Flair, humility can be at odds

There was an interesting battle going on in the sporting world this week.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins met the Philadelphia Flyers in one of the NHL’s most intense rivalries in recent years while the City of Brotherly Love also saw the NFL’s Eagles take on the hated Dallas Cowboys.
The match-up between teams isn’t the major part of this piece, though—it’s the one between being a good sport and being a good entertainer.
In the Sunday nighter between the Eagles and Cowboys, Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson showboated just before crossing the goal line to record a 91-yard touchdown catch. As he approached paydirt, Jackson turned his back to the end zone and fell backwards to score the six points.
Some Dallas players weren’t impressed by Jackson’s antics. Cowboys’ cornerback Mike Jenkins told the Dallas Morning News that Jackson’s celebration was “disrespectful.”
Jenkins wasn’t the only athlete to bemoan disrespect this week. Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dan Ellis cried foul on a game-winning shootout goal by Linus Omark of the Edmonton Oilers.
On the goal, Omark spun in the centre ice circle after picking up the puck, raised his stick, and slapped the ice before beating Ellis five-hole.
Ellis told the St. Pete Times after the game that Omark’s goal was “not a very classy thing” while teammates Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos voiced similar opinions.
Couple that with Flyers’ captain Mike Richards opining to the Team 990 radio station that the Montreal Canadiens’ “cocky” rookie defenceman P.K. Subban had to earn respect in the league.
Much of the discussion around these incidents has been a battle between the traditional “keep your head down, play for the name on the front of the jersey” school of thought and one that’s flashier and more personality-driven.
Certainly, Jackson’s play is more egregious in the eyes of the traditionalists since it can be argued his actions did nothing to help him score the points—he could have just crossed the line, handed the ball to an official, and be done with it.
Omark, meanwhile, has made his name on flashy goals—and Friday night’s tally was no exception. It’s much easier to argue that the spin, the stick-raise—the entire play, really—was crucial to him scoring the goal.
Maybe Ellis got upset right away and lost his focus since the actual shot that hit the net was nothing to write home about.
And kudos to Omark for trying it, since he tried the same move the weekend before in an AHL game in Manitoba, resulting in an embarrassing miss.
The other thing to consider, though, is actually something out of Richards’ comments. If a player is going to sizzle and, arguably, show off, he’s going to have to answer for it.
Especially in this day and age, when personalities are fantastic finds for the league (a major reason why Phoenix Coyotes’ enforcer and press box staple Paul Bissonnette is a sensation on Twitter). But although the showboater’s opponents have no control about what to do on that particular play, they can respond to the show-off later on.
Vancouver Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault accused the Chicago Blackhawks of running up the score in a 7-1 win last month, and the Canucks promptly responded with a tidy 3-0 win on Dec. 3.
Having some flair, and providing some entertainment value, certainly is a plus for any league, which really shouldn’t discourage such behaviour.
That buck should stop at the hot dog’s team, and the team alone.
• • •
I’ll end with a couple of quick congrats to local competitors abroad.
Local driver Steve Arpin won his second-straight “Most Popular Driver” award at the ARCA awards banquet in Covington, Ky. on Dec. 4.
As well, former Fort Frances Jr. Sabre goalie Ryan Faragher won the NAHL goalie-of-the-week award for the third time this season, stopping 44 of 45 shots over the weekend as his Bismarck Bobcats swept the visiting Austin Bruins.

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