Saturday, February 11, 2006

The tonnes of ink and paper, tens of thousands of feet of video tape, and hundreds of thousands of keystrokes expended in Canada covering the Danish-Muslim cartoon crisis may very soon be far exceeded by the effort spent on the Wayne Gretzky "crisis." Does what is happening really deserve that kind of coverage? There are far more important issues.

Yet the interest is understandable. Wayne Gretzky is a Canadian icon, the Great One. He was one of the best hockey players ever, at a time when hockey still was the primary sport in Canada, a position eroded over the last decade or so by the increased precense of Canadians in Major League Baseball, the penetration of the NBA into the Canadian market and the growing fame of Canadian NBA player Steve Nash, and so on. More importantly Gretzky's personal reputation was every bit as admired as his hockey skills. He generally avoided on ice fisticuffs. Off the ice he was a family man, marrying actress Janet Jones in 1984 in what was often refered to, without irony, as Canada's "Royal Wedding," a marriage that has lasted 22 years with no hint of infidelity. Nor did he engage in nonsense like drinking and driving which had humbled many a fellow athlete. His image was totally one of being a class act.

But now the icon is tarnished. Even if he's done nothing wrong Gretzky is in the company of those who have. He's been shown to be human like the rest of us. And so people find themselves trying to understand where things went wrong, and whether their faith in Wayne Gretzky was misplaced.

One thing I have trouble understanding is why this kind of ring would form in the first place. The sports world people involved surely can just go someplace where sports gambling is legal if they want to do so. Was it greed, wanting to avoid the taxman? Or was it the fact it was illegal, but not something that would involve direct danger or cause anyone harm, that made it appealing, the idea of forbidden fruit? Perhaps in the days to come we'll find out.

No comments: