Every sport has its heroes and its villians. Average Joe's needed Globo Gym, Bombay's Ducks needed The Hawks, Iceland and the Eden Hall Varsity team, and every non-Yankee fan needs the New York Yankees. Most of the time we see our own team as the good guy, but what about embracing the role as the bad guy?
If the last five days have taught us anything, the Pittsburgh Penguins are not viewed in the best light by their Atlantic Division foes. Of course, no surprise there. It's obvious that the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers would talk this way. But over the past week, it's been taken to a new level.
Sunday's game against the Flyers had coach Peter Laviolette calling Dan Bylsma "gutless" for playing his fourth line late in a game already out of reach for the Pens to stage any comeback, and a clean hit in anyone's book by Joe Vitale on Danny Briere.
Last night, Rangers coach John Tortorella, known for a bigger mouth than Laviolette, called the Penguins organization "arrogant," and called Crosby and Malkin "whiners." Tort's comments escalated from a knee to knee hit by Brooks Orpik on Derek Stepan late in the game.
Tortorella and Laviolette both received fines for their comments and tantrums. NBC "analyst" Mike Milbury ripped into the Penguins under the cover of a Philadelphia sports radio station, fueling the fire between Philadelphia and PIttsburgh, and an all out war on social media this week.
Returning to the previous question. The Penguins are being approached as the villains of the league. Would that be a role Pens fans would embrace?
In a fans eye, the Penguins are the all around good guys. A team that has had an underdog story for most of their 45 years. Dealing with bankruptcy and threats of relocation countless times, along with the bright years of the 1990's and the past six seasons make them look heroic.
The Penguins have an organization that is viewed as classy. An owner like Mario Lemuiex, a general manager who makes all the right moves, and a head coach who goes about his job without the yelling and salty language of a John Tortorella and Bruce Boudreau. Two superstars on the same team and national television coverage, they are a Marvel comic book character, like Spiderman and the Flyers and other rivals are viewed like the Green Goblin.
Since the lockout ended, the Penguins have enjoyed being the NHL's good guys. While anyone can look at the chatter coming from opposing teams, it might the season where the Penguins enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs labeled as the villain.
So here's the question again Pens fans. Would you embrace the Penguins being the villain?
It is hard to see your team as the bad guys. Some fans like Yankee and Notre Dame fans, they embrace it. Despite all the criticism, those years that their team takes home the championship, they are the ones having the last laugh. Of course money and reputation make Notre Dame and the Yankees villains, but the Penguins?
Why not? The Flyers and Rangers have taken it upon themselves to take their rivalries to the next level. Penguin fans have been fuming and just shaking their heads all week at the comments coming from coaches, players, and a former player/coach who calls himself a national commentator for the game. Most fans are fine with taking that role from what I have seen.
The Penguins have been one of the hottest teams since mid-January. They have the talent, the stars, the goalie, and the national spotlight on them. That would make any opponent jealous. A classy organization to many can afford to play the villain role. They are a favorite to win the Cup, and they play a tough nose offense that can score big.
So embrace it Penguins fans. Hopefully by mid-June, you get the last laugh as Crosby skates at center ice with his second Stanley Cup.