Monday, December 11, 2006

A vote for the little guy

One of the unfortunate side effects of the 'Vote for Rory' campaign to this point has been the backlash against the grassroots effort — and even Rory Fitzpatrick himself — something that Andy at the Battle of Alberta did a nice job of addressing yesterday.

Both the Edmonton Journal and Montreal Gazette ran pieces in the past few days that blast what's gone on with the all-star voting to this point, and the local sportstalk radio meatheads have been braying in full force, but to me, it seems there's simply a fundamental misunderstanding of what's happening here.

Some of the things I was asked when CBC Radio in Edmonton interviewed me last week about 'Vote for Rory' was: 'How should people react to this? Is this cause for concern? And isn't this just a case of legions of pranksters making a mockery of the online voting system?'

My answer?

To me, the only appropriate response there can be to this whole thing is to have a great big belly laugh, get in the spirit of things and, well, vote for Rory. No one has broken any rules here, and if, as the league presumably intended, hockey fans can 'get out the vote' for anyone they well please as many times as they please, then why in the hell can't they send Rory Fitzpatrick to Dallas in January?

If anything, the 'vote for Rory' following has generated far more press and interest in a fan ballot that no one — hockey fan or not — gives a hoot about. And my guess is, should Rory actually get voted in and play in the game, even more attention will be paid to what's really become a snorer of a money-making exercise.

To his credit, Fitzpatrick has really played along with the whole ordeal, even putting on a few 'campaign' T-shirts and mugging for the local press corps last week in Vancouver. And while there have been calls from some — namely Bill Watters from Toronto radio program Leafs Lunch and Nick Kypreos from Sportsnet — telling Rory to not attend the game if voted in (Watters) or calling the journeyman defender a 'slug' (Kypreos), I think it would be precisely in the spirit of the all-star game if the fans got what they wanted.

Rory Fitzpatrick seems like a great guy, a good representation of what I'd like to think a hockey player is, and I'd like to see him at the all-star game — if only to stick a thumb up in the face of all those pooh-poohing what I believe was a good-natured and well-intended campaign to vote for the little guy.

So, if you haven't yet, go do it: Vote for Rory. I know I will be.


At 6:27 a.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here here! Great Post, the media really needs to get over it's self and realize that the VoteForRory campaign is in good taste. It's a feel good story, and those who have been in the press so long that they've forgotten what its like to simply be a FAN...well they need to STFU.

At 7:47 a.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous mudcrutch79 said...

Check out the attack ads on youtube. The Niedermayer one is awesome.

At 9:09 a.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kypreos is one to talk about slugs. I don't know anyone that likes he idiotic rantings on Sportsnet. Although Watters is off base I appreciate the times he rips into that moron Kypreos.

At 10:02 a.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So which more deserving defenseman gets to stay home and not play in the All Star game because of a publicity stunt? I'd like to vote for him, if you could give me a name.

At 10:08 a.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post James! This is good publicity for the league and I have been voting for Rory every day for the last week or so. The NHL is a niche sport and if something quirky like this happens it should be embraced not shunned like the Canadian media seems to be doing.

At 11:02 a.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous rob said...

agreed on all counts - i fail to see much difference between this and major ...ahem... "legitimate" ballot-stuffing campaigns going on around the league. e.g. watching Florida Panthers home telecasts, there is a fairly prominent ad to vote in Jay Bouwmeester (whom i really like, but let's be honest, isn't really deserving this year). I'm also aware that they have a heavy promotion at home games with flyers and buttons urging fans to vote for Jay and Oli Jokinen.

To me it seems quite simple: either it's all ok, or none of it is. It reeks of arrogance when "talking heads" come out and are apparently incensed by fun grass-roots efforts like this.

At 12:25 p.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous grace said...

So which more deserving defenseman gets to stay home and not play in the All Star game because of a publicity stunt? I'd like to vote for him, if you could give me a name.

Chris Pronger.

Now go vote for Rory :).

Also, "which more deserving defenseman" is an entirely subjective question that lends to thousands of different answers. ie., how do you define "deserving"? I think every defenseman in the league deserves to be there as they've done a lot of hardwork to even get into the NHL.

Also, how do you qualify someone as "deserving" statistics? fan support? time on ice? +/- rating? Involvement with the team? Personal sacrifice?

If I were smart enough, I would have had a "Vote for Jason Smith" campaign awhile ago. I find him deserving.

At 2:23 p.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am probably a typical NHL fan, very familiar with the players on my favorite team (Red Wings) and virtually clueless as to the "all-star" players on other teams. I watch every Red Wing game on Comcast Center Ice, but rarely am able to watch the rest of the league. So if I were to vote, it would be one time and it would be for Nick Lindstrom. Not a bad vote, but a drop in the bucket when contrasted against bulk voting generated by targeted campaigns. If I were in charge, I'd let Scotty Bowman pick the All-Stars and be done with it....or do we have to vote on him, too?

At 2:35 p.m., December 11, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:49 p.m., December 11, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

This is crazy.

Your argument rests on the idea that fans are voting for the reasons you describe - the whole "help out the little guy" thing.

