December 06, 2010
Perhaps we were expecting too much.
The NHL had pimped the fact that Sidney Crosby(notes) and Alex Ovechkin(notes) would be featured in the January 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. It was the first bullet point in the League's "Countdown To The 2011 Winter Classic" press release. The NHL had been spoiled with an insightful, revealing and lengthy profile of Ovechkin GQ; what would the Vanity Fair treatment look like?
There are girls field-hockey briefs in community sports sections that run longer than VF contributing editor Rich Cohen's bit on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals superstars. And by "bit" we mean "prolonged photo caption."
Not only that, but it's a cynical dismissal of these two athletes as not worth the effort. From the article:
I spoke to them both, but will not quote them here, because, like most pro athletes, the gifted ones especially, they've learned to talk without saying much (typical exchange-me: "What do you do after a game?" Ovie: "Watch movies and go to sleep"), or maybe it's that the really interesting things they have to say can be said only on the ice, in big games, like the one this month, on New Year's Day, the Bridgestone N.H.L. Winter Classic, where these once-in-a-generation rivals-like Bird and Magic, Ali and Frazier-will go head-to-head at Heinz Field, in Pittsburgh, home to the Steelers, the gridiron ice-sheeted in approximation of a frozen pond, reminiscent of the ponds where those of us who grew up in icy climes spent our winter afternoons.
Oh, don't worry: He eventually quotes Crosby, too.
The frustration here for a hockey fan is obvious: Since 2006, you can count on one hand the number of times Ovechkin and Crosby have been in the same room, alone, for something like this. It's an incredible opportunity. It just doesn't happen. To have them interrogated by a non-partisan observer for a few hours (that's how long VF had them) and end up with a 290-word piece that's Exiled in Cliché-ville is a whiff for the NHL.
Here's the full transcript of Crosby's interview, via VF Online. And here's the only substantial thing to come out of the moment (via DC Sports Bog): a behind the scenes of Bruce Weber's black-and-white photo shoot, which manages to be flippant without being trivializing, unlike the accompanying piece:
Again, maybe we're beggars asking to be choosers. Maybe getting the Winter Classic into Vanity Fair with a nice photograph is enough. Or maybe the NHL should have cozied up to another publication that'd write the Crosby/Ovechkin article instead of writing an article about not having written one.