Sunday, May 8, 2011
The Devil's Advocate
Sean Avery teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign this weekend to publicize his support for marriage equality - the ability for gays to get married like everyone else. Media and blogs alike have picked up the story with the same basic slant: 'Sean Avery is known for being a scumbag but hey, look, he is doing something nice.'
Avery's reputation, as many True Blue Ranger fans will attest to, is completely unjust. There is no denying that he is a pest of the highest magnitude on the ice - a waterbug that nips and annoys the opponent to distraction. That's his job, that's what he does and - when unshackled by his coach - he does it pretty damn well.
Avery's on-ice obnoxiousness led to a harsh welcome to Dallas. The locker room leaders of the Stars - Turco, Modano and Morrow - all publicly spoke out against his signing and created an untenable environment. Avery and Steve Ott teamed up to create a two-punch of pestiferous play but it was Avery that was consistently called on the carpet. With Modano, Morrow and Turco all struggling through their season, Avery tried to spark the team and get a little animosity going for what would be a lifeless affair against the Flames, an almost certain loss for the Stars. The infamous 'Sloppy Seconds' interview was all Avery's detractors needed to get him off the ice.
The PC Police went wild and Avery was banished to counseling. Now, most grown adults - and even most 12 year old girls Mr. Bettman - were hardly offended by Avery's words but he paid his penance just the same. He did it quietly, he did not voice his dissent over the utter absurdity of the entire situation.
Afterwards Sather set up Avery's move back to New York and the player returned to his old stomping grounds supposedly a changed man. And yet Avery went back to doing the same kind of things he did during his first stint in New York: charity work and fan interaction. His initial tenure saw him help out Ice Hockey In Harlem and do the unthinkable - sit with the diehards to watch a game. Since Avery has been back he continues to interact with fans and has upped his charity work. He went on Jimmie Fallon to promote Career Gear, an organization that gives suits so people can go to job interviews. He has regularly joined his teammates in supporting the Garden of Dreams (remember this?). He took his clothes off for skin cancer.
And now Avery is back to advocating for gay rights. The same kind of dubiousness that greeted his comments back in February - that he would stand beside any player who wanted to come out of the closet - has also returned with his support of gay marriage.
As many of us Avery fans have said: he has the reputation that Matt Cooke deserves, and sadly that reputation has unjustly carried off-ice for years. It is about time that that is changed. Despise the player all you like - and we hope you do, because that means he is doing his job - but don't slur the person. What have you done for society lately?