I could go along with that idea if this was a grassroots movement to vote for a perennially-overlooked defenseman who never gets to play because other, more deserving players get voted in ahead of him. Like how Steve Yzerman was third-banana for so many years behind Gretzky and Lemieux, for instance.

My opinion of this so-called "grassroots" effort is that it's an organized movement cooked up in an attempt to make the league look bad by voting for the least-deserving defenseman into the game. The "fundamental understanding" is ascribing any kind of legitimacy to the outcome of this balloting.

There's NO WAY this many real hockey fans want to see Fitzpatrick in the all-star game for the same reasons they want to see Sidney Crosby, and that they've only just now organized themselves in order to make it happen. No - this is an easy way for immature troublemakers to play, "stick it to the man" in as public fashion as possible. In fact, the reason this is taking off in the way it has is probably because it’s the easiest available way just now to unleash an unrequited sense of high-school rebellion and actually see the results of it. Yeah, pop a beer with your buddies and point at the TV set, you bozos. You made it happen. Congratulations, kids.

For those who say, "well then, if the NHL didn't want it this way, they shouldn't have made it this way," the NHL came up with the voting system to give true fans the opportunity to vote in their favourite players and see them play, not encourage would-be culture-jammers to embarrass the league.

And no, no rules have been broken here, but that’s no reason to laugh about this. For a league struggling to nurture a sense of credibility in the United States, condoning ballot-stuffing for an unworthy player is the best way to further tarnish the already dodgy image of the league in the States.

The NHL will surely change the rules in the future to prevent another fiasco like this from happening again. And that’s the only positive to take from this. Enjoy your turn under the spotlight, Fitzpatrick. You might be a swell guy, but you don’t deserve this.

“A public opinion poll is no substitute for thought.” -Warren Buffett

At 2:53 p.m., December 11, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Wardo — couldn't the NHL simply eliminate the write-in vote option and avoid all this fuss? And since that's not an option now, they might as well play along.

What I don't understand is all of the high and mighty talk about the same all-star game the media blasts as dull and unimportant every year. Fan balloting usually never gets any coverage at all, so it's not some sacred right being protected here.

At 7:15 p.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pulling a quote out of Bartlett's is no substitute for using your brain to advance a legitimate argument." - Me

At 7:32 p.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous pinder said...

if there's a list of worst NHL commentators, i'd place Tie Domi above Nick Kypreos. he's brutal.

At 9:43 p.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Jay said...

Comparing the 'Vote for Rory' campaign with international politics might be a ludicrous venture, but here I go.

This whole scenario reminds me of the French anti-constitution vote in 2005. Typical political considerations contributed to the outcome: nationalists did not want a non-French authority exerting even more control over French law, leftists were wary of other Euro corporations and their intentions on France. However, one of the main reasons the 'non' vote won out was because people were sick and tired of political elites telling them that it was a done deal; Chirac et al. didn't even bother laying out the benefits of accepting the EU Constitution until it was far too late, simply because it was assumed that the French people would continue their historical support for further EU integration. It was an arrogant tactic that looked past the importance of the actual vote; as a result, French people from across the political spectrum united to give them their comeuppance.

Fast forward to the NHL in 2006. I don't think that this campaign would have attracted very much attention beyond the Hockeys Future hoards and some bloggers, had not the talking heads (re: hockey elites) begun to froth at the mouth.

Every day a Matheson, McCown or some other pompous asshole comes down from the mountain to bitch-slap the 'mere' fan and try to sort out their shenanigans. "How dare the fans vote for someone so unworthy, furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the situation!"

Never mind that an admittedly viral movement has breathed some air into the lifeless corpse that is the NHL All-Star Game - a game that means nothing, attracts few viewers and (usually) even less debate; a game in which selected players actively seek to avoid participating; a game that does not even resemble hockey in the way that it is usually played. The All-Star Game is a meaningless joke; it divides one half of meaningless and boring NHL power play contests from the other half until the real hockey starts up in the spring.

Yet we are supposed to be upset that fans have inexplicably taken an interest this time around.

"Oh those wacky fans. Glad I'm not one of those anymore."

And I guess this is the crux of my poorly-constructed argument: 'Vote For Rory' has become a vote against the arrogance. And just like France's vote, the actual deservedness of the legislation is not what is leading people to vote one way or the other. It's the pompous assholes doing the chiding, ironically, who are the greatest Vote For Rory adverts around.

At 11:47 p.m., December 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glove tip, Jay. You have my vote for blog post of the month (at least). Well done. Parallels could similarly have been drawn to Canada's own failed Meech Lake Accordian.

At 12:57 p.m., December 12, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

Jay’s argument is valid.

But it’s just another example of what I was hinting at in my post – it’s attempted culture-jamming at its finest.

Here’s a chance for bunch of people to react just for the sake of reacting, just because it goes against the perceived mainstream opinion. I guarantee this wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for the online balloting, because this kind of movement never gains any traction if it’s hard to do, because all this philosophy cares about is ruining the status quo, not replacing it with a viable alternative.

