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Picking a Jersey

July 19, 2010

So there are 81 days until the Sabres’ 2010-2011 campaign starts in Ottawa, and I need to decide who my favorite Sabre is so that I can get his jersey and properly display my fandom when I make it to my first games.  (This is another sign of my complete hockey conversion- I’ve never even owned a Yankees jersey.)   The problem comes from only having a month and a half to watch them last season.  Based on such a short amount of time to observe them, how can I possibly pick a favorite?  I don’t want to go strictly by the numbers in picking my favorite.  A favorite player for me is one that my head and heart can agree on cheering for, with my heart being able to convince my head that if said favorite player isn’t doing so well, he’s still worth cheering for.  Essentially, my criteria for a favorite player in any sport are: 

1) Commitment and dedication to the game and his team- is it 100% obvious he loves the sport and wants to do everything he can to help his team win?   (it should be a given that a professional athlete is dedicated to the game, but for some guys it’s more evident that they LOVE their sport than it is for others.)

2) Consistency- it’s okay to have an off-night here and there, and even an occasional extended slump, but is he consistently going out every night and exceeding expectations?  In other words, is he earning the ridiculous amount of money he’s getting to play a game?

3) Individual responsibility for the team’s success- if he does have an off-night or a streak of bad performances, does he use phrases such as “I need to do x differently” or “I shouldn’t have done x”  and not “you know, it’s a learning experience” or “it’s just bad luck” or “we’re not doing x”.  On the flip side, if the team does well, does he use “we” instead of “I”?  I like the guys who give credit to their teammates when the team does well and take personal responsibility if their individual performance is lacking.

4) Does he tend to make plays that are just awesome/highlight worthy (i.e. is he pretty darn good at playing the game)?  As an example of this criterion, I point to a couple of key plays of my favorite Yankee Derek Jeter.  There’s the play against Oakland in the 2001 division playoffs…  And the dive into the stands… And all of those clutch hits…  I could go on for awhile here.

5)  Does he appreciate the fans and the city he’s playing for?

6) Does he possess any of a number of intangible qualities that combine to make me feel like he’s the guy I will root for no matter what, especially if he’s struggling (which, all athletes do from time to time)?

So, with this criteria in mind, I begin my evaluation.

I know my hockey fandom was triggered by Ryan “Crunchy” Miller’s performance in the Olympics, and, had I been asked to pick a favorite in March, I would have had to pick Crunchy as he was the only player I was familiar with.  He is certainly deserving of being my favorite player, as he certainly meets all of my criteria.  Based on my introduction to the game and the Sabres, he would be the obvious pick to be my favorite.  But I feel I owe the other guys on the team a shot at being my favorite, too. 

Heather B. over at Top Shelf Cookies presents a good argument in support of Jochen Hecht as her favorite player.  He is definitely right up there for me, too.  I appreciate all of the qualities that Heather mentions; and after I saw his pre-Olympic interview with Kevin Sylvester, I thought “aww, I like this guy”.  But I don’t think he’s my favorite.  I just don’t feel it in my heart that he’s it.

Goose is another top contender for me.  Maybe it’s just because of the “Blue and Gold make Green” commercials, and so he got more of my attention during the games.  But if that’s the case, I would be considering Pommerdoodle and Roy-Z, thanks to their commercials as well.  They’re not even close to the top of my list, though.  It’s probably because a) he has a cool nickname, which he shares with one of my favorite all-time Yankees and b) said nickname gives him a uniquely cool cheer.  So he’s near the top, but not at the top.

Grier impressed me during the playoffs- especially when he took that puck to the head.  And the fact that he chose to return to Buffalo for another season really moved him up my list.  But he is a Red Sox fan.  I can’t really blame him for that- he is from New England, after all.   But, my Yankees fandom just runs too deep to overlook that.  I’m sorry, Griersy- I know it’s not fair.  But when I’m picking a favorite player, it’s not about fairness and it often doesn’t make sense.  (And I definitely have a double standard, because if my favorite Yankee ever donned the logo of another hockey team, I would more than likely overlook it.)

There are other players who also get some consideration.  Myers, of course, had an amazing season last year.  And while I admire what he’s accomplished and hope his sophomore year is as awesome as his rookie year, I just don’t feel he’s my favorite in my heart.  I have a soft spot for Lalime after the month and half I watched the team, but I’m not sure exactly why, and it’s not enough for him to be my favorite either.

In running through all of my criteria and writing about the other players in contention to be my favorite, I’ve realized that there is a clear winner.  Without a doubt, I know who my favorite player is.  Check out my next post to find out (or confirm if you’ve already figured it out) who he is and why he’s my favorite.

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