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Is Durocher right after all? October 16, 2007

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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“Nice guys finish last.”–Leo Durocher

I know it’s unusual to quote a baseballer in a hockey blog, but humor me.  Do nice guys really finish last?  Consider the Broad Street Bullies, and the Stanley Cups they won.  Do nice guys finish last?  Or consider the recent Stanely Cup Final, where the Senators tried to outclass and outplay the Ducks, while the Ducks tried to outbruise and outbrawl the Senators.  Naturally, it seems, the Ducks won the whole shebang.

Do nice guys really finish last?

Several years ago, I was an avid NBA fan–since reformed, thank goodness–and my favorite team was the Utah Jazz.  Michael C. Lewis did an excellent book about the Jazz’s heartbreaking ’97-’98 season, which included a brief history of the team.  One of the team’s elder statesmen–I want to say Frank Layden, but don’t quote me on that–said he had something called a “Catholic School Philosophy.”  He said that the Jazz would win because they were the good guys: that if they showed up, worked hard, and played the right way, they’d win more than they’d lose.  That got them all the way to the ’98 NBA Finals, where they ran into some guy I’ve never heard of named Michael Jordan.  (Yes, I’m being ironic.)  They lost in a heartbreaking series of six games.

Which brings us full circle: do nice guys really finish last?

Consider history: Jesus Christ was crucified in his mid-30’s, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake before she turned 20, and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at a comparatively long-in-the-tooth 56.  Look around now: Vladimir Putin is 55 and spoiling for a new Cold War (with himself in charge, of course); Hugo Chavez is a sprat at 53, and trying to become president for life; Kim Jong Il is 66 and giving every indication that he’s going to make a nuisance of himself for a very long time; and Fidel Castro is 81, having outlasted about a dozen US Presidents.

Do nice guys really finish last?  And what does that tell us about the Capitals?

That cry of “Where’s justice?” led me back to, you could say, an old classic.  I’ll list a couple of easy-to-find passages here–not about to type them all the way out–that show a bit of my findings on this: Job 34:21-30; 2 Thess 1:5-10.  One passage I DO need to type out:

“For the evil about which you ask me has been sown, but the harvest of it has not yet come.  If therefore that which has been sown is not reaped, and if the place where the evil has been sown does not pass away, the field where the good has been sown will not come.”–2 Esdras 4:28-29, NRSV

Aprocryphal, yes, but it does speak to the problem of nice guys finishing last.  Bad guys eventually get their due.  The Broad Street Bullies got swept out of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1976, and it was goodbye, dynasty.  This year’s Senators are off to a 6-1 start, while the Ducks are 3-4-1 (yes, I know it’s early).  Marty McSorley never played hockey again after his attack on Donald Brashear in 2000.  There’s justice–we just might not see it when we want to.

From hockey back to the big picture: Darkness, ultimately, must be defeated by Light.  Every dog has his day.  It may not happen when we get to see it, but the ends of Justice, ultimately, will be served.

How does this apply to the Capitals?  The Capitals are all about showing up, working hard, and playing the right way.  Hold it–that’s the Jazz’s Catholic School Philosophy all over again.  Does that mean that God is a Capitals fan?  No, and I’m not going anywhere NEAR that discussion.  What it does mean, to me, is that the Caps are following what I believe to be a right philosophy: play the right way, every time, and the wins will come.  Not necessarily because it’s a matter of cosmic justice or reward; it’s just the logical culmination of doing the small things right.

A thought: Look after the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.  Another thought: For want of a nail, the kingdom is lost.  It works both ways.

So I don’t think Durocher got it all the way wrong, but he certainly didn’t get it all the way right.





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