This vote is no different than voting for the Marijuana party, growing a mohawk, or throwing a rock through a window during a “Bush go home” parade. It’s an attempt to stick it to the establishment, while offering no rational alternative of its own. Does anybody really want the Marijuana party running the country? Does anyone actually believe Fitzpatrick is an all-star quality player?

I’ve read no points of view from so-called arrogant experts to form my own. I don’t know who said what. All I know is, this vote undermines league credibility. Good on the league for not overturning this year’s results, but it will be different next time around.

PS, Barlett’s? Nice try, Vandelay. Buffet is my investing hero.

At 4:08 p.m., December 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're looking at this from the wrong end of the horse.
You're assuming from your ivory tower that the establishment knows best and assuming that the contradictory movement is being propelled by nothing more than antiestablishmentarianism (I win for longest, most pretentious word in a blog, 2006).
Much like the French government with the EU vote and much like the Canadian political hacks with Screech Lake, they assume they knew best. And even after losing they assumed it was a negative vote that carried the day.
But it doesn't occur to authoritarians such as yourself that maybe - just maybe - the "No" campaign springs from a reasonably well-informed electorate. Is it just possible that fans know what's best for fans, and that lacking the power to change anything, are sending a message in whatever way they can: by corrupting a voting process?
You arrogance about the motivation for people's actions is galling.

At 5:02 p.m., December 12, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

Vandelay, if you truly believe voting for Rory exhibits the savvy of a "well informed" electorate, then this debate is over. Statistically, he is among the least-deserving of defensemen candidates to attend the game.

It isn't arrogance to point out there is no redeeming reason to vote for him other than the reasons I pointed out. Look at his numbers, for crying out loud. Except for maybe that he's a nice guy or something, and that's not why they have this game.

Thanks for proving my point by declaring I live in an ivory tower. (I wish.) Like the voters "corrupting" this process, it's so much easier to take a potshot at level-headed thinking than seriously think about the process.

At 6:53 p.m., December 12, 2006, Blogger Doogie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:54 p.m., December 12, 2006, Blogger Doogie said...


You want to try telling me I'm not a "true fan" to my face? Nice job of delivering an elitist insult to every single person who's played along with this little joke, including some of Rory's own teammates and his coach. Want to tell me they're not "true fans?"

Look, I agree that someone more objective than the various fanbases of the NHL should be naming the All-Stars, but this is what we've got. But lemme ask you this: even if you were to get an all-star team of hockey experts involved, how would the lineup be affected? If you guessed "not at all," you'd be correct. We're just voting for the starters, here, and unless Rory finds his way in somehow, every starter will be someone who was probably going to wind up there anyway, so I'm not sure why you've got your knickers in a knot over what is, after all, just a joke.

As for more deserving defenders, I'm on Gracie's side. Vote Smith-Moreau in '08!

At 8:46 p.m., December 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm left to wonder who died and left you in charge of determining when "this debate is over." Or who gets to decide whose opinion is "level-headed" and who is a "true fan."
You may have delusions of omnipotence or at least omniscience (given your alleged ability to divine the motivations of nearly 200,000 all-star voters) but as far as I know, the debate - and the Rory vote - continues regardless of your authoritarian proclamations.
It is entirely possible to interpret the Vote Rory campaign as a positive, ironic statement by "true fans" that giving "true fans" the vote can lead to perverse results (the examples from past year's being too numerous to list), the ridiculous extension of which is voting Rory Fitzpatrick an All-Star.
I'm not saying I'm right, but I'm allowing for the possibility.

At 9:04 p.m., December 12, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

There it is again. "Elitist insult." Putting me up on some kind of pedestal I didn't aspire to. Again - go right ahead, it's easier to blow me off as a snob than think about what I said.

For the record, I never said anyone but the fans should be voting for the all-star game. I just question the motivations for this one.

I don't like seeing American writers who last commented on hockey when Bertuzzi gooned Moore point to this as the latest example for why hockey is a pretend sport. I don't want to give them the ammo, and I think stuff like this gives it to them.

Vanderlay, you're right, I have delusions of omnipotence and authoritarianism. Go ahead and affix whatever label makes you feel like a big man.

I'm finished with it. I made my points. Rory goes to the game, and it's a wonderful thing for all involved, woo-hoo.

I have to wonder what the outcome of this movement would be if a guy like Tie Domi had been put at the centre of it, organized by a buch of boorish "Leaf Nation" fascists stuffing the email boxes to get him into the starting lineup. Would that be perceived the same way?

At 12:29 p.m., December 13, 2006, Anonymous Kel said...

Wardo, Rory getting voted to the All-Star is not going to make NHL less popular in the US. American media and the general public are not waiting for opportunities to attack the NHL. Hockey is similar to Major League Soccer in how it is treated in the US, which means there are fans, quite many of them, but the majority of the population don't pay much attention to it. As a Canadian living in the US, there is no incentive for me to see the league becoming more popular. As long as it's a viable league, I'd rather be able to buy tickets at a reasonable price to watch the game live when my favourite NHL team visits the local arena.

The main reason I vote for Rory is to see how the NHL reacts when what the fans want collide with what the brass wants. The league has already imposed a lot of unpopular changes to the game.


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