What does this city want from its sports players?
Alright, alright, maybe that was the wrong question. I pictured a scroll of checkmarks sliding to my feet like some cartoon-y scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Perhaps the answers to that question covers a list longer than the Eastern seaboard, but one of the most important line items that camps at the top of this list is "honesty."
We're Philadelphians; We see through a person's bullshit like Superman's ability to see through clothing. Our city's sports fanatics chalk no room for frivolity or drivel, especially from those who professionally represent our sports teams.
Yesterday a Russian reporter from SovSports caught up with Ilya Bryzgalov before any of the Philadelphia media had the chance. In fact, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer stated that Bryz "refused to talk to reporters during the team's postseason media day Thursday..."
Whether or not Bryzgalov refused to chat with these journalists is not what's important. I actually prefer that he stays away from our city's muckrakers any chance he gets. And for good reason.
Like I said, Ilya spoke with Mother Russia's media and gave an interview discussing the 2011-12 season. The entire interview can be read on Puck Daddy's website here.
Our $51-Million goalkeeper spoke about the pressures of being a new netminder in this specific town. He admits it had its wear and tear on him physically, as well as emotionally. That's no secret. We saw it right before our eyes --
Can you take out anything positive from this season?
"I gained invaluable experience."
What is it?
"It is difficult to describe with words. It is a psychology, a new view on life."
You came under a massive pressure from the media and fans in Philadelphia. Maybe reading newspapers wasn't worth it?
"It is difficult. Wherever you come, whatever you open — my face is everywhere. Everyone is talking about me. 'Bryzgalov played well,' 'Philadelphia won, but Bryz made a mistake again,' 'Yes, he wasn't scored against but could have been'… Guys, but who doesn't make mistakes? And how many [pucks] did I catch before then? But very few notice that. People are so concentrated on the negative that they only see the bad in me. But I think that you need to be kinder to each other."
The way goaltenders are treated in Philadelphia is different. For many years it is the club's Achilles' heel.
"What I lived through this season I wouldn't wish to an enemy… [But if you started on something, finish it]. I need to keep working. I understand the fans. They paid their money and want the show. But many forget that we are not robots, but living people. We have feelings, worries. It's easy to turn away when the club is going through tough times. But if you're wearing orange sweaters, then support Philadelphia until the very end! Don't denounce your team. There won't be a different one. And I know that the Flyers have dedicated fans who understand hockey and will always support."
Did a wish ever come up to tell everything where to go? To ask for a trade, slam the door?
"I am not one of those people. I will not give in when facing difficulties. I have eight more years to work under my contract with Philadelphia. If I am criticized, then I will endure it. You can't tie up people's tongues. It is their right to let the emotions go."
How to live under such pressure?
"I don't even know. I got very tired this season, to be honest…"
Maybe go to the KHL? <----Absolutely the dumbest goddamn question of the interview
"Where will I go? This is out of the question. I have a contract with Philadelphia."
You won't change the fans, the media as well.
"You can change your own view of the situation. Not be reflective. To listen and read less negativity. As I said, I learned a serious lesson. And next season I will only be better."
What doesn't kill you make you stronger — is this about you?
"Yes. Now I know what it's like to be a goaltender in Philadelphia. Maybe from the outside it looks like there's nothing to it. You only realize it on your own."
If the grammar seems a bit off, just remember that this is Yahoo Sports' translation from Russian to English. So it'll naturally look a bit choppy.
But go ahead and read it over and over again. In that entire interview, does Bryzgalov say one thing that isn't true? Does anything he said come off as a personal attack to our fans?
We're a hard bunch of sons of bitches who will either glorify you as an athletic god or break you under our scrutiny like a house of cards. We're known globally as one of the toughest (if not, THE toughest) fanbases in North American sports.
It's blatantly clear Bryzgalov learned this in the hardest way possible in his first season as a Flyer. He not only admits that, but he's also gone on record saying he'll endure the pressure. He'll endure it, and turn it into motivation to get better.
