As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I really love reading the website Grantland. They have not just great sports writing but great writing in general. I’m not a good enough writer to write for Grantland. I would work for them for free. I really would. What do I need money for anyway? To buy food? I think I’ve eaten enough food.
Here is a sample piece I wrote yesterday about the EPIDEMIC, yes I said it, epidemic of stick-to-testicle action in the NHL and what it says about society and more specifically, bro culture in 2014. Please enjoy:
The Stanley Cup playoffs are a grueling two months of games where bit players become stars, stars become superstars, and superstars become legends. The playoffs are the place where myths are born about players with extraordinary stamina and mutant-like tolerance for pain and punishment. In the playoffs a man can be hit in the face with a puck, lose four teeth, and literally not miss a single shift. The playoffs are not for the faint of heart. So what’s will all the balls stuff?
It all began in Game one of the Bruins vs. Wings series. Milan Lucic (pictured above) speared Dan Dekeyser between the legs, leaving him a crumpled heap on the ice, and escaped without penalty. The next day Lucic was fined a mere $5000 for the infraction. Then, in Game Two of their series, Corey Perry gave the old scrote-poke to Jamie Benn. Perry received a two minute penalty for the infraction. So I ask again, what’s with all the balls stuff?
Everyone probably knew a kid like this in elementary school. Whenever you would get into a scrape on the schoolyard and push came to shove, he was all too quick to kick you between the legs and run away, like he’d taken a women’s self-defense course at The Y. I don’t know about you but whatever side you were on in the argument you could always agree that kicking a guy in the testicles is something that is just not done. It’s what girls did. It was the only move they had. This was the schoolyard. There were rules.
In the NHL they seem to be re-writing the rulebook with each passing game. In the playoff opener between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, the coach of the Blackhawks, Joel Quenneville was upset over some call or non-call or something like that and was waving his arms and gesticulating, like you do, when he grabbed his balls like some character out of “Goodfellas” and then kept on shouting at the referee. This act was of course caught on camera and Quenneville was fined $25,000 for making the obscene gesture. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s $5000 for spearing someone in the testes, and $25,000 for grabbing your own. Because…obscenity? Patrick Roy was practically applauded for his passion during his recent press conference where he suggested it was time that his team “put our balls on the table”. Roy did sort of excuse himself for the, ahem, blue language but it doesn’t explain what exactly can be gained from laying your balls out on a card table like some cold cuts at a church potluck.
The hits just kept on coming though. In Game 5 of the Ducks/Stars series, Stars forward Ryan Garbut was given a 5 minute major and game misconduct for his spear that was agonizingly close to, if not right on the button to Corey Perry’s babymaker. Perry had the last laugh however, scoring the winning goal in the game as the Ducks took a 3-2 lead in the game and the series. Tuesday night, Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche went all Yellow King on Cody McCormick in the testicles, received a two minute minor, and then scored a goal on a breakaway as he was leaving the penalty box. Hardly poetic justice in that situation.
I ask one more time, what’s with all the balls stuff? To borrow some phrasing from Mike Milbury, I call it the Bro-ification of society. All men have balls, everyone knows this, but today’s modern bro wants you to know everything about his own balls while still seeming a little too preoccupied with everyone else’s. I live in Alberta, we have balls hanging from the backs of our trucks, and even though that kid in the schoolyard who kicked kids in the testicles when confronted was treated like the pariah he most definitely was, today he’s the life of the party. The “nut punch” or “sack tap” is as common as the handshake in some circles around here. Being a twenty something alpha bro in this society is all about being constantly vigilant about other men’s balls. When to punch, when to stare, when to point and laugh in the gym locker room- these are all things the modern bro needs to be thinking about.
Bros are taking over everything these days. From a hockey perspective, what’s to stop a guy like Milan Lucic and his big hunchback from just spearing everyone in their junk? It’s definitely not the $5000 fine and it’s definitely not the occasional 2 minute penalty you might get from it if anyone sees you. My cursory knowledge of the NHL rulebook suggests to me that a stick between the legs with a moderate amount of force to the testicles is supposed to warrant either a 4 minute double-minor penalty or 5 minute misconduct penalty. If the penalty was actually enforced the way it should be then maybe the players would stop. It still doesn’t answer the question of why players even think that doing something like that is acceptable. In a spot where people are constantly hitting each other in the face, chest, and back with their sticks, I was naïve enough to think that tagging someone’s bag was against ‘the code’.
The Bros be moving in elsewhere too. The new Seth Rogen movie “Neighbours” has a whole team of bros (AKA Fraternity) moving next door to Rogen and his wife and their new baby and begin to (what I can only gather from the trailer) terrorize them with fireworks and abs and Robert De Niro impressions. I don’t know what happens in the rest of the movie but if the bros win in the end I won’t be surprised. The bros are winning the NHL right now and I hope that everybody is laughing at them for it. Meanwhile, the NBA is standing up for equality and against racism, and Milan Lucic is somewhere in Boston probably sharpening his stick blade and licking his lips, waiting to take a stab at Lars Eller’s meaty man pouch. Zac Ephron will probably receive the Academy Award for his Daniel Day Lewis-like exploration of Bro. The whole system will come crashing down. Things fall apart.
My message to the NHL is simple: Cut out the balls stuff. The refs should enforce the rule of law and the players should save the testicle tickling for the post-game showers. The NHL playoffs are of such a staggeringly high quality right now** that I’m sort of embarrassed that I spent so much of my time watching regular season games. The playoffs are for real men and real men (from what I’ve learned on social media sites recently) aren’t racist, don’t buy women, and stay away from another man’s balls.*
*unless it’s a consensual thing
** as of press time there are three Game 7 Sudden Death finals tonight in the NHL Playoffs. The plan is to watch all three games while eating chicken wings. With no pants on.
Jason Lee Norman is not a writer for Grantland.