We live in uncomfortably polarized times, to the point where “Coke vs. Pepsi” often feels like a weird, unnecessary blood feud.
So, really, it should come as no surprise to witness the reactions to Kris Russell‘s jaw-dropping, game-deciding own-goal from the Edmonton Oilers’ painful regulation loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night.
In case you missed it, drop what you’re doing and watch this. It’s profoundly strange, tragic, and honestly unforgettable:
Could you really blame Nazem Kadri for his reaction?
Circling back to the initial point, there seemed to be two disparate reactions to the own goal.
On one side, you had the bemused, who were sometimes brutal:
Ouch, but also, heh.
Fascinatingly, many members of the Edmonton media were appalled by the snickering at Russell’s expense, and they weren’t shy about it.
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson tied it together, as he incredulously quote-tweeted those who were having a laugh. At times, it felt a little surreal.
Now, I’m not the only one to notice this, but one might argue that it says a lot about how the media around the Oilers works. One night, many media members wonder why you can’t criticize Connor McDavid for turning the puck over. The next, they seem to be getting legitimately antagonistic about the idea of people laughing at an absolutely astounding own-goal.
[Related: Jordan Eberle admits that criticisms shook his confidence]
So, allow me a suggestion: embrace a little of both.
Russell deserves a pat on the back, because mistakes like those are tough to let go.
I totally agree, but allow me to play the devil’s advocate: you’re also not human if you don’t gasp and/or laugh at that mistake.
Think of it as that moment when you or a friend bangs their head against a car door or other hard object. Unless you’re some kind of lizard-person, you’ll ask if that friend is OK, but you’ll probably do so while unsuccessfully holding back laughter.
Yes, it’s true that you can admire Russell’s willingness to answer questions right after that mistake …
… And it’s great that both his teammates and opponents stood up for him after the game.
But you can still shake your head in disbelief on that actually happening, and maybe take a shot at the Oilers’ shoddy management in the process. Because, really, sports are as much about entertainment as anything else.
We might as well fine-tune that entertainment and remember that human beings are involved the whole way.
(Looks suspiciously at MLB’s strike zone bots.)
Oh, and in other Oilers news, the team claimed Nathan Walker, the NHL’s first Australian player, off of waivers from the Washington Capitals. So, Edmonton has a reason to say “crikey” even beyond that own-goal.
Also, hopefully only minor bad news for Adam Larsson:
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.