I was going to take today off. My body is a bit banged up from spending the weekend painting and I still haven’t recovered from falling off my skateboard a couple weeks ago. I’m mentally burned out from consuming basketball basically non-stop since it returned (like many journalists/podcasters etc etc). So, I thought I’d take a break from sports and from writing. My idea of a “break” from sports is to watch sport and read about sports. I’m still figuring it out I guess. Anyway, I was reading an article and felt I needed to write my own, to come to the defense of Corey Crawford, the Core 4 and every other unappreciated sports star.
The article I was reading was about how the Blackhawks decided to not enter negotiations with Crawford and instead let him leave and test free agency. Crawford was understandably devastated. He has spent his career with Chicago since he was drafted by us, way back in 2003. I was 13. I shouldn’t be surprised (even though the world always manages to surprise me) to find that the comments in response to the article were divided. Obviously, there were a large number of fans, who, just like me, are devastated. They wished Crawford nothing but the best in his new city (which is New Jersey if you don’t know, on a 2 year deal) and thanked him for everything. And then, there was the rest of them.
“Moving on from a 36 year old makes sense”
“I wish we’d get rid of the core 4. Good riddance Crow”
“Why not get rid of Kane and Toews too?”
“Good call. We should move ahead with youth and speed”
“Good. We won’t win a cup with Crawford”
You see comments like these all the time, from all teams and all sports. It makes me sad. Sure, I understand being frustrated when your team is losing. I understand when you want to trade a bad player when you haven’t had success. This is different though. The Blackhawks won 3 Stanley Cups with Kane, Toews, Seabrook and Keith. 2 of them with Crawford in the net. I understand why the GM would make a move, even if I don’t agree with it. I don’t understand why the fans would want to see any of these guys gone. We won 3 Stanley Cups! This is our team. Our family.
If you told me that I would be guaranteed a Stanley Cup next season if I traded all or any of Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Keith or Corey, I wouldn’t do it. I’d rather lose with my guys. They have earned their place in a Blackhawk uniform. I don’t care if we have a losing season every year between now and their retirement. They are my guys. I have won with them. Celebrated with them. I’ve lost with them and cried with them. We have had highs and lows, but we’ve always been a team. To me, that means more than any of our Stanley Cups. Maybe it would make me a terrible GM, but I think it makes me a great fan. We expect loyalty from players and organisations, but have no problems turning on our own team when they are old and not as good as they used to be. And, just for the record, I still think these guys have a lot left in the tank.
You want proof that the cups don’t mean anything to me? Look at the Chicago Bulls. I would give anything to still have Rose on the roster. And Butler. Noah. Gibson. They never won any championships, but I’d stay with them any day. They fought hard and earned my respect. I’d rather lose with my guys. I still have all of their jerseys in my house. Deng. Hinrich. Brewer. Korver. Watson. My heart broke every time we traded one of those guys away. It was the same with Andrew Shaw. Crawford. It’s the same whenever I lose a Bear or a Cub or anyone of the guys.
I’m not saying you have to keep every single player you draft or sign. That would be ridiculous. Sometimes people are just the wrong fit or not good at what you got them for. I’m all for upgrading your team. Ultimately, the goal is to win. I think loyalty gets lost sometimes though. If a player plays hard and works hard for you and your team, shouldn’t you give them that same effort back? And heck, if you are lucky enough to win a championship or two, in my eyes, the core guys deserve to spend the rest of their career right there. Even if they are apparently “old” or “unproductive”. They gave everything to bring a championship, to your team, your city and to you. Whether they made it or not, you should appreciate the effort.
I think sometimes fans forget to give back to their teams. So, Corey, I’m going to miss you. It won’t be the same without you. I’ll always have your jersey and when my little girl is old enough to understand, I’ll tell her stories of the battles we won. Together, as a team.
As for the fans, remember to show love to your team. Don’t send death threats when a player misses a kick or a goal. Don’t demand a trade because they have aged or are wounded. And if you guys do happen to part ways, show them some love and some appreciation. It’s about more than the titles and money.