The WWE likes to use the word “polarizing” to describe someone who draws equal amounts of hate and love whenever they perform. The scripted entertainment that is the WWE steers fans toward cheering for one superstar and booing another. The non-scripted sports, in this case focusing on the NHL and MLB, do not try to create heroes and villains, the fans do that themselves.
Each team solicits their own players to their respective markets and each league has a handful of players they promote league wide. It is rare to find a player that is beloved throughout the league. The last examples that come to mind in the MLB are Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. The Red Sox fans who read this will undoubtedly notice that two Yankees were listed and wonder why David Ortiz was not named and the answer is simple. Ortiz did nothing low key; his gregarious personality always attracted attention. The latest examples in the NHL would be Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks, who saddened the hockey world with the announcement that a progressive skin disorder would force him to miss the upcoming season, and Ray Bourque with his iconic lap around the ice with the Stanley Cup hoisted in 2001.
Today being August 7th, two “polarizing” stars from their respective sports come under our spotlight. 10 years ago today, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants became the HR king of baseball, while 30 years ago today, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby was born. While it is normal and expected for fanbases from other teams to boo or disrespect a superstar, these two gentlemen lead the way in duel chants of love and hate.
Is there a more tainted record in baseball than Barry Bonds replacing Hank Aaron as home run king? Even among San Francisco Giant fans, the predominant answer to that question is no.
Disregarding the obvious negative slant about Bonds through the media because of his prickly personality, his stake in the steroid scandal is undeniable. Portrayed as more likable personalities, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa‘s accomplishments are just as tarnished. Even though I do believe all three men should be in the Hall of Fame, it is quite understood the vitriol spewed towards Mr. Bonds.
Sidney Crosby was already one of Canada’s favourite sons before “The Golden Goal” rose fans love to all-time highs. You will nary find a Philadelphia Flyer fan that will give him his due or or an Alex Ovechkin fan that will gush about his credentials and that’s fair and understandable. Fanbases uniting to show unwavering support of a player typically do not happen until the later stages of a player’s career.
Why the hate for a man I just called one of Canada’s favorite sons? The above video clips begin to explain the disdain. A man with a concussion history such as Crosby repeatedly banging another man’s head against the ice is not a good look. The Crosby defenders can always be heard defending the slash of Marc Methot as a “hockey play” and that’s just a sad indictment of the state of NHL player safety.
Barring unspeakable actions by Crosby, he is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame selection. So when ranking the “villains” in recent sports history, he will always have that factoid over Barry Bonds. The irony that Bonds became the ultimate super-villain on the same day as Sidney Crosby’s birthday is delicious.