A player who assumes a role of leadership for a sports team in Philadelphia is bound to bear the brunt of undue criticism.
This is particularly true for players who have great expectations thrust upon them. It happened with Charles Barkley. It happened to Eric Lindros. It happened in Randall Cunningham’s later years, just as it did for Donovan McNabb. It happened with Terrell Owens. It happened with Allen Iverson. It happened with Pat Burrell to some extent. It happens intermittently with Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels.
The Flyers are not immune to these perils either, despite a near-unbroken chain of endearment from the fan base.
With each shot that sails wide of the net, fans bemoan Jeff Carter and curse his name. Prior to becoming a playoff hero in Philadelphia, fans called for Danny Briere to be traded to any taker, regardless of the return. Want to know how much stress comes with donning the orange and black jersey? Just ask Lindros.
The most tenuous of all current Philadelphia sports relationships has to be Mike Richards and his battle with the city’s major print media.
Though his voice is not forceful, Richards speaks his mind and is not afraid to respond to any scrutiny that he believes is unjust, as shown in the quote from him below. He is also just as likely to close himself off and shy away from the microphones and bright lights when writers anger him. Yes, he reacts emotionally to being called “emotionally detached.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette said that he and Richards “continue to work on our relationship.” This lead to a media hailstorm focused on Richards, his leadership abilities, and presumed responsibility for an early exit from the 2011 playoffs. For the first time in weeks, the Flyers goalies did not have to worry about being the target of blame.
I’m going to let the quotes speak for themselves, with the admittance that these opinions are best prefaced by the following quote from Travis Hughes.
Generally speaking, the media has not handled Mike Richards well in his time here. Mike Richards has not handled the media well, either. It goes both ways to be sure, but that doesn’t give the media a free ride to view Richards in a negative light solely because he might not like them.
Tim Panaccio thinks I’m moody and withdrawn with him. Maybe because he writes articles that are no where close to being true
Mike Richards is entitled to his opinion, as I am.
On the ice, throughout much of the year, there appeared to be an emotional detachment by Richards from the game itself. He often seemed unhappy among reporters. One player said candidly Richards was the “most unhappy superstar” in Philadelphia.
First of all, I don’t think that has anything to do with Mike Richards’ injury. I think Mike Richards is a good captain for our team. I think he’s a tremendous player in our league, and trust me, there are 29 other teams that would love to have Mike Richards.
I think Mike Richards is a great captain. He leads by example, how hard he plays, and the way he sacrifices his body.
There are not a lot of guys that do it as well as he (Richards) does around the NHL…
So honestly I think he (Richards) is the captain for this team. It is well deserved.
If there is a communication issue between Richards and Laviolette he’s not aware of it. But if there is, it needs to be fixed.
Richards sometime seemed emotionally detached this season. He did not make himself available to the media on Monday or Tuesday. He said he will talk on Wednesday.
It’s very unfair. He’s the hardest worker. He’s got the biggest heart. People who are saying he doesn’t care or he didn’t give it his all out there doesn’t know what they’re talking about because he’s one of the most well-liked players I’ve ever played with.
Notice the discord between the quotes from some of the writers and those from the players and general manager. It’s hard to value the opinions of Carchidi and Panaccio over those of his teammates in this instance. However, fans have greater access to the words of reporters and are often willing to put their trust into the mainstream media than any other source.
While it is difficult to completely remove your bias from reports, it’s imperative to do so, especially when you are at the top of the food chain. Otherwise, these opinions can become self-fulfilling prophecies. There’s only so far you can push Richards before he actually becomes emotionally detached.