Monday, 28 April 2008

Diving In The Media

I've become a little jaded in recent weeks with the number of accusations thrown out by people watching hockey that diving is a commonplace tactic used by skilled players to gain an upperhand in the playoffs. While I understand that it does happen occasionally, saying it happens all the time is a little drastic. What really bothers me is when paid members of mainstream media decide to input their opinions on how the game is played on the ice. While it is frustrating to see your team fall in two games before coming home in the NHL Playoffs, there is no reason to start labeling players as "divers", especially when there is no succinct evidence to back up the claim. Journalistic standards be damned, I suppose.

Before the series started, Larry Brooks of the New York Post asked Crosby "to respond to innuendo from Tom Renney that Crosby embellishes possible penalties and takes dives".

"'I haven't changed one bit; I never dove and I don't dive now,' Crosby said to Brooks [Friday] with a flash of anger. 'That's just part of the playoffs; part of gamesmanship.

"'If I go down, it's because I've been forced down. I'll do whatever I can to stay on my feet. I think he (Renney) should be the one worried about diving.'"

Brooks then goes on to write an article containing this paragraph:

"But as great a player as Lemieux was, he was an inveterate diver. As remarkable a player as Crosby is, the same charge has been made against him. In fact, The Post has learned, a league official spoke to No. 87 last season about the issue of embellishing."

Excuse me? Lemieux was "an inveterate diver"? I'm not sure where Brooks was during the 1990s, but the guy currently in Rangers' blue-and-red who made a name for himself as a Penguin was more often called a "diver" than #66. In fact, #68 was synonymous with soft play for the longest time as a member of the Penguins, which included diving.

How many times has anyone called Mario Lemieux a "diver"? This sounds like a case of "Homer-ism" from Larry Brooks. Just because the Rangers have been outplayed in both games doesn't give Larry Brooks the right to accuse a Hall-of-Fame player of diving, especially when there is absolutely no proof. Ripping on Mario Lemieux for diving is as accurate as saying that Bob Probert was a finesse player.

I will commend Brooks for actually doing some journalism, though. In discovering that a league official had talked to Crosby about embellishment shows that he knows how to do some research, a vital component of journalism.

However, to continually float the idea that Sidney Crosby is a diver as a published journalist takes some moxie. Crosby has never been fined and reprimanded by the NHL as a diver. Larry Brooks, however, makes him to be public enemy numero uno for the way he plays the game.

Going back to his most recent article, Brooks even admits that Crosby did not dive on the Fedor Tyutin penalty yesterday. He wrote: "The first time was at 13:54 after Fedor Tyutin had been called for holding No. 87 - no dive, but a terrible call - in a one-on-one battle behind the Rangers' net".

Let me get this straight: he's a diver, but he didn't dive? Instead, it's the referee's fault for calling a "terrible call"? How is it a terrible call when you place your free hand on the player with the puck and push him down? Mr. Brooks, you need to brush up on your hockey rulebook. Or simply watch hockey. That's holding by the very definition.

But Larry Brooks isn't the only journalist committed to dragging the other team through the mud. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review claims that the Rangers are playing a crying game. In his article, Starkey writes:

"The Whiners - sorry, Rangers - couldn't help themselves Friday after a 5-4 loss in Game 1. They were irate that Crosby had drawn an interference call on Martin Straka with 3:20 left in regulation, leading to the winning goal."

Starkey, also showing some journalistic credibility, interviewed a key witness to the game in Versus analyst Darren Eliot.

"Versus analyst Darren Eliot offered a reasonable take, in an interview Saturday on ESPN Radio. He was asked if he thought Crosby had embellished.

"'First of all, I don't see Sidney Crosby as that type of player,' Eliot said. 'What separates him from everyone else, aside from his skill level, is his determination and will to work in the high-traffic areas.

"'Straka was a quarter of a step behind. Crosby was bursting into the open ice. The way I saw it is exactly the way the league wanted things to be called when they were coming out of the lockout. And that is that the guy without the puck cannot be impeded. He has to be allowed to get into the open ice and create offense.'"

While Starkey was slightly more insulting than Brooks was towards the opposing team's claims, Newsday's Arthur Staple takes the cake for subjective "journalism". In his article, Staple doesn't just insinuate that Crosby dives. No, he flat-out says that he dives all the time. He also throws a few barbs towards Pittsburgh fans, but his verbal assault on Crosby seems to be seen through NYR-coloured glasses.

Staple, in his condemning of Crosby, writes, "Because you're the only one who goes down without much assistance and a ref's hand shoots up, immediately. Koharski did it when Crosby rounded the net and fell without a touch from Brandon Dubinsky in the second period, and Sutherland did it at a much more crucial time, with 3:20 left in the third."

In case Mr. Staple may have missed what Mr. Eliot said, let me paraphrase what he said by using this one idea - Crosby draws calls because of "his determination and will to work in the high-traffic areas".

I'm not sure if anyone has noticed this, but Alex Ovechkin does the exact same thing. He skates hard into high-traffic areas, takes a bump or a stick near the skates, and hits the ice. The referee's arm almost always goes up. Why? Darren Eliot answers this as well: "the guy without the puck cannot be impeded. He has to be allowed to get into the open ice and create offense".

I appreciate the good-natured ribbing that hockey fans do in the playoffs. It creates drama, and gives the games a "larger than life" personification that drives the passion of the sport. Mainstream media, for the most part, do their part by reporting some valuable bulletin board material that is used by both the teams and fans in the development of the rivalry between the warring squads.

However, to personally crucify someone for playing within the boundaries of the rules as they are laid out is both pathetic and anti-journalistic.

We - bloggers on the sport of hockey, and bloggers in general - routinely get flamed by the mainstream media for "infringing on the work of journalists". However, these three articles are what I would expect to find on a message board or a blog. All contain quotes from various individuals that have been spun to change the context of the speaker's message.

I try not to get into contests with other bloggers or journalists regarding content that they produce. We're all entitled to speak our minds and have our voices heard. When journalists begin to show less objectivity in their stories, it's time that their editors step in and fix the problem. After all, they aren't bloggers and we aren't journalists, according to the accredited press.

As for pissing contests between reporters, leave the trash-talk, insults, and "yo' mama" jokes to the fans and players. Journalism should be held to a higher standard if you're being published. Especially if you're being published.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

Crosby can definitely be dramatic, but no one is as big of a ballerina as Corey Perry...