Sometimes, in the process of writing about an NHL team through an entire season, players and media members wear on each others nerves. The reported tension between Mike Richards and the Philadelphia media was well known. It works both ways, as well, but rarely does that animosity see the light of day; the tension is typically kept behind closed doors.
Unless, of course, one party wants to make it public. For some reason, Ottawa Sun columnist Bruce Garrioch wants to do just this. Garrioch's been waging a one-sided public war against former Ottawa Senators goaltender Brian Elliott on Twitter and in some columns in the few months since Elliott was dealt from the Senators.
Below are three messages Garrioch put out on his Twitter account earlier this month:
"Hope they don't have bad bounces or slippery ice in St. Louis or Brian Elliott won't be in the NHL. #sens" - 2 July via web
"At this rate the only guy left for Ottawa will be Brian "its not my fault" elliott." -1 July via web
(He's really trying to get that nickname to stick. I don't think it's catchy enough.)
I'm at a loss to explain what Garrioch is looking to accomplish with his character assassination campaign against Elliott. No professional writer will come out of such a dispute with his professionalism intact, particularly not when his opponent is a backup goaltender who doesn't seem to be on anyone else's bad side and hasn't reacted in any public way to Garrioch's attacks. As I said to Garrioch on Twitter, the whole thing just makes the writer look petty and unprofessional.
As far as I can tell, Garrioch's grudge stems from a post-game interview after the Senators, with Elliott in net, were shellacked by the Philadelphia Flyers. In a post-game interview, Garrioch tried to get Elliott to comment on the game. Instead of asking a question, though, he just said something like, "Tough game out there." To which Elliott replied something to the effect of, "Is there a question there?"
After games, reporters are really just looking for comments from players; it's not uncommon for them to simply say something, and allow the athlete to take the answer in a direction of his choosing. Nor is it uncommon, though, for players who've just been embarrassed by their opponents to be a little unhappy after the game.
Garrioch didn't take it lightly, though. Since then, he's taken any opportunity available to him to mention the story, and brand Elliott as a guy who's totally full of himself and always coming up with excuses. Both of which might be true, but Garrioch's persistent campaign to make these facts well-known about a backup goaltender who's well out of town just seems ridiculous.
The Twitter messages I posted above are only the most recent few in a pretty long list of Twitter messages Garrioch has sent out criticizing Elliott:
"@tsn_wally Who is in net for Canada? Brian Elliott. I'm sure it's just bad bounces" - 6 May via web
"Brian Elliott has lost five straight with the Avs. I'm sure it's not his fault. Bad bounces." - 12 Mar via web
"Brian Elliott left the rink without speaking to the media. Speaks to his character doesn't it?" - 18 Feb via web
"Two teams with coaching issues: Colorado and Ottawa changing goalies. I will miss Elliott's "I thought I played well." after every loss." - 18 Feb via web
Am I the only one who thinks this isn't just childish, but is unbecoming and inappropriate?
It's quite simple for Garrioch to separate his personal dislike of Elliott from his reportage. In fact, he was actually able to do so in a blog post on the day Elliott was traded:
Look, Elliott could not get the job done here. He is not a No. 1, never has been a No. 1 and couldn’t handle the pressure of being a No. 1. All he had to do from time-to-time was take a little responsibility.
Maybe Elliott will be better off with a fresh start. Maybe he’ll come to the realization you can’t always blame someone else.
There you go. Not so hard: Point out Elliott's (very obvious) struggles on the ice, and call him out for making excuses instead of owning up to it. Once. Dwelling on it doesn't serve any purpose, aside from making Garrioch feel a fleeting sense of satisfaction for mocking a guy he obviously doesn't like. Instead, though, Garrioch's too busy taking shots at the former Senator, such as this one from the Digital Faceoff column, directed at fellow Sun sports columnist Don Brennan:
Don, have you met many players who had a higher opinion of themselves than Elliott, who had done so little? Just struck me the wrong way. "Is there a question there?" he asked me one night. Did everything in my power not to say: "Yeah, why were you no good against Philly?"
And there's the essence of it, really: It struck Garrioch the wrong way. I don't think Elliott is the only one who may have an inflated opinion of himself in this disagreement.
The relationship between professional athlete and media member is a unique one: There are few jobs that not only put you right into the spotlight to face criticism every time you go to work, and then also force you to speak with the very people who are looking for reasons to criticize you. Most professional athletes have found ways to deal with this (and are certainly paid well enough to make it worthwhile), but the relationship still requires some degree of mutual respect between the two sides.
It's obvious, however, that Garrioch either doesn't believe that's necessary, or doesn't care. That first option is bad. The second one is worse.