Wednesday, March 04, 2009
One of the great sports stories, certainly one of my favourites, is the story of Billy Conn. Conn was the light heavyweight champion of the world back in the day, a great fighter, and his fight with Joe Louis is considered one of the greatest fights of all time. Louis outweighted Conn by over thirty pounds when they met in 1941; both men were in their prime but Conn was the heavy underdog.
For twelve rounds of the thirteen round bout Conn beat Louis. Going into the final round Conn had the fight clearly won. His corner advised him to stay clear of Louis for the final round; the fight was won, there was no need to go after the bigger man.
So Conn charges out for the final round and goes for the knockout.
Louis knocks him out.
After the fight Conn was asked why, with the fight so clearly won, he threw caution (and sense) to the wind. He answered that he was an Irishman and it was his nature. He had to go for the knockout.
He had no regrets. He's rather lose being true to himself then win hanging back.
I'm sure that there are those who would call Conn a fool but to me its great stuff, what sports is all about. Today athletes are bland and encouraged to be so. Those who stand out are more often then not posers, looking for the cameras and the endorsement deals. The guys who should be celebrated are often the quiet ones, ignored by the media, and those who should be admired for quiet good character are still picked at by the fans and the media. They are greedy because of the money they make. Everything they say is parsed and they are ridiculed for being uneducated, boring, smug, egotistical. Take your pick. The guys who give time and money to good causes are doing it for the attention or should give more money still, how much money does a guy need anyways?
I like sports. I'm far past the day, if I ever had a day, when I considered an athlete a hero and I will certainly point my kids outside of the realm of sports, professional sports at least, when it comes to choosing their heroes. But, and maybe I'm splitting hairs here, I do admire many of those in sport and would hope that my kids will find those who they can admire for the right reasons. Not those who look for attention or who are such obvious jerks or who are poor teammates. But guys like Ladislav Smid who so obviously enjoys what he is doing. Or Dwayne Roloson or Zach Stortini or Liam Reddox or Shawn Horcoff or any number of players who have overcome the odds through sheer hard work and dedication. Guys like Ryan Smyth or Jason Smith or Fernando Pisani who play the game the way it is meant to be played. No shortcuts. Squeezing every last ounce out of their bodies.
A guy like Billy Conn.
I don't know much about Patrick O'Sullivan. He might be a complete dink for all I know but he should be admired for what he has overcome with his father. Words like character and courage get way overused these days but in this young man's case I think they apply. I look forward to cheering for him and I am glad that he is a member of the Oilers this evening.
Today was a good day to be an Oilers' fan in a lot of ways. I remember when Smyth was dealt, how angry and upset I was. How disappointed. Today feels the way sports should feel. Fun. Hopeful. Looking at these new kids and seeing one who has overcome some obstacles to get where he is.
Today Steve Tambellini had a very good day. I was terrified that he was going to move kids like Pouliot or Jacques and he did not. The Oilers could still use a defenceman or a backup goalie but they picked up a kid with tremendous upside in Patrick O'Sullivan and a rental in Ales Kotalik and all for Erik Cole and a fifth rounder.
I liked Cole a lot but David Lee said he hasn't been the same since he broke his neck and he certainly did not give us what was hoped for. I don't like the way the Oilers used him really but even with that he wasn't the bigtime player we were hoping for. Getting Patrick O'Sullivan and twenty games of Ales Kotalik for twenty games of Cole is a big time coup, however you look at it.
Its really coming down to money. LA didn't want to give O'Sullivan his contract and so they wanted to move it, just like Cammelleri last year. The Oilers were willing to take on the money and so they win.
I'm going to post on the overall deadline in a day or two but impressions going forward for the Oilers:
Either Nilsson or Penner's days are now definitely numbered, maybe both. Penner apparently was being shopped heavily. They're probably going to have to give something up to get someone to take that contract off of their hands. The only thing he has going for him is he is a big man on a team of little guys.
But if Kotalik fits and they can sign him then Penner is a goner too.
The future is apparent. Teams are going to be shedding contracts and the Oilers had better get in line. Based on the Moreau/Staios lovefest on HNIC last week I would say that these two vets are held in high regard and finding takers for them might be easier then some think.
Penner and Nilsson and one of Souray, Gilbert or Lubo will be going too. Based on who drives results (Lubo) and contract/age (Gilbert) I would think (hope) they try and move Souray. Its going to be tough.
With the Flames all in I think the Oilers' last hope for a possible upset in the first round is gone. I think that they should make it into the playoffs and considering they didn't sell the farm to get stronger that's a good thing.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:30 PM