Blog Post # 2: A Review of Patrick O'Sullivan's 'Black & Blue' - Identity and Platforms Defined.

Patrick O'Sullivan has brought change to more issues than he thinks.

I read "Black & Blue" by former NHL player, Patrick O'Sullivan for the first time last week. I have re-read it countless times. The first sentence of the piece shows right off the bat how refreshingly real and organic O'Sullivan plans on being about his life story, 

My father used to beat the shit out of me.
— Patrick O'Sullivan, Black & Blue | The Player's Tribune

 

No one around him did anything to stop it. Patrick's Mother and other parents were all witnesses of such events. Now, I know hockey parents are known for their politics and abundance of support in their small community rinks, but this griping story really reveals how far things can go.  

O'Sullivan talks about how there is too much pressure on youth athletes and that young hockey players are at their best when they are being creative and having fun. There are many messages to take away from this spectacular read, however, I want to analyze a very specific part of O'Sullivan's message. 

 

Today, as I scrolled through O'Sullivan's twitter feed - reading his exchanges with many supporters (and a few controversial "sh*t disturbers") something caught my eye, 

"most importantly a father of two boys." O'Sullivan has done something fantastic, he's used hockey as a platform for good rather than using hockey as his only identity. 

An identity is built up of many things. To define one person by one description would be hard and inaccurate. Patrick portrays himself as a family man over his social media account because hockey and his history of abuse are only one faucet of who the man actually is. 

I have spent a lot of time around the game and around families who are identified by their involvement in the game. When I started my interest in Sports Media I had to remind myself many times that Sports are just an outlet. A release from every day life. O'Sullivan brought so much truth to the statement, 

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
— Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

While a review of this article would cover many issues including; speaking up when you notice an issue, healthy parenting, abuse, therapy and pressure at a young age, the one I took notice of, that lays beneath the surface of the obvious and intended message, is how the former Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the Year (2002) and AHL (2006) Rookie of the Year has created a conversation in the most effective way possible. 

Without reminiscing on his career, without romanticizing the game of hockey or talking about the luxuries and joy that the sport brought him, he was able to draw in an audience. 

As I mentioned, Sports are an outlet. I'll watch the news or read about the ugly truths of our world and then I am able to take the T.V. remote and put on a game. I can believe and invest myself in a sporting outcome, that really doesn't change my life, just to escape from all of the decisions that do change my life. Patrick O'Sullivan showed us that he used sports for that release, too. 

When I  interview an athlete, I never want to put them on a pedestal. Sure, they can probably beat me in a Beep-test and potentially have more raw talent than me in that specific sport, but they are a person of other characteristics too. I think the casual fan often forgets that. Sidney Crosby, Steph Curry, Russell Wilson, they may be exceptional in their sport - but they are people fighting battles.

If parents, who are supposed to know their offspring better than anyone else on the planet, can forget that their kid is just a KID, of course the rest of the world will forget that too. O'Sullivan gave us a big slap in the face and reminded us what we shouldn't have forgotten. We were all young, we all wanted to have thoughtless fun. When a young Patrick took the ice, I'm sure it wasn't in constant desire of making the NHL. He wanted to have fun, goof around and escape life for just 60 minutes. 

Stop forgetting that people, even if they're in the spotlight, have much more to their identity than meets the eye. They may be celebrities, the owner of a Range Rover or exceptionally good at 3-pointers, but they are also daughters, sons, foodies, cuddlers and 'most importantly, a father'.