(Main photo credit: Lakeshore Public Media)
Since the allegations of sexual assault by Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane came to light, numerous amounts of people who aren’t lawyers, police officers or medical lab technicians, have come to his aid. These folks might as well say, “I’m not a lawyer, but I watched a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit marathon last night.”
I follow both the NBA and the NHL and lately I've noticed a disturbing trend. When reading many message boards, some hockey fans seem to take shots at the NBA and their players for no apparent reason other than hatred or ignorance. Some of it appears to be racial but I believe it is more of a cultural and generational circumstance.
For instance, hockey fans love to bring up Derrick Rose's alleged gang ties, ACT test controversy, and his multiple knee injuries in order to shame him. They use these instances to brand him as a thug despite the fact he doesn't have criminal record. And, most importantly, he’s NOT a thug.
Meanwhile, Kane beat up a cab driver back in 2009 and team captain Jonathan Toews was arrested while in college at North Dakota for underage drinking. When you really think about it, common sense tell you that Kane and Toews know more about the ins and outs of the criminal justice system than Rose does.
Even media observers who follow the Blackhawks have noticed the bizarre behavior of the people who were willing to defend someone they don’t even know:
Really disheartening that every update on the Kane situation brings a barrage of hateful, misogynistic responses towards an alleged victim.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) August 9, 2015
So this is what it’s been like to be on the radio the last couple days. Jesus Christ, people. #PatrickKane— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) August 8, 2015
How the Patrick Kane investigation is covered will be almost as big a story as the story itself.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) August 6, 2015
I’ve covered sports for many years and recently I've made a name for myself, which also means that I’ve become a target for fans.
This is evident as a recent cosign from a colleague put me in the crosshairs of disgruntled Blackhawks fans who believe I've given their hero, Patrick Kane, some sort of a raw deal. In those tweets, I wanted to know why these folks were willing to give Kane the benefit of the doubt but were completely certain that Derrick Rose hated police officers because he wore an “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt. More importantly, I’ve noticed that winning three Stanley Cups for a once dormant franchise, can buy a whole lot of cache.
This demonstrates the blind loyalty/ignorance that sports fans have in matters concerning their favorite sport, team or player. They put these athletes on a pedestal, a form of worship which causes them to don their horse blinders when critiques arise around their hero. This symptom causes many of these fans to say some pretty regrettable things:
My worst nightmare is probably pulling my phone out of my pocket to see team stream notify me that the Blackhawks have released Patrick Kane— Ryan (@SavnRyansPrvate) August 9, 2015
When someone is really good at entertaining us, especially athletes and celebrities, we often give them the benefit of the doubt when their name surfaces on the police blotter. We care so much about these people because of the songs they’ve made, the touchdowns they’ve scored or the victories they’ve contributed to that they dull our sense of reality. Most times we don’t even know them personally, but in a strange way, our feelings for them and their talents overshadow this fact and blindly convince us into thinking that we actually know them.
The truth is, we don’t.
And when we deny the reality that’s clearly in our faces, we miss an important part of the puzzle.
That guilt does exist.
According to HBO’s “Real Sports,” the arrest rate of MMA fighters far outpace their counterparts in other four major sports leagues in terms of domestic violence. On most lists, the NHL barely registers a blip, which could be attributed to hockey players not being as well known as the stars in the other three major American sporting leagues. Or that might have to do with the insular nature of hockey culture to keep things in house. But we all know that things do happen behind closed doors, regardless of the intensity of the public spotlight. Joanne Hull, the second wife of Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, once told ESPN’s “Sportscentury” that Hull did this to her:
“He threw me in the room, and just proceeded to knock the heck out of me. He took my shoe – with a steel heel – and proceeded to hit me in the head. I was covered with blood. And I can remember him holding me over the balcony, and I thought this is the end, I’m going.”
Hull went on to say that the police would often calm her husband down instead of arresting him because they were hockey fans. Despite Hull’s numerous incidents with more than one of his wives, he continues to be revered by Blackhawks fans, which makes me wonder if they thought Joanne was making things up too.
As a columnist who often discusses polarizing issues via social media, l’ve welcomed this debate with open arms. However, what I experienced last Friday afternoon crossed the line.
A Blackhawks' fan who may have read my tweets in CBS Chicago columnist Tim Baffoe's latest post called "Patrick Kane is not your friend," sent me a Facebook inbox message. This person suggested that I should meet up with him. He later intimated that I should meet the same fate as Michael Brown from Ferguson, MO, who was murdered last year in a confrontation with a police officer. After getting over the initial shock of what I had just read, I reported the guy to Facebook.
A perfect example of how “keeping it real” can go wrong.
At this point, your skin should be crawling, yet you might not be shocked by this behavior. That some guy went out of his way to troll me over his favorite hockey player, a person he probably doesn't know but think he does because they provided him with several moments of athletic happiness, is scary yet maybe not surprising. It's probably even less shocking that his avatar had a photo of a woman in a confederate flag bikini.
I know what it is like to find out that's the person whom you admire may not be the person we thought they were. After seeing what Hulk Hogan said recently put me in an awkward position as a long-time pro wrestling fan.
Wherever this person is, I would suggest he checkout the movie “A Bronx Tale.” In the movie, Chazz Palminteri’s character, “Sonny,” gives “C” valuable lesson about how he ought to perceive his hero, Yankee legend Mickey Mantle:
Mickey Mantle? That's what you're upset about? Mantle makes $100,000 a year. How much does your father make? If your father can't pay the rent go ask Mickey Mantle and see what he tells you. Mickey Mantle don't care about you. Why should you care about him? Nobody cares.
Unbeknownst to the man who contacted me, I won't stop speaking polarizing issues into existence.
And in reality, I’m not the one he’s really mad at, nor am I the one he should be directing his venom to.
I’m not the one who put his fandom in an awkward spot.
Patrick Kane did.