Tuesday morning after a skate around in Calgary, Dallas Stars defenseman Sean Avery launched into a brief, and somewhat random, critique of the National Hockey League and the apparent habit of various NHL players to "fall in love with my sloppy seconds."
Here is exactly what Avery said, "I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada, I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."
On the surface, those comments warrant a head-scratch and perplexing look. What the heck is that guy talking about?! However, when one learns that Avery's former fling, actress Elisha Cuthbert, is now dating Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf the picture becomes considerably more clear.
It didn't take long for the NHL to act after Avery's comments hit every media outlet both in Canada and in the States. Avery did not play in the game against the Flames Tuesday night; Wednesday morning we learned the loud-mouthed Avery had been sent home from the Stars complex upon arrival and was suspended indefinitely by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman--himself doing his best Roger Goodell impersonation.
Now, it is my personal belief Avery should not have been suspended. One of my biggest pet peeves are league commissioners who act as if they are some kind of moral authority within the sport; but that is an entirely seperate story altogether.
My firmly held belief that Avery should not have been suspended places me in the minority of most people harboring an opinion on this story. ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote a great article about Avery and his past indiscretions with the NHL and its fans.
That said, other than the fact that Cuthbert apparently appreciates quality defense over flashy offense, what are we to learn from Avery's clearly rehearsed remarks? Because that is the real point to the story.
I don't appreciate what Avery had to say. In fact, it's wrong on a number of different levels. His comments were a collection of sexist, offensive remarks that objectify women and he did it in a situation which he thought would gain him the most media attention possible. Job well done, Sean.
But, at least on some level, that's the best part.
Never in the history of sport has the disconnect between fans and athletes been greater. They make (a lot!) more money than we do. They date supermodels and actresses and generally needn't concern themselves with the credit crunch or the price of gas.
Even when athletes screw up, we can't relate.
Honestly, when the Plaxico Burress story broke last week no average fan thought to himself "Well, we've all been there!" When Pacman Jones gets in a fight with his bodyguard, we cannot identify with that. And the only thing the Deuce McAllister suspension means to us is that we not have to alter our fantasy teams.
We can identify with this though.
Avery was clearly bitter about the fact his ex-girlfriend is now dating another defenseman on a different NHL team. Obviously, we don't know the whole story about the Avery Cuthbert relationship, but maybe she gave him the, "let's just be friends" speech. Or perhaps Avery was told, "it's not you, it's me." Maybe Avery thought Cuthbert was The One and she just wasn't into that. Whatever the scenario, we've all been there, right?
I'll be honest, my first reaction when I heard what Avery said was unbridled laughter. I found it most entertaining. The reason I found it so funny was because I can absolutely, unequivocally relate with what Avery said. I've been on both sides of this issue and, chances are, you have too.
This is the real significance behind the story.
I won't contend that Sean Avery isn't generally a pretty reprehensible human being. It only took me about five minutes worth of reading up on this guy to decide that I probably wouldn't let him babysit my daughter on a Friday night.
But, here's the thing. Sean Avery is human. He's got talents and gifts and abilities and interests and sometimes his feelings get hurt and he says stupid things. I know this is true of all athletes, but we sometimes forget that, don't we?
Maybe we just needed a guy like Sean Avery to remind us.