He had us up until "Fatso."
After the handshake snub with goaltender Martin Brodeur on Friday night, there was actually a chance for New York Ranger forward Sean Avery to be a sympathetic figure.
He could have said, "Listen, I play the way I play but when the game's over the game's over, all is fair in love and war in the Stanley Cup playoffs and I was going to shake Martin Brodeur's hand." There would have been a lot of people - not necessarily a lot of NHL players - who would have said Brodeur was the bad guy for not following the time-honored tradition of the post-game handshake.
But Avery went so far as to say, "Fatso didn't shake my hand," so any hope of that pretty much went up in a puff of smoke. Avery and Brodeur aren't the first players not to shake hands after a series, and they certainly won't be the last. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big a deal.
Now, there are probably a lot of NHL players that will say it's not a big deal because it involved Sean Avery and make no mistake, there are a lot. Brodeur will win that war in the judgment of his peers. But there are a lot of other people who don't play in the NHL with a more romantic notion of the game of hockey and the things that separate it from other sports. They always point to three things.
The first is the Stanley Cup - a trophy that is special in its own right. The second is sudden death overtime - you play all night if you have to play to get a winner.
The third is that it's the only professional sport where all the warriors go out, shake hands after the battle is fought and put everything that happened on the playing surface behind them.
I can understand why there are players who choose not to do that, and I don't necessarily have a problem with it. I mean, it's not worth losing sleep over. But it does work against the romantic notion of the game as to what separates hockey from every other sport.
If more than a few players decide to blow off the handshake, you could argue why bother having it if it means that little to them.
On the flip side, the instances where this happens are few and far between. So what it really boils down to is your personal feelings on the issue of respect - respect for your opponent or respect for the tradition of the game. It's a circular argument and we'd be here all night trying to rationalize who "disrespected" the game more - Brodeur for not shaking Avery's hand or Avery for, well, being Sean Avery most of the time.
Call me old fashioned - an old fashioned sore loser, too - but if it was me, I would have shook Avery's hands and been sure to look him in the eye in the handshake line. And if nothing else, I would figure, at the very least, I earned my ticket to heaven for taking the high road when all instincts would have been screaming to do exactly what Brodeur did.
But that's just me. Different strokes for different folks, I say.