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|RESPECT THE PROCESS
First, let me start by saying that I knew about Rory Fitzpatrick when it wasn't cool to know about Rory Fitzpatrick. That's kind of like admitting to be into Black Flag before Henry Rollins hit it big and sparked a renewed interest in that band's music.
I'm a hockey geek and there aren't too many fifth and sixth defensemen that slip past my attention. My wife used to joke that I could recite year-by-year penalty minutes for Stan Jonathan faster than I could recall her birthday. That might have been true a decade ago when my wife and I first started dating, but these days, her birthday has been committed to memory for my own self-preservation.
Also, allow me to assure you that I am not a slave to authority. I'm no anarchist, but I can take on authority when necessary. I enjoy a good anti-establishment prank as much as the next closet subversive. I thought the presidential campaign by ThunderBug, the Tampa Bay Lightning mascot, was a marketing masterpiece back in 2004.
Why, you wonder, am I so baring my soul? The answer is simple. I just wanted to lay down my credentials, and cut off at the pass any personal attacks from my esteemed pro-Rory colleague, Evan Grossman, as I detail my opposition to the "Vote for Rory" campaign that has taken the hockey world by storm.
I believe it is great that Mr. Fitzpatrick is getting the publicity that has arisen from this guerilla marketing campaign, hatched by a very dedicated and very creative fan. As author of Crashing the Net on this site, I have been actively campaigning the merits of the game's lower-profile players.
Every player in the NHL is worthy of our admiration for what they have accomplished. Yet, not every player deserves to be an All-Star or, for that matter, even to be considered for such an honor.
Not to be too much of a stuffed shirt but playing in an All-Star game is a privilege that should be earned on the ice, not just in the ballot box. The "Vote for Rory" campaign is akin to one of my dedicated readers - and yes there are a few -- pounding the drum about my worthiness for a Pulitzer Prize. A flattering turn of events if it were to happen, but surely we must all agree that would be a misplaced campaign.
I am not so naive that I don't understand that all all-star games, at their very foundation, are popularity contests. But, as a rule, the popular players being considered all have some sort of elite-level pedigree.
Jeremy Roenick made the NHL All-Star Game a few years ago when he had done very little in the first half of the season to merit such an honor. But at least Roenick had a resume of success to explain the attachment fans expressed through their ballots.
What has Fitzpatrick done? Forget that he is currently out with a broken foot and has no points in his 16 appearances this year. He was minus-18 last year. In his 256-game NHL career, he has managed a meager nine goals and 27 points. He is also an ugly minus-50.
Are these credentials worthy of advocating a spot on the Western Conference All-Star Team, a team that will leave off at least one name defenseman because of that conference's unbelievable depth on the blue line? Would it be justice for Fitzpatrick to make the team at the expense of a player like Calgary's Dion Phaneuf, a young defender who has played the game at an all-star level since he joined the League last season?
I say no.
Even more troublesome to me is the message sent through this campaign. Fans in all sports, not just hockey, have always railed about how their voices fall on deaf ears in matters like these, how they feel powerless and disenfranchised by a process that only allows them to have a small say in the all-star process, giving them limited input into an event that is for "them".
There is little doubt that the "Vote for Rory" campaign shows just how powerful the voice of dedicated hockey fans can be. But, I am afraid in many quarters that the loud and unified voice in this particular case is being dismissed for the message it carries.
If fans want a stronger say in how things should be done, the arguments they choose to voice should be well-conceived and rational. Why would any decision-maker be eager to embrace a call from the fans for more say in the voting process when those same fans are prostituting the power they already have in the form of this catchy and quirky guerilla-marketing campaign?
There are plenty of ways to celebrate the achievements of Mr. Fitzpatrick. Unlike my esteemed colleague, Mr. Grossman, I don't believe the "Vote for Rory" campaign is among the proper forms of celebration.
|GET ON THE BANDWAGON!
Vote for Rory! Vote now! Vote often! Because there's nothing wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with the process and there most certainly isn't anything wrong with having a little fun. It'll be good for your soul to write him in.
In case you people haven't heard, one of the big stories in hockey right now is that a 22-year-old kid from upstate New York by the name of Steve Schmid started a website to promote journeyman defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick for the NHL All-Star Game. Thanks to a couple of snappy You Tube videos and a lot of grass roots, word-of-mouth marketing, Fitzpatrick, who has played in only 16 games this year with Vancouver and is a minus-50 for his decade-long career, is right up there in the fan voting that determines the five skaters and goalie that start in the game.
The rest of the team is selected by GMs and coaches around the league, so I can assure you, he would not be taking someone's spot that's more "deserving," whatever constitutes being deserving of going to the ASG anyway.
Basically, Shawn, you want to censor the ballot. You want to tell people who -- and who not -- to vote for, essentially dumbing-down the whole process because you think NHL fans are unable to think for themselves. The English tried to do that about 200 years ago and our boys in Philly came up with the original VoteForRory.com, otherwise known as the Declaration of Independence.
Fitzpatrick is not an All Star, by definition of the stereotypical term. But if enough fans say he should be, then why prohibit him from playing? Where exactly does it list the qualifications needed to be an All Star? If the fans want something, then they should get it. I mean, didn't the President get elected the same way? OK, bad example. However, I think we both agree that NHL fans should be making their voices heard more and this lighthearted campaign should galvanize their spirit. It's their game, after all.
So what if there are ballots being stuffed fatter than a Thanksgiving turkey? This isn't national security. We're not putting Ali G in Parliament here. It's hockey. It's the All-Star Game.
"I think it's great for the fans," Martin Brodeur recently told me. "It shows support for an individual and I think the fans -- to think about them doing it -- is pretty neat. It's funny because I remember in 1998, there was a big sign in Ottawa that said 'Dano for Nagano.' Everyone thought it was the funniest thing, Ken Daneyko going to Nagano, in Canada, you know. So whenever I see somebody that votes like that, they don't deserve it but they work so hard throughout their career that they deserve some kind of recognition."
It's the candy store of life. It's the All-Star Game. You know, the one without hitting. The one without the grease and grime of the regular season and the playoff race. The one where they save the puck if you block a shot because it's so rare to see that feat of courage in the event. It's an exhibition game. It's put on for fun. Nobody cares who wins or who scores however-many points. But more than anything else, it is the semi-annual gift the NHL gives its fans where they get to see their favorite players dangle and free skate. It's for the fans, and if enough of them want to see Rory Fitzpatrick play, well then I say, give them their Rory.
The All-Star Game was born in 1947 and for 20 years, it pitted the defending Cup champions against an all-star squad from the rest of the league. It's morphed into clashes between the NHL and the Russians, Canadiens vs. The World, North Americans vs. The World, Wales vs. Campbell, and East vs. West. Point is, the game has changed over the years to include fan balloting and more recently the inclusion of internet-based votes.
The game has changed, the rules have changed, and now I think attitudes need to change, too. You're not going to tarnish the shimmering history of the All-Star Game by letting a marginal player participate. So go on. Vote for Rory.
Vote as many times as you'd like.