|Detroit Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi during a game against the Dallas Stars on December 29, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Reputation vs. Character
I put this here as a professional courtesy, but.... your reputation isn't your character so much as it is how other people perceive your character to be. Abraham Lincoln used an analogy of a tree and its shadow to define reputation vs. character where the reputation is the shadow and the tree is who you really are (character). It makes sense if you step back and look at it.
However, a big part of human nature is the overwhelming need to be respected, appreciated, and for people to know who you REALLY are. This goes double for public figures like politicians, celebrities, and athletes (especially pro athletes). The problem isn't that these people make mistakes. The problem is that social media enables those who follow these people to let as many as millions of other people know almost instantly. It robs you of context and the ability to get, at times, the benefit of the doubt. Other times, it just further emphasizes who you really are and that your own perspective of yourself isn't entirely accurate.
In the hockey context, recent tweets likened Matt Cooke to a serial killer. This is really rather wrong, and this is coming from someone who dislikes Cooke with a passion. He didn't kill anyone. He does not show the common psychological profiles attributed scientifically with regular killers, let alone serial killers. But then again, people would be quick to point out that this is just an exaggeration meant more to make a point rather than to actually call Cooke a killer. That does not matter in a social media context. What's in text is in text and the reader is apt to interpret it any way the reader likes.
Social Media and You
Facebook and Twitter (and other social media of the present and past) is what you make of it. It's a spectacular way to connect, educate, and get to know people. It's also a great way to stay informed ahead of the fast pace of the world's events at every level of importance. Likewise, it's also the bane of anyone's existance. It can destroy careers and make lives miserable.
I maintain that YOU are ultimately responsible for how you appear in the social media world if you are a public figure. It's a hard lifestyle, but it is the truth. If you play a physical game, you tend to draw the ire of opposing fans, as an example. It's very easy to run with an assumption instead of gaining facts. That's one of the big problems of hacked Twitter accounts, for example.
But when you are a public figure and you go out and do something or say something stupid, you're going to "get it" via everywhere. Sometimes, it is almost funny in a macabre way (see Lindsey Lohan). Other times, it is unfortunate. And other times again, it marks a trend, sometimes one that is hard for friends and family of those who it affects to accept.
Matt Cooke's Reputation
Matt Cooke's reputation is garbage. And it should be. Right now, he's like the drunk friend you went out of your way to intervene and get him back on track, to correct his life, and to find a way to once again trust only to watch him purposely and knowingly fall off the wagon in grandiose fashion and now he wants to be taken at his word that it was just a harmless mistake and he won't do it again. You don't go around claiming to be a changed man and cleaned up his game if you are just laying low for a while before doing it again.
Matt Cooke has fooled the NHL for years and he's been given chance after chance after chance. After getting in a lot of trouble (whatever that actually was is all guesswork) that saw him get heat from the NHL and sat down by the Penguins, his team at the time, he seemed to clean up his act. Seemed to.
In truth, Cooke was probably under intense scrutiny for a while and wanted to stay in the NHL so he laid low. He still worked as a professional in other facets but laid low otherwise. He had a good season this year with Minnesota and he had a ton of detractors thinking that he's a changed man. There were many who wanted that to be true (especially Wild fans). That's not the case.
So why does Cooke get all these chances? Why does he get do overs? I realize that a 7 game ban could actually be a season ending suspension, but when is the point that it is enough?
Can he be a changed man? Is it possible?
The answer is yes. And here's proof: #44 for Detroit.... Todd Bertuzzi.
Todd Bertuzzi is, with the exception of maybe Marty McSorley, the man who committed perhaps the worst cheapshot in recent memory. He got a year's suspension, charged with assault (he plead out of it) and will be back in court September 2014 for a civil suit pertaining to the act. Sounds like a thug. Sounds like a criminal right?
He's been suspended a grand total of.... ZERO times since his reinstatement. ZERO. In his first year with Detroit, he actually was among the team leaders in receiving the FEWEST penalty minutes! Is Todd a changed man?
I believe he is. Is he off the hook? Not a chance. Will he be forgiven for his act? Not likely. There will be no Bertuzzi statue in front of the Joe Louis Arena or in Vancouver. But Todd cannot control that.
All he can control is how he acts on the ice. He is who he is. And I severely doubt we'll see him participate in a cheap shot of the likes of Cooke's antics for the remainder of his career. I severely doubt the NHL will be as patient, lenient, and forgiving with Bertuzzi as they have been with Cooke should Bertuzzi commit a cheap illegal act again.
In the end, I think Cooke's only chance at redemption will occur when the league says "You are reinstated after X games suspension without pay. The next gross illegal act you commit will be your last as it will result in a permanent banishment from the National Hockey League." I think then and only then will Cooke truly change.