Wednesday, August 1, 2007

O Brothers


Pro basketball has point spread manipulation by a gambling referee. The highest-paid player in the NFL is implicated in a dog-fighting ring that reportedly executed passive pit bulls by hanging, drowning, shooting, slamming, and electrocuting. There’s the Tour de France and whatever those skinny dudes take to get so oxygenated. And the big batters of baseball: who’s born with a neck like that (besides pit bulls)?

Hockey scandal: a couple of naughty redheaded brothers—Eric and Jordan Staal—get busted for noisiness after a bachelor party at a swank resort in Minnesota. We’re not appalled. We feel for the nice parents (turf farmers). Male fans chortle, shake their summer-shaggy heads, and skyhook another t-bone onto the grill. Women just know bachelor parties are stupid, but still: their poor mother.

Brother stories tickle and delight us (maybe not Hamlet/The Lion King). In hockey, brothers make for great characters in a story that can be light on subplot. But real brothers don’t interest me. The Sedin twins are amazing, sure, and I’m glad they play on my team. But they’re more circus act than brother act. It’s shocking when a Henrik slap pass through the crease doesn’t find a millimeter of Daniel’s stick and scoot behind the whiplashed goalie. They lived inside the same person together for almost a year; of course they think alike. And the Staal brothers—all 4 of them—might as well be twins, given their hairdos and chin cleavage. Skill City, but Dullsville.

Players who develop bro-chem and rip it up a deux make for great stories in hockey. With Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, you get the brotherly hijinx, the circus, and also ironies and incongruities that make a better story: Vinnie’s the long lean slickster, the Swimsuit Edition hunk whom supermodels covet, the first overall. Marty’s the monster-thighed family man, the college boy who did gymnastics, the small forward no team would draft. On different lines, they seem distracted. Put them together on the power play and the dance gets smoother, fancier. Yes, they score plenty at key moments. But it’s more than that: the embrace when they do, the brotherly bliss, a bunk beds and GI Joe camaraderie that’s unexpected and familiar.

Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, same thing. Consider the NHL’s last TV ad campaign: Ontario Joe, the GQ-handsome needle-voiced city boy, burns toast in his little kitchen; Moose Factory’s black-eyed and smirking Jonathan paddles a surfboard on calm open water, a sexy nature boy in the great outdoors. They’re such different characters, and yet their rapport—their mutual ribbing off-ice and their Thornton-to-Cheechoo-shoot-score on it—could only be described as fraternal. The goals are the product of brotherly love and Sedinian prescience. How can that be?

It still hurts to remember the glory days of Bert and Nazzie. The dark-haired naughty outlaw Todd and the golden-haired Nordic god Markus: best friends, brilliant line mates, excitement personified on the ice and adolescent glee off it. And more compelling because these brothers were undone by a loyalty so scandalous and Shakespearean it could only happen to brothers.

1 comment:

jb said...

I think that's the most maternal boys-will-be-boys-and-god-bless-'em piece of hockey writing I've ever read. And good for you/it for so doing.

But I can't - and won't - tolerate the brodification of male culture. This peace-out/shaggy-shakin' "whoa", "bro" -- holy mo! It seems to me reality TV slammed this down our throat.

Maybe that's where you're going with this: training camp as Big Brother/treehouse hijinx?