Sunday, August 23, 2015

From the Slot: The Day Dino Ciccarelli Broke My Heart

When I was six or seven, my younger brother started to play hockey. It's the first time I remember being aware that the Red Wings existed. It's '93, '94, and Dino Ciccarelli had been with the Wings for a year or two. He was my favorite player. Being that age, and not really knowing hockey, I don't really know why he was my favorite. But he was. When my Mom ironed on numbers onto my t-ball jersey, I chose 22. Can you guess why?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Kocur Foundation Softball Tournament, and Ciccarelli was on the guest list. I was very excited, and, being oblivious (plus my age when he was playing), I didn't know that he had a reputation for being a dick, and other parts of his off ice dealings.

So, I went to the tournament hoping to get many players' autographs, and among them, I wanted Ciccarelli's because he was my first favorite player. Before I learned better and Yzerman reigned supreme until his retirement.

A majority of the day, I spent with friends, the boyfriend, and their kids. We gathered around the fence of the celebrity dug out, and waiting behind the bleachers for the players going back and forth from the VIP area, and the dugout.

It felt... weird.

I was under the impression that in addition to supporting a great cause that part of the day was fan interaction, and it just felt like that wasn't what the players felt like that's what they signed up for. When most of the players and other celebrities were interacting with the fans, they were smiling and nice. But, for most of the games, they all stayed on the field because they didn't want to have to listen to people saying their names over and over again. And really, I can't blame them for wanting to just hang out, but if part of the event is touted as fan/player/celebrity interaction, then they hopefully understand the crowd of people around the dugout. Or maybe have designated signing times like McCarty and Ted Lindsey did.

One person, although he did sign things, and I eventually got an autograph, seemed like he didn't want to be there. I don't think I need to tell you who it was.

You see, even though he was there to play softball for a good cause, and (supposedly) for the fan interaction - I was there to meet someone I had idolized as a kid. That's a big expectation for me to carry in when meeting a fellow human.

Not that there is ever a reason to be a jerk to someone, but I feel like we place an unrealistic burden on athletes. Look at all the times that the athletes we idolize have let us down in just the last year or two. Currently, the hockey world is being rocked by rape allegations against Patrick Kane. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Sam Ukwuachu, Slava Voynov, Semyon Varlamov, Michael Vick, Aaron Hernandez, all of these athletes have been convicted or accused of doing horrible things. And that's just hockey and gridiron football.

When these humans screw up, or aren't what we idealize even in small ways, we get upset. Which is why I left the tournament yesterday feeling uneasy and unsettled by my interactions with Mr. Ciccarelli. I (subconsciously) expected this hockey player from my youth to be the man I saw on TV, not to be a human that has faults, thoughts, and feelings of his own.  To an extent, I'm responsible for my own disappointment yesterday.

To that same extent, we are responsible for some of our disappointment in these athletes when they don't live up to our expectations.  Not that that excuses the behavior of the humans we place on pedestals when they assault someone, or murder them, but we need to remember that the teams we watch, the people we look to, cheer for, are humans. They make mistakes like we do, and we need to remember that.

I think we'd all be a little less shocked when athletes and celebrities aren't what we expect or do bad things if we just manage to remember that they are human and maybe put a little less of our expectations on their shoulders.

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