The superstar that transcends a sport is rare.
Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky come to mind as players that seemed to almost define their sport for a moment in time.
The NHL wants us to love Sidney Crosby, Versus wants us to love Sidney Crosby, and NBC really wants us to love Sidney Crosby. That is probably the biggest reason why, outside of Pittsburgh, not many people will ever truly appreciate Sidney Crosby.
How do you root for a guy that you're told to root for? Duke basketball comes to mind as a parallel.
Duke runs a clean program, they have a Hall of Fame coach, players that play the game hard, and seemingly do the right the things on and off the court, yet Duke at times seems to be almost universally despised by opposing fans. The reason is that ESPN, and more specifically Dick Vitale, tell us constantly that we should love Duke. Sports fan do not take well to being told who they should and shouldn't root for.
Michael Jordan was never a manufactured superstar. People fell in love with his game because of how he played, not because NBC and the NBA spent every waking second telling us we should. Even if by the end of his career the talking heads had employed this strategy, it was too late—Jordan had already left his mark.
Perhaps the fact that Jordan had players like Magic and Bird to offset some of the pressure helped when he first entered the league—but even without that, Jordan's impact on the game would have been just as substantial.
Meanwhile, the NHL, instead of providing solid game commentary, has chosen to focus all their efforts collectively on providing for everyone the 950 reasons why Sidney Crosby is special. No matter how special he is though, I'll never know, because in the end I'm too busy searching for the mute button on my remote to notice.
Whether or not Crosby is in fact talented enough to be a Michael Jordan- or Wayne Gretzky-like figure is debatable, but it really does not matter. Because even if he does somehow elevate his game to that point, nobody will care. He'll never transcend the sport in the way other athletes have because everyone wants him to fail. The NHL made sure of that.
Personally, I hate the fact that I cannot watch the first round against the Flyers without hearing a broadcast that consists of 50 percent coverage of Sidney Crosby, 25 percent Pittsburgh Penguins, and 25 percent Philadelphia Flyers.
I hate the fact that when I tune into Game One of the Hurricanes versus Penguins last night, I get 55 percent coverage of Sidney Crosby, 25 percent coverage of the Penguins and 20 percent coverage of the Hurricanes.
Maybe if the announcers spent just as much time prepping for the game as they did for Sidney Crosby, they wouldn't make so many errors during the coverage.
In focusing so much on Crosby, the NHL, and the networks that cover hockey make it more and more difficult to appreciate Crosby. If you look at the message boards of opposing teams, it seems almost everyone despises Crosby. And, although some would argue that the hatred stems from the fact that Crosby is beating them up on the ice, with Sid it just feels different.
Ultimately, stars become that way because of who they are. They have a presence, something special about them that sets them apart. You don't need announcers to spoon-feed you statistics or stories—you are just naturally drawn to them.
As much as I hated when my beloved Sixers would face off against Jordan, it was a pleasure to watch Jordan play the game. I still had to have a pair of Air Jordans and I would spend the next day discussing the five or six plays that made Michael Jordan who he was.
I don't hear that kind of talk with Crosby. And that's sad, because he is a great player.
Instead of appreciating Crosby even while he beats up on your team, the discussions inevitably focuses on how annoying the coverage was of the game, how biased the announcers were, and how sickening it is to have to watch your team play the Pittsburgh Penguins because the announcers will virtually ignore the other team nine out of 10 times.
That is, unless Ovechkin is on the ice, but that just seems to allow them to talk more freely about Crosby but in another fashion—focusing instead on contrasting the two stars.
Ultimately, you expect superstars to get special treatment, on the ice, in the media, and certainly by the announcers. However, the NHL, and their coverage of these games have taken that to a whole new level of annoying with Sidney Crosby.
I would imagine some would argue that the NHL has no hand in this because it is the networks' coverage, but it all just feels like a lame attempt at manufacturing a superstar with the NHL's seal of approval—when no manufacturing was needed.