washingtonpost.com
Ovechkin needs to be checked

By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010; D02

Blog excerpt from washingtonpost.com/wilbon

One of the biggest Olympic winners has to be Canada's Sidney Crosby, who at 22 years old has already won Olympic gold, a world championship and the Stanley Cup. And for the second straight time Crosby went through Alex Ovechkin en route to winning. If this doesn't make Crosby the preeminent player in the world, I don't know what does. Crosby didn't exactly light it up, in terms of scoring; he'd have gone three straight games without a point had he not scored the game winner in overtime against the United States. But he did. And before that, Crosby's team trashed Ovechkin's Russian team, just as Crosby's team went on the road to beat Ovechkin's team in a Game 7 during last year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

Capitals fans might as well stop with the argument that Ovechkin is a better player; sure he is a bigger scorer and more entertaining player. But he can't get his team past Crosby's teams and they're undeniable rivals and will be for the length of their careers. Right now, Ovechkin would need a telescope to see Crosby, who's that far ahead in this race.

But far more disturbing is Ovechkin's behavior in Vancouver, B.C. First, he shoved a female fan's camera and reportedly she suffered bruises in the incident. Now comes the news that he broke the camera of a man asking for an interview. There is video of each incident. How this has gone largely undiscussed is nearly as annoying as Ovechkin's churlish behavior. Is he so distraught about Crosby kicking his butt repeatedly that he has to take out his frustration by smashing people's cameras? The woman referred to earlier was reportedly a fan who traveled from Russia to Vancouver to root on her hockey heroes, including Ovechkin.

Somebody needs to get Ovechkin under control. Opponents have wondered whether his knee-on-knee hits are accidents. His own coach, Bruce Boudreau, wondered this season whether his star was out of control. At the time it seemed like Boudreau might have been overreacting; not now. Boudreau's radar is simply more accurate than most. Remember two weeks ago when Tiger Woods said he was guilty of developing such a sense of entitlement he didn't think the rules applied to him? Has Ovechkin reached that point? Does he think the rules of society and the ice don't apply to him? The worst thing Ovechkin can have around town is too many apologists. Look where it got Gilbert Arenas a couple of years ago after he'd become, arguably, one of the five to 10 best players in the NBA. Ovechkin is quite a bit better in his sport than Arenas is in his. If Crosby is a rough equivalent of a young Kobe Bryant, in terms of talent and results, then Ovechkin is a rough equivalent of LeBron James, which is to say young and physically unstoppable but as yet undecorated.

That also means Ovechkin is far too good to be involved in something as stupid and as petty as grabbing a woman's camera. Seriously, when is the last time an athlete of that stature, in any sport, was involved in such an incident? Don't tell me Randy Johnson because he was never as big a figure in baseball as Ovechkin is in hockey, and the Big Unit at least confronted a member of the paparazzi, who are (in my mind) fair game for confrontation. But some ordinary fan, and a woman at that? Can you imagine Gretzky or Jordan or Elway or LeBron or Jeter doing such a thing? No, never. An inflated sense of self and entitlement can bring any athlete crashing down. All you have to do is listen to Tiger's assessment of his own fall. Somehow, Ovechkin's lapses in judgment (or was it a disregard of civility?) went largely unnoticed. Ovechkin is damn lucky he's not black and playing basketball; my brethren in the national (and local) media would have put on their Sunday church robes and preached him to death by now. We'd have read about "those thug basketball players" and such. Ovechkin, apparently, is for whatever reasons, beyond their reach. He's untouchable. All these folks writing and talking about the Winter Olympics and I haven't seen a word of criticism directed at Ovechkin, famous as he is.

Here's the issue that should concern the Capitals. Every time a truly great athlete, and Ovechkin is that, thinks he's above the law, a hard, steep fall seems to follow. Since Ovechkin appears to have gotten away this time with barely a scold, perhaps somebody in the Capitals organization or in Ovechkin's life might seize the opportunity to get in his ear now. The cost of not doing so could be enormous.

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