An appreciation of Craig Adams

Craig Adams retired from hockey earlier this week, and released a statement via the NHLPA announcing his departure.

You never saw his name in the box scores or in the headlines, but it’s etched twice on the Stanley Cup. Because Craig Adams was one of the grinders. And probably one of the more unique guys in hockey.

He was born in Brunei.

He was the last-ever draft pick for the Hartford Whalers before the team moved to North Carolina, a ninth-round pick. There aren’t even nine rounds in the NHL Entry Draft anymore.

He was a waiver pickup from the Chicago Blackhawks, three months before the Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup.

He was an NHLPA player rep – which, in my pro-union household, counts for something.

He is a smart guy. He went to Harvard.

craigadamsreads

(I just thought that photo was funny.)

Craig Adams left hockey with some unspectacular numbers. But, as I sometimes said during Penguins games:

“Every time Craig Adams scores, an angel gets its wings.”

So, 62 angels got their wings in the course of Craig Adams’ 14 seasons in the NHL.

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Sit down and shut up!

To the man in the stands at the high school girls basketball game I covered tonight: You had no right to shout out loud to a referee that a player “outweighs her by 50 pounds!”

People wonder where the cultural attitude of body shaming and “perfect figure” ideals come from – from what I had to listen to tonight, it starts in the home. Or in the community. These are high school girls, for God’s sake! On top of everything else a teenager has to deal with, listening to an adult comment on her weight is not one of them.

Gloria Steinem said it best when she asked me – in front of an audience of 3,000 people – about being a sports reporter. Then, she said to me, “That is so wonderful. Sports are fantastic for girls. They teach us that women’s bodies are instruments, not objects.”

That teenage girl you made that foul comment about? She is not an object. She is a basketball player, and that court is her sanctuary, her arena. You had no reason to single her out because she’s playing a sport she’s good at, one she grew up with, one that likely defines a big part of who she is.

And I hope to God that she didn’t hear you.

Hell, I’d hate to hear what you have to say about the women in your office. In your community. Or, worse, in your family.

Oh, yeah, and that ref you yelled at isn’t going to change his mind.

“They don’t like us.”

I  got a kick out of Kevin Durant’s latest soundbite:

“Man, the [media and experts are] always trying to nitpick us,” Kevin Durant told ESPN.com. “I mean, they don’t like us. They don’t like how Russell [Westbrook] talks to the media, they don’t like how I talk to the media. So obviously, yeah, they’re not going to give us the benefit of the doubt.”

I’ve been a sports reporter for 18 years, and I have to say there’s only one person I covered whom I genuinely disliked. Whose name probably wouldn’t register for anybody except a diehard fan of a particular sport at a particular level in a particular part of the country. He basically told me I was stupid, that I didn’t give his sport enough credit, that I would be better off covering girls volleyball or figure skating or fishing, and that I was wrong when I didn’t pick his star player to be our publication’s player of the year.

And each time I listened to him rant, I’d think, “I know I’m not stupid. I’ve covered girls volleyball, figure skating, fishing, lacrosse, hockey, football … and trust me, that kid deserved to be player of the year, much more than yours did.”

Only once did I lash out at him, because I had to stand my ground against his abuse. And after a few days, I apologized to him.

And while I was never for certain if his rants were just a product of misogyny, or of him genuinely disliking me, the fact that he gave me no respect – and respect should be inherent at any level, in any dealing, in any profession – made me dislike him.

But that’s enough wasting time and energy on such a small person. Again, I can’t really think of anybody I’ve covered where I’ve gone into an interview and thought, “Ugh, I can’t stand this person.” There have been athletes and coaches with abrasive personalities, but one of the things I’ve learned in being a journalist – and an observer, to a certain extent – is that you sort of manipulate your approach to work with someone else. You find common ground with them. Or you phrase questions a certain way. Or you even say, “well, I have to ask this, and I apologize if it’s a bit uncomfortable” (but only in specific instances).

There was a hockey player I never covered, but whose career I followed, and one thing I’d been told by several people was how bad it was to deal with this guy, because he didn’t like talking to the media. Later on, after he retired, I read about him and realized that this guy played through so much pain (multiple concussions, groin tear, broken wrist, ripped up knee, chronic back problems), as well as the perception that he was a bust after being a first-round draft pick who never lived up to his potential, and was probably miserable through most of his career. And maybe he felt as if he was only scrutinized. And I get how that would make someone unhappy. And here’s another truth: it’s hard for people who are constantly scrutinized to be honest. Because then, they are perceived as vulnerable.

But for the most part, I’ve found a lot of personalities in sports to be, well, entertaining. It’s unique to see what makes people tick, or how they respond to situations, or if they have a catchphrase they use – or even how often they use what their coaches tell them (Michigan football, under Brady Hoke: “Fundamentals and technique”; Michigan football, under Jim Harbaugh: “Enthusiasm unknown to mankind”).

So, no, it’s not that we don’t like you, Kevin Durant. We don’t even know you. But that’s another post for another day.

 

Aloha

As I watched the movie “Aloha” last night, I could only think one thing: This would make a much better book than a movie.

In a nutshell (thank you, Google):

While on assignment in Oahu, Hawaii, military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) reconnects with his old flame Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams), now married to an Air Force recruit (John Krasinski). He also spends time with Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a hard-nosed fighter pilot who watches every move that he makes. As they travel throughout the lush terrain, Brian finds himself falling for his feisty guide, while his conversations with Tracy may provide a shocking revelation from their past.

The Cameron Crowe movie got a really bad rap, in part because of the issue of casting Emma Stone as Allison Ng – a white woman playing a woman of Hawaiian and Chinese descent.

The movie was also largely panned by critics. Variety called it Cameron Crowe’s “worst movie yet.” The New York Times said it was a “disappointment,” but “a loose, leisurely hangout movie, funny and sprawling and full of eccentric, interesting folks.”

However, the controversy surrounding the movie, which was largely panned by critics, made me curious. I still wanted to see it. As I watched the movie, all I thought was, “this would make such a good book!” There were so many layers to the story:

  • relationships between men and women, one of my favorite subjects in fiction
  • space exploration – especially because it’s becoming privatized
  • Allison Ng, herself, is a captivating character – a captain in the Air Force who flies jets and who understands the depth of the Hawaiian culture
  • making choices not just to appease others, but to remain true to yourself
  • How relationships and connections endure – in ways you really have no idea

The soundtrack, btw, is fantastic.

But can someone make this into a book, pronto?