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Ovechkin Love Borders On Ridiculous

January 26, 2015, 12:17 PM ET [83 Comments]
James Tanner
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You won't find many people who are bigger fans of Alexander Ovechkin than me. Earlier this year I predicted he would win the NHL scoring championship with 70 goals and tried to coin the nickname "Russian Jesus" to no avail.

I enjoyed his antics this past Friday at the NHL draft because they were hilarious. But, if I have a handle on the story making the rounds this morning, then our standards for what constitutes our collectively saying "awwww..." now officially make me want to puke.

To wit: Ovechkin lobbied pretty hard to get a car. In response, Honda contacted him to find out why. Turns out, he wanted to donate it to a charity (obviously, since the alternative is that a guy worth around $100 million dollars wants to drive the same car as my Grandma) and so everyone is now praising the guy for his big heart. (Which he no doubt does have).

But let me get this straight: A millionaire wanting to donate his free car is now an act of charity? Do people not realize that this is the charitable equivalent of me taking a free sample at the supermarket out to a bum on the corner and getting written up in the local paper for my generosity?

Now don't get me wrong: Ovechkin is a great guy. His charity work is well documented and I am sure he gives a ton of his money away, although I don't know for sure.

The guy is one of my very favorite hockey players and this article isn't meant to criticize him at all. It's meant to criticize us.

We have such low expectations for charity that we applaud a guy for giving away a car he didn't pay for. As hockey fans we barely acknowledge that most kids can't afford to play the game anymore. We don't think about the fact that most arenas sell out to corporations and that less and less families can afford a night at the rink every year.

I can already see the comments here calling me a hippie, a commie or worse. But my point is this: we live in a disposable consumer culture of which the single biggest problem facing us (according to a recent NASA study) is income disparity and it is inarguable that the sport we love is becoming more and more a sport for the rich with each passing year.

How long before hockey is a rich kid sport like skiing, tennis and golf? If it hasn't already happened.

The problem is that you can't bring this up without being shouted down. No cares if you promote the environment or you suggest that we should do more for disease prevention or diversity (all worthy causes) but bring up income disparity? You'll get attacked like crazy, even though it is the single biggest problem our world faces (because it prevents us from dealing with other problems, such as the environment or natural disasters).

We hockey fans and the NHL could, in my opinion, do so much more to alleviate poverty than we currently do. While many obvious opportunities to do so could easily be discussed, one thing everyone could do is get a grip on the fact that NHL stars make absurd amounts of money and should not be built up like great humanitarians for doing what amounts to the bare minimum.

I know OV does lots of good stuff and this isn't a shot at him. But honestly, anyone getting those cars - Nugent Hopkins and Forseberg - better damn well be giving them away.

I know a lot of players do a ton of charity work - as I expect ANYONE with money to do. I do not begrudge any player making money - professional sports are one of the only ways in which a regular guy can actually become a millionaire. I don't even think salaries are too high - it's supply and demand and it's either the players or the evil corporate billionaires who will take your cash.

I love the fact that players make tons of cash, but I also think that as fans we can set higher standards about what we applaud. I think the NHL is missing out on being on the leading edge in the fight against income disparity, which I flat-out guarantee you will become the Next Big Cause as soon as people get over talking about it. (Something which is hard to do because unfettered greed is the cornerstone of our society and culture).

Until then, remember than Ovechkin's donating of a free car deserves a slight head-nod of acknowledgement, not a standing ovation.

Lighter Fare: The Countdown Continues

Been counting down my favorite records of all time. This is a highly personal list weighted between what I think is the best, what I listen to the most and what means the most to me. It is not supposed to be ten records I think are better than Pet Sounds just ten records I like better.

So far:

10. The Smiths The Queen is Dead
9. Warron Zevon Excitable Boy
8. Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion
7. REM Document
6. The Cure Disintegration
5. Belle and Sebastian If You're Feeling Sinister

Today features two albums that I am calling co-number 4's. I couldn't cut anything from a list that turned out to be eleven albums long. So, there are two number fours. Don't like it? Write your own list baby.

Coming in at #4.5 from the year 2000 Radiohead's Kid A

It's not just that every song on Kid A is good, it's that the world's biggest band, having just released OK Computer (1997) a record that is probably the best reviewed and most critically acclaimed and universally loved album since the Beatle's released Sgt Peppers, followed it up with a complete 180.

Sure, Radiohead could have just written five subsequent OK Computersand no one would have complained, but then we'd be bored of them in the same way we're bored of Pearl Jam and virtually every band that stays together past their prime.

Radiohead kept it fresh - and approached the turn of the Century - without losing one inch of quality. It was my favorite record for virtually my entire teenage and early twenty years and I still love it because it never gets old - you can play it daily and still hear something new each time.

Coming in at #4: From 1993 Nirvana In Utero

This is about the coolest, most rock and roll, most punk-rock album ever released. Forget for a second that it is a perfect record that elicits emotions in a way that has never been replicated, or that it has song writing that surpasses the greatest achievements of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, John Lennon or Townes Van Zandt: it is an album that took a band as popular as it is possible to be - think Taylor Swift levels of fame - and begins with the song "Scentless Apprentice."

It is an attempt at career suicide and is perhaps the most intentionally noncommercial commercial album in history. (You could argue Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, but Reed was never this big). People remember "All Apologies" and "Dumb" but forget that everything in between was about as palatable to the masses as a kick in the groin.

That and every song is great.

The best thing about this album? Due to record industry dynamics having changed so much, barring a death-metal salvo from Taylor Swift, an album like this will never be seen again.

Thanks for reading.
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