Sunday, December 5, 2010

Earning Respect: the P.K. Subban Case

As you all know, I’ve played on various sports teams my entire life.  I’ve been playing basketball since 1st grade, and I’ve played at recreational, travel, AAU, and varsity levels.  I played AA ice hockey for almost 8 years.  I have played various levels of softball, soccer, and lacrosse as well.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me say that throughout this entire athletic career, I’ve always been a proponent for paying dues.  As a freshman, I was more than happy to get the water bottles, make sure all the balls were in the bag, and bring the medical kit everywhere.  Frankly, it made me feel like I was part of the team.  I felt like I was doing what all those had done before me, and that made me feel closer to the team. I felt like I belonged.

This is why I hate it when professional rookies like Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys refuse to carry pads off the field.  Its why I love it when the team then drops a $50,000 plus dinner bill on him at the rookie dinner.  These are dues you have to pay, and considering the actual paycheck you’re getting, I feel athletes can suck it up, swallow their egos, and earn respect of their teammates.

There has been some controversy surrounding Montreal Canadiens rookie P.K. Subban regarding this very issue.  Flyers captain Mike Richards, who is never shy when talking to the press, mentioned that Subban was cocky and didn’t show respect for the more veteran players.  Granted this is coming from an opponent after a loss, but Richards does get brownie points for speaking his mind on a regular basis, so I’m guessing he’s not the only player who feels this way.

Even Subban’s own teammates think he is a little over confident, teasing him and calling him “Showtime”.  Most of this is probably not his fault.  Montreal media devours rookie hockey players like termites devouring a house.  If someone keeps telling you how good you are, eventually you are going to believe it too.  That is what I think has happened with Subban.

He’s been mentioned in Calder talk since before his first call-up in last spring’s playoffs.  While Subban is a good player, he has been built up by the media into some kind of savior.  Ask Carey Price how that’s been going for him.

Subban is a rookie who is going to make rookie mistakes.  To think otherwise would be insane.  But the problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize that himself.  Its as if he’s been reading the hype on himself and believing it, which has recently become a concern for the team.  Subban was benched a few days ago because Canadiens’ coach Jacques Martin said that he needed to learn the team game.

It is just another example of the feeling of entitlement most professional athletes seem to have.  It is an attitude I can’t stand, and unfortunately one we see all too often in professional sports.  Is Subban being cocky really all that bad? No. But what is troubling is that it implies a sense of entitlement and personal importance that Martin seemed to think needed to be corrected.

When Richards first spoke to the media, the support was mainly coming out for P.K. Subban.  However, his healthy scratch makes it into a bigger deal.  He will learn, as most rookies do, that he has a lot to learn from the vets.  It probably won’t end up being a big deal or a big problem, but its an unnecessary distraction.  Just pay your dues, kid.

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