I remember a time when all Pittsburgh Penguins fans surrendered their souls to defending Sidney Crosby from the woeful haters of the hockey world. He could do no wrong, mainly because he didn't in the things that mattered most: his play on the ice, his attitude toward the media and fans and his dedication to the community. Since his drafting into the Pittsburgh sports family, Crosby has been everything and then some.
For those who don't want to believe it, I urge you to look up into the rafters of Consol Energy Center. His name is forever emblazoned on MVP and scoring title banners alongside Mario Lemieux's and Jaromir Jagr's name. A third Stanley Cup banner also hangs there because of his leadership. Also keep in mind how many lives Crosby has changed through his generous donations to the Little Penguins Learn to Play Hockey program and how he has reopened Pittsburgh to the sport of hockey. The number of Western Pennsylvania-area kids selected in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is a testament to this.
Crosby rapidly became Pittsburgh's treasure. Especially during a time when a certain quarterback was making the headlines in all the wrong ways, Pittsburgh flaunted Crosby like King Louis XIV flaunted his riches. This came at a price, but it was one the franchise and fan base were willing to pay.
But now, everything seems to be changing.
It's amazing seeing the difference in behavior from the fans during Crosby's first time concussed to this second time dealing with some lingering symptoms. At first, fans were worried but hopeful that he would return back to his normal ways. This was emphasized when Crosby spoke to the media with Dr. Mickey Collins and Dr. Ted Carrick, both reassuring that Crosby would make a full recovery and return to the NHL.
And when he did return, it was sweeter than anything I could imagine. But everything quickly turned sour when he was back on the injured list after playing only eight games.
The Pens have remained tight-lipped when speaking about Crosby. Understandable, especially since most teams prefer to not divulge too much information about their injured players, especially star players. However, the time came when questions needed to be answered but none were coming. Fans became restless and started speculating. Before long, a very supportive fan base turned against each other.
I have noticed lately the increasing number of fans who think Crosby is being a baby throughout this ordeal. "He's faking [the concussion]," I would see. At first, I assumed the comments came from fans of rival teams who wanted to inflict more grief on fans already suffering enough. However, I now see it coming from Pens fans and I couldn't be more stunned and disappointed.
By no means do I know what is going on, but I can infer what many of us already know but refuse to acknowledge. Sidney Crosby is hockey. This is what he does, what he's good at. This is the player who, during his injured time last season, would wear headphones in the press box during games and watch game tapes between periods. The one who played on a broken foot during the 2007 playoffs. The player who sacrificed everything for the sport he loved. Every Pens fan knows this about Crosby; we've all witnessed this overwhelming obsession.
But suddenly, Crosby is "faking this concussion" and "being too much of a baby about the injury and instead, should man up and play since the Pens are obviously hurting without him."
Right, because Crosby has clearly demonstrated this behavior. Maybe it was sometime between interviews about his stringent off-season habits to ensure top-notch performance and watching the way he pushes his linemates to be better than they are? With no evidence, this accusation is as accurate as the Geocentric Theory.
I'm appalled to see so many people allow their emotions to totally take over their logic. I understand this is an emotional time with the six-game losing streak and uncertainty of Crosby's status, but this is getting a little ridiculous. How can anyone honestly say Crosby is faking anything after seeing his comeback game on Nov. 21st? That rush when Crosby netted his first goal and the ensuing celebration is proof that Crosby was finally back where he belonged and all of the stress and pain he endured completely exploded in front of us. The moment was raw and perfect because the emotion from a usually emotionless Crosby was so real. But now how many of those fans who once held the "SID" signs at that game, thanking God that we are so lucky to have the greatest player on the planet, have become the conspirators totally disregarding everything Crosby has been for this city and organization?
Is this what we've become as fans? Have we lost that much faith and patience in our captain?
Some of you may or may not know about my affinity for The Lord of the Rings and the last few days reminded me of a scene between Legolas and Aragorn in The Two Towers. Legolas, who questioned the purpose of 300 men fighting 10,000 Uruk-hai, found Aragorn minutes before the Battle of Helm's Deep and said: "You have led us this far, you have not led us astray. Forgive me. I was wrong to despair."
Sidney Crosby has led us this far in his tenure and he has not given us a reason to doubt his love of hockey and the integrity with which he plays his game. When he is ready to return, he will. End of story. Returning too soon from a concussion could result in death and I don't think many fans seem to understand that nor do they seem to remember what happened to Eric Lindros or Marc Savard. As fans, we need to show him our support, not spew random hate that comes from selfish desires to see the Pens succeed. We aren't in this situation if the Pens were on a six-game winning streak.
Pens fans, Crosby hasn't turned his back on the Penguins or Pittsburgh. He has sacrificed, sometimes to his annoyance and frustration, everything for us. So why are we turning our backs on him at a time when he needs us the most?