America’s “Awards Season” is also its “All-Star Season,” with two of these exhibitions played this weekend (NHL and Pro Bowl). Nothing underscores just how warped our ASG’s have become like the John Scott saga. The longtime enforcer was encouraged – then cajoled – then manipulated – then shamed – by the NHL not to play in the game. Only for all of it to come rising to the surface like toxic sludge from the center of a Superfund site, and the league being forced to reconsider.
Yeah, Scott is a bloody knuckle of an NHL player, more muscle than skill. He’s not Ovechkin, Stamkos or Crosby, so he doesn’t quite fit into the modern corporate circus model of All-Star hullabaloo. When the fans started stuffing the virtual ballot box as a joke (think a puck version of Rick Rolling), the NHL got its hockey pants in a bunch.
Somehow it fell on Scott’s shoulders to “do the right thing” in the league’s eyes, and decline the fan’s vote. “This is not a game for you, John” they told him. “Do you think this is something your kids will be proud of,” they warned. They tried to bully him. Then trade him. Then demote him. Which got boomeranged back into Gary Bettman’s face. The whole thing became so stupid – a silly fan vote becoming an ugly controversy – the league had to relent. Scott would be allowed to play.
This is made even crazier because while the NHL hasn’t always been progressive, recently it has embraced new ideas. The Winter Classic grew into an important part of the sports calendar. All-access “24/7” television took us behind the curtain. The new three-on-three ASG format is unconventional and modern.
So why wouldn’t the league also encourage and honor the fan vote no matter how crazy it is? Scott could be held up by the league as the ultimate everyman, and a victory by its fans to mobilize. The coolest thing the league could do this weekend is make Scott a hero because the fans chose him to be. Have NBC do a long-form story about his life through the minors. Allow him address the crowd in Nashville on the mic and thank the fans. Fly in one of the lead organizers of the “Vote John Scott” movement and give him or her rinkside seats. Your fans spoke to you, NHL. Don’t hide from it. Embrace it.
But league’s are melted into cowering puddles when fans start coloring outside the lines. This summer MLB execs had sweat running down their rib-cage because Royals fans were stuffing the ballots. Too many Kansas City players in the All-Star Game! It will undermine the sanctity of the game! But, as I wrote about in June, what’s wrong with a chunk of Royals representing the AL? It would be a salute to the fans for organizing, mobilizing, and most of all, caring. Because who really gives a rip about these silly exhibitions? Luke Walton can’t coach in the NBA’s event, but Tyronn Lue can. The entire Patriots organization is holding a silent protest over the Pro Bowl, and sitting it out. Why are we acting like these totally unimportant games have a value they actually don’t? Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin are coaches for crying out loud. I’ve seen better X’s and O’s drawn up by Flea in an MTV Rock n’ Jock All-Star Game.
Scott should be hailed as a victory for the fan’s this weekend, instead of an uncomfortable clerical error. If only our sports leagues realized we are giving them everything they could want, if only they’d turn and notice.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.