed.

The fans and media alike need to remond themselves every now and then that this is a game. Only a game. A beautiful one at that, but one that matters very little when set against the backdrop of something much larger: life. Saku would be the first to attest to that.


Anonymous said...

Well written and well said, as I share your views on this matter. It's refreshing to read your honest, opinionated and intelligent articles. Keep them coming!

moeman said...