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“Talked to my mom and my wife this week: They seem to be in the minority. They don’t think I’m the worst person in the sports world ... Amazing how many fans were offended by my column on the Kessel trade and how many hockey people — coaches, GMs, scouts, media — thought it was dead on.” – Steve Simmons, July 5, Toronto Sun.
If you want to see a textbook example of “oblivious,” read the passage above and then read Simmons’ all-timer on the Phil Kessel trade, which will go down as one of the most pedantic screeds ever written about a player leaving town, one where you can actually hear Simmons’ fingernails clawing at a narrative that had long slipped out of the media’s grasp.
He's oblivious, again, to the fact that it's not the content of his argument about Kessel but how he makes it, which is to completely trash a player on a personal level for having the nerve to be apathetic to the media, having a normal physique and being a really, really good hockey player on a really, really bad team.
But we should applaud him for holding back from calling Kessel a “cancer” given his medical history, instead opting for the all-too-obvious “infection.”
He couldn’t hold back from turning his column’s lede into a protracted fat joke about Kessel, of course:
The hot dog vendor who parks daily at Front and John Sts. just lost his most reliable customer. Almost every afternoon at 2:30 p.m., often wearing a toque, Phil Kessel would wander from his neighbourhood condominium to consume his daily snack. And now he’s gone. Just like that. The Maple Leafs could no longer stomach having Kessel around, the first player to be both punished and rewarded for the saddest Leafs season in history.
Almost immediately, Toronto Maple Leafs fans called B.S. on this report, and venerable Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets grabbed the torch to see if it could formally debunk the report.
Which, it turns out, was pretty easy to do.
First, they used footage from “HBO 24/7” and an amazing tome called “a phone book” to establish that Kessel lived on College and Bay Sts.
The big deal is that Steve Simmons put a hit piece out on Phil Kessel, but it's unlikely that the first anecdote in his story is true. Phil Kessel doesn't live or work near Front and John, and it's unlikely that if he wanted a hot dog every day he'd walk half way across a major city to a specific vendor at the busiest time of day to get one there.
Many media markets, Boston especially, like to skewer players on the way out of town. It looks like Steve Simmons wanted to get in on this but he Three Stooged it good and hard from literally the first sentence in his sad attempt at insulting a professional athlete.
It's not hard to turn a city against an athlete. Every fan wants a scapegoat, every fan wants a contract they can point to and declare this person is not worth the money.
But this Simmons piece is perhaps our last and greatest example of how the Toronto hockey media managed to turn Phil Kessel into the fans' hero by getting so personal, going so specific and being generally insufferable about his role in the franchise's demise. He was their paunch-ing bag, only it swung back and hit them in the face instead.
Do they understand how insipid and loathesome one has to be to accomplish that?
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