Let's start with the obvious: Dan Ellis made a mistake.
The Lightning goaltender deleted his Twitter account this week after complaining about the NHL's escrow system. (The league and its Players' Association recently informed membership that 18 per cent was going to be deducted from their paycheques at the start of the season. They will likely get some of it back next year.)
So, Ellis took to the twitterverse.
"If you lost 18% of your income would you be happy?" was how he started. "I can honestly say that I am more stressed about money now then when I was in college."
It wasn't his finest hour.
Never mind that, privately, 100 per cent of his hockey-playing brethren would agree. Never mind that there isn't a person alive who would want to see 18 per cent removed from their salaries (in addition to taxes) no matter what they earn.
Ellis just signed a two-year, $3-million contract. That's much more than the vast majority of the people who will watch him, particularly in Florida, one of the states hardest hit by the recession.
My own tweets about this subject elicited some terrific responses on both sides. It's a shame Ellis deleted his account. To me, it's another example of why athletes tend to be bland with the media and public. They go beyond the clichés and get ripped, making it not worth the trouble.
Those of you who disagreed cited the examples of Steve Nash and Paul Bissonnette. We'll get to Bissonnette in a moment, but the Nash example (from Oilers blogger extraordinaire Tyler Dellow) made me realize I should have said "hockey players" instead of "athletes." For whatever reason, there is greater acceptance of outrageous commentary from basketball or football players.
For example, there's loopy Celtics forward Glen (Big Baby) Davis. In the past month, he asked, "Where's the most weirdest place you ever put a booger?" (spelling "booger" wrong in his original tweet) and questioned what would happen if "you pee-pee on a girl your 1st night sleeping over her house??"
Meanwhile, retired Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas (a Hall of Famer) tried to get all of his followers to pass gas at the same time.
I'm not criticizing Davis or Thomas. It's harmless. But, if a hockey player tweeted either of those things, the universe might collapse upon itself. It's typical, though. I like Twitter and follow 1250 people. The craziest stuff comes from those two sports, and it's not close. The NHL has nothing like it.
Bissonnette roasted for 'commie' comment
Except for Bissonnette. At least right now.
That second sentence is key, because Bissonnette nuked his first account after calling Ilya Kovalchuk a "commie." Kovalchuk wouldn't fit Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin's definition of a communist, but Bissonnette was roasted and went into hiding. (You can understand a Russian's sensitivity to that word.)
He's back now, and still very funny. Wednesday night, Bissonnette told followers to put on a Planet Earth DVD when hosting a date, because it's "panty soup." (My wife is wondering why I just went out and purchased the box set.) I'm just curious to see how long this lasts.
The second argument from many of you was along the lines of, "Well, he's a grown man. Can't he handle debate? If he says something like that, he should expect a reaction." Agree totally, in theory. Every person must recognize the consequence of their words, and I love a good argument as much as the next person. (Just ask our producers.)
Here's the problem, in practice: it's like an avalanche. It's overwhelming. The other day, I was talking to a coach. He was saying to me that with many players, their best attribute can also be their worst. The best thing about Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. is that everyone has a voice.
The worst thing about social media is that everyone has a voice. Now, the blowback comes right at you, harder and more forceful than ever. The volume is enormous. Look, we've all made mistakes with our mouths. You might think, "Hey, there's nothing wrong with sending my opinion, because Dan Ellis was insensitive." You know what, you're right. But, what happens when 1,000 people think the same thing?
There's a huge difference between two or three of those dissenting opinions and a flood to your inbox. Twitter's 140-character limit makes intellectual discourse even harder. Words, thoughts and intentions can be misconstrued.
There will also be questions from the media; taunts from opposing fans. Your team gets mad at you, and so can a sponsor. And in this case, I'm sure the NHL and NHLPA weren't that thrilled either.
Bissonette admitted he didn't tell his agent before returning. Those are headaches no player needs. And missteps of any kind take a looooong time to go away.
We all want to see players reveal more about themselves. I'd like to see it go deeper than Bobby Ryan demanding Katy Perry to stop making music. (Even though we all agree.) Dan Ellis is not a hurtful guy. He made a mistake. Right now, though, a mistake isn't worth the aggravation.
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