[This article originally appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of St. Louis Game Time.]
By Sean Gallagher
When I was in the fifth or sixth grade I got in trouble on the playground. During recess, I was walking around with a couple friends when I saw one of my other buddies playing soccer. He made some mistake with the ball and I yelled out, Finnegan, you suck!"
No sooner had I said it than our shorter-than-average principal, Mr. Rood (I swear that name is true), stepped out from behind a group of kids, screaming, "Who said that? Who said that?" Looking around, I had no idea who was in trouble. Until he kept coming right at me.
"Was it you? Did you say that to Tommy Finnegan?"
I had no idea why I was in trouble for good-naturedly ribbing my buddy, but clearly I was. I admitted to saying ‘it' whatever ‘it' was exactly was and was even more shocked to be physically escorted to the principal's office.
As I sat in his office, where, admittedly, I had been before, I honestly thought to myself that this time I had done nothing wrong. Rood must have heard me wrong. At that age, I knew all the red-flag words (my dad was a bit of a connoisseur of the more flavorful words in the language and I'd heard him on the phone plenty of times) and I just assumed that he'd thought I said something different. He couldn't really, honestly be this red-faced mad over me telling my friend that he sucked eggs, could he?
I figured that since my parents were being called anyway, I'd just ride out the storm in the office and then take the time to explain myself to my parents what had happened. You know, with a more reasonable audience I could explain the obvious mix up. They'd laugh and then they'd clear everything up with Rood in the morning. What a great big laugh we'd all have!
Well, the parents weren't any more understanding. I think the exact quote was, "You do know that's a terrible thing to say, don't you?"
It wasn't until the next day, after checking the facts with some of my older friends, that I had actually said something terrible. The imagery that was explained to me by one of the older kids was pretty shocking, I remember. I had a hard time looking at Tommy Finnegan for quite a while after that.
I was reminded of this whole enlightening when I heard the Sean Avery ‘sloppy seconds' story this week. Mainly because I can imagine all of the young Canadian kids out there who are comparing notes on the playground as to what Bob McKenzie meant when he kept saying ‘slawpy seconds' on TV the night before.
But beyond that, I was surprised, much as I was 25 years ago when I was hauled into the principal's office. Had Mr. Rood not reacted so vehemently, would the incident have gotten so blown out of proportion? Would everyone in my grade (within just a few days) been prematurely introduced to the non-egg-related use of the word ‘suck'?
My guess is that if Mr. Rood had instead said, "Hey, Gallagher! No way. That's not how we talk to our friends!" It all would have been over. No scandal in the pre-junior high. No getting a bunch of youngsters to learn exactly what adults thought ‘suck' referred to, exactly. No controversy.
If Sean Avery's "it's been a common thing for guys in the NHL to fall in love with my sloppy seconds" comment, which was clearly aimed at Dion Phaneuf, had been ignored by the league, it would have gone away. Seriously, people are acting like Avery said the worst thing anyone could possibly imagine. The NHL, his own team, the media and hockey fans everywhere are in frothy outrage over the statement.
Really? Is it that offensive? For a hockey player? You know what, I hear worse than that virtually every day. On days when I'm playing hockey, I hear comments that are ten times worse than that. Have any of these people ever sat in the cheap seats at an NHL game?
The whole incident smacks of hypocrisy to me. ‘Sloppy seconds' is hardly the worst thing we've heard as hockey fans. Honestly, if Avery had borrowed a line from me back in my day at St. Patrick's Elementary and instead said, "It's become a common thing for guys in the NHL to fall in love with sucking" I would argue that he'd said worse. What's the worse imagery between the two?
But here's the other hypocrisy of this whole thing: whenever a player gives us the cliché quotes and non-emotional comments before, during or after games, both the fans and the media bitch and moan about it because, "No one ever speaks their mind, we all complain. It's like they've all been programmed to say five canned quotes and that's it."
Well, yeah, exactly. Sean Avery said something to the media in an opponent's city intended to get the fans, media and other team riled up. Mission accomplished. Isn't that what we all ask for from these players? Be interesting. Be funny. Avoid the, "we need to work hard and just go shift-by-shift, period-by-period" nonsense.
And what do we do when someone does what we ask? Suspend him indefinitely, flip our collective lids and talk about what a piece of crap the guy is.
You know what? That just sucks.
-Sean "get ready for 100% more boring interviews" Gallagher