Character versus Competencies
I'm still somewhat facinated by the whole Ryan Smyth fiasco that has been going on in the hockey world since the star winger was dealt by his beloved Oilers to hockey Siberia in Long Island.
It got me thinking today to a topic that I've been pondering quite a bit in the past months and I'm kind of shocked at the parallels that the Smyth situation has to the debate that's been going on in my head for weeks.
What's more important- character or competencies? Is who you are more important than what you can do?
At the college I work for we are trying to teach our students how to "run the bases" in the right way if you will (I know that's a baseball analogy in a hockey-related blog but bear with me). In our opinion, character is paramount- it's first base- in becoming a person who can have significant influence and impact in this world.
That runs pretty counter cultural to our world today that says, "It's not important who you are, all that matters is what you can do." If you want to dispute me on that then just look at probably the majority of pro athletes, Hollywood celebs or famous politicians (Bill Clinton anyone) and you tell me if character is heavily valued in today's day and age.
We have former President's lying under oath about having an extra-marital affair and yet he's now revered as one of the most popular President's ever. We have pro athletes getting into brawls at strip clubs, producing CD's with vulgar lyrics and messages, portraying lifestyles that say "It's all about me". We have Hollywood celebs who get married and then divorced simply because it's good publicity and now, most shockingly of all, the latest trend seems to be turning towards parenthood. We have a whole slew of celebrity children who will be raised by nanny's and given every luxury in the world- save for the love and devotion of their parents. Kids have become fashion accessories. Are you mental?
And yet we celebrate them. And I say we because I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I'll gladly overlook the indiscretions of a pro athlete in favor of a few highlight goals, dunks or homeruns. I'll gladly overlook the immoral behaviour of a Hollywood movie star in exchange for a few laughs on the big screen.
I look back on the Ryan Smyth situation and I think, once again results have won out over character. The Edmonton Oilers had to make a decision about whether Ryan Smyth was worth the money he and his agent were asking for. I'm sure Kevin Lowe was very dilligent in looking at things like Ryan's career stats and how they compared to other players making similar money, and I'm sure he also looked at how successful the team had been with him. No Stanley Cups, no scoring titles for Ryan, no real statistical, results-focussed materials to compel Lowe to sign him for as much as they were asking. And so he dealt him.
Never mind the fact that Ryan Smyth is obviously one of the best character guys of this, and probably any, hockey generation. In this day and age it's all about what can you do for me and character takes a back seat. Or in this case, character gets kicked to the first flight to Long Island.