The fans’ paradox

August 30, 2007

In the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, it was easy to be both proud and ashamed to be a Cincinnati Reds fan. Proud, because the team was fairly successful during that time, winning a few division titles, one World Series, and dressing one of the great ball players of the last 25 years in Barry Larkin. Ashamed because of the mess in the front office, notably owner Marge Schott and the negative attention she brought to the organization.

It is definitely folly for anyone to expect a person at any level in a sports organization, from clubhouse towel boy to player to general manager, to behave in a manner suitable to Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi. Even so, it is still painful to watch those associated with the team you’ve chosen to support tarnish their organization with their actions or words.

All the on-field success in the world could not have swept the vehemence of Margie under the rug. From her public thoughts on Hitler, African-American athletes, and other topics (not to mention allowing one of her dogs to fertilize the turf in Riverfront Stadium), Schott turned what should be a classy organization into the butt of many jokes. What effect these actions should or did have on the players and fans of the Reds organization is debatable. As a fan who still harbors idealistic views of the sports world, the real issue is people who put themselves, or their pride, above the game or the success of their team.

An article in today’s Dispatch talks about Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson and his recent trip to Ottawa to meet with Nikolai Zherdev and his two agents. Howson schedule this “clean-the-slate” meeting to address club expectations and to extend the olive branch to Team Zherdev.

Howson sought to rectify the situation, perhaps heading off a messy divorce before it reached a point of no return.

I know a lot of the tone here at End of the Bench over the last 18 months of our existence has been negative towards the now former GM Doug MacLean. While the intent of this entry is not to further drag Doug through the mud, I strongly believe that this is not something that MacLean would have done (the peacekeeping).

As an aforementioned hopelessly idealistic fan, I’m pleased to see Howson put personal and organizational pride aside and try to reach an acceptable middle ground with his players. I don’t feel he abandoned his principles as much as I think he has realized that there is more than one way to skin a cat. One thing that always stuck with me from my background in education is that there are many different types of learners, and the best teachers are those who are able to develop ways to reach all students regardless of learning style.

What Howson, Zherdev, and all Blue Jacket fans presumably want is a competitive team on the ice. Bombast and bluster may work to motivate some players, but it’s become painfully apparent that in the hockey classroom Nikolai is not a student who responds to this type of teaching/management. Unfortunately, it often seemed like these were the only tools possessed by the previous management team (see how diplomatic and polite I’m being? Isn’t it nice!)

Scott Howson has taken the pithy saying “you catch more bees with honey than vinegar” (or however you heard it) out of his GM tool belt, and hopefully used it to his (and resultantly our) benefit. By all accounts in the article, Zherdev and his agents were extremely pleased that the GM reached out to the enigmatic winger. Let’s all cross our fingers that this is another step in turning #13 into the player he sometimes appears to be capable of becoming.

Between Marge Schott, Art Modell, and Doug MacLean, I’ve never been exactly blessed to have one of my sports teams run by selfless team oriented individuals. I’m not naïve enough to believe that Scott Howson is a saint, but at least his actions to date allow me to sleep at night proud to be a supporter of the Columbus Blue Jacket organization.


  1. I agree with you 110%. The worst part of the MacLean era was reading his public tirades against his own players.

  2. Good post. Doug did frequently seem to personalize issues with certain players (not just Zherdev; Marchant is another example) and I’m glad we’re moving past that. Hopefully Nik will respond well to the second chance with new leadership.

    Marge Schott shopped at the Kroger’s store where I worked summers in college. She bought the marked down meat and bread and stuff that was almost out of date…

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