"As I said, I learned a serious lesson. And next season I will only be better."
What could be more admirable than that?
Look, if you're a Philadelphia fan, I understand your pain. I understand how exhausted our patience is.
"Patience is a virtue," they say.
Oh yea? Tell that to an Eagles fan. Break out that Chinese philosophy bullshit around a Flyers fanatic who's forced to relive the '70s Cup days through Comcast's Encore Replays of the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cup Finals.
We look at cities like New York, Boston, and Pittsburgh win championships from virtually all of their sports teams in a condensed window of time, and then turn our heads to the 2008 Phillies World Series sitting on a shelf like some castaway on an island.
"When's it our time?" we ask ourselves. The question is harbored in our minds each year like passing the same billboard on our way to work every day. It's run its course, but unfortunately you just cannot force a championship parade. It must be earned.
But we could either continue feeling sorry for ourselves, or we could pick our chins up, clench our fists, grit our teeth and get ready for the next season of hockey.
Here's where our city's media comes in.
Sam Carchidi -- responsible for writing how Bryzgalov refused to chat with the Flyers press -- went out on his own and wrote a response article covering Ilya's interview with the Russian sports reporter.
Sam titled this article, "Bryz Fed Up with Scrutiny" and then conveniently listed portions of the Bryzgalov interview in such a way to -- once again -- make #30 out to be the bad guy. The scapegoat. The media's doormat.
Philly goes another year without a Cup, so let's make sure we've got someone to blame it on, right Carchidi? Let's make sure we distort the heartfelt message Bryzgalov was attempting to send, and pitch it your own way, falsifying everything Ilya said and fabricating it into some kind of calamity.
HEY! It sells, right!?!? Just as long as you get those headlines in readers' hands, Sam!!! Continue the good work, pal!!!
You know what sucks? I mean, what reeeeeeeeally sucks? This website of mine is just a blog. Visited, on a good day, by maybe a few hundred separate IP addresses belonging to some of the greatest Flyers fans I've ever had the pleasure of interacting with.
But we're a very small minority.
My writing reaches only a percentage of Orange & Black nation as a whole, while faultfinders like Sam Carchidi and his words reach every doorstep and computer screen of every citizen in the tri-state area. His bandwidth shadows mine like America's President over an elementary school's class treasurer.
So these headlines of Sam's.....these slanted truths he hatches from the bowels of his own subterranean world of journalism.....make their way to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of eyes each morning, planting seeds of half-ass validity into the psyche of our fanbase's people.
And right now, while each of us is at their weakest after our Playoff exit, journalists like Carchidi take advantage of the wound that's fresh, open and exposed on our fanhoods.
"LOOK AT BRYZGALOV! HE'S THE BAD GUY! LOOK AT WHAT HE SAID ABOUT YOU, FANS!"
Furthest from the truth. And it makes me ill to my stomach.
Instead of celebrating the realization, the....frozen pond epiphany that's been bestowed to our goalie from the hockey gods, muckraking media heads aim to wrap their diseased words around it. Burying it beneath hate, frustration, fear and impatience.
And they get PAID FOR IT.
Readers, don't be fooled. Bryzgalov never once mentioned the word "scrutiny". Hell, even the reporter interviewing him never used the word "scrutiny". It's slimy snakes who look to fill their wallets with greenery who conjure up words like "scrutiny" in this instance.
Our fans added pressure and criticism on Bryzgalov, sure. But he's here to stay, he says. He's got eight more years left in this city, and he personally aims to harness the pressure and use it as his strength to lift Lord Stanley on Wells Fargo ice, and Broad Street cement.
I, for one, won't fall for the words Sam Carchidi (and media members like him) put in front of us like a poisoned apple. I have my own mind, my own sense of understanding.
I am not this city's media puppet, nor will I ever allow it to be my shepherd.
Bryzgalov will come back motivated, better, and hungrier.
How 'bout that for a fucking headline?
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