Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Thoughts On Mark Messier and Heroes

I previously took aim here at Mark Messier leaving the New York Rangers in 1997 – which, ironically took place 12 years ago yesterday. My point is not to take away from Messier’s legacy as a player overall or with the N.Y. Rangers in particular, but to say that MY EXPERIENCE is that his leaving was the turning point in MY LIFE of viewing all of these guys as human and flawed humans, just as you and I are.

The fact remains that Messier took the money and the security of a multiple-year deal to go play with Vancouver. Messier said at the time that the Rangers did not show him respect, but I will counter that notion with the fact that they paid him quite well and they also used to go out an put players around him that he would be comfortable playing with not just for on-ice chemistry but also because Mark wanted his friends here.

Why, Messier even in 1997, was not talking to the media shortly after the Rangers acquired Russ Courtnall and Esa Tikannen from Vancouver. He campaigned for Petr Nedved to get dealt during the 1995 season and he most famously lobbied for head coach Roger Nielsen to get canned in 1993. Even before Messier walked in the summer of 1997, the Rangers signed Brian Skrudland and Mike Keane as free agents; players that were brought in to win now! So what were the Blueshirts to do with those players when Messier left? It didn't make sense for Skrudland and Keane to be on the team, so the Rangers ended up dealing the two mid-season.

I think, personally, that when Mark Messier went against his own words and left the Rangers it helped me not only in my different reporting roles I have had over the last 12 years, but also that I am able to enjoy sports as being a form of entertainment and not MY LIFE. Do I have teams that I root for? Absolutely. Do I lose sleep when they lose? Not a chance. Does this make me better than anyone else? Nope, I just have a better perspective on things than I used to.

Another example of a guy that is put on a pedestal is Pat Riley. Yes, what he has done as a coach is remarkable, however, he lost a bit with me when he faxed his resignation to the New York Knicks. Riley penned a book called The Winner Within, which was a good read. But honestly by faxing his resignation he went against everything he preached about in the book.

Yes there are many guys that have played pro sports that have been model citizens on and off the field (or ice), but I just caution those that take these folks to be messiahs or that their word is gospel, because quite often it isn’t.

Again, I point to a quote from Bert Sugar in his book Boxing’s Greatest Fighters:

"Show me a person who has heroes and I'll show you someone still in the sixth grade."

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