I try to limit my time on social media more than ever. As I wrote earlier, I stopped posting on Twitter. I put my published work on both of my Facebook pages--well, usually both--as well as links to the radio interviews I do, some fiction excerpts, and some links to this journal. But I try to look only once a day. Because much can be of use to me--once I get a hold of it--it wouldn't do to never check. What I see, though, depresses me. Almost all posts and replies display either a penchant for hate and venom, or a willingness to be near-totally ignorant, or both. Social media is a kind of cultural barometer. I know that most people, for instance, are not on Twitter. It's a small percentage. But it does give a sense of where we are at. None of it's good. None of it's thoughtful. None of it's genuine. None of it's kind. None of it's witty. On Twitter, we have a sense of the self-loathing that defines so many lives now. And the soullessness of so many lives.
Last night I saw that Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy was trending. I like hockey and I like the Bruins, so I checked this out, despite knowing what I'd find. I wanted, too, to make sure that McAvoy wasn't injured (at practice, as the Bruins were off) or anything, because he's a good player--more on that momentarily--and of chief importance to the Bruins.
It was people saying how great he is, because of a comment made by former player Ryan Whitney on a podcast that people like, which I listened to and found stupid and lowest common denominator. I don't see how an intelligent person who also likes hockey could listen to it and enjoy that podcast. A dumb person who likes hockey--and an immature dumb person--could listen and want to keep coming back.
Whitney remarked that McAvoy was the second best defenseman in NHL, after Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche. Cue tens of thousands of comments of "McAvoy is literally the best defenseman in the league," because as we all know, if you put the word "literally" in front of any claim you make, it makes what you are asserting extra super duper true. That is how dumb we are now. We can't talk. We can't communicate. We can't put our ideas forward cogently. We don't have any ideas anyway. We speak from the ass, we use the same dozen words like a child with a rudimentary set of building blocks, and we say "literally" as often as possible, and always incorrectly.
These are simple people who are simple because they chose to be. To have nothing else in their lives, to be nothing else. To never grow. To never think. To never acquire knowledge of any kind. For this group, sports are everything. Sports, as I've written many times in these pages, are simple. Compared to much. When I look at Charlie McAvoy, I have a reoccurring thought--it's a question--every time: Why don't his coaches think he's as good as other people do based on the way they talk about him?
Charlie McAvoy is fortieth in the league in ice time. Cale Makar is number one. For people who don't know hockey, I'll say that the top defenseman play around twenty-six, twenty-seven minutes a night. A defenseman can log more ice time ehan a forward, due to the nature of the position. There's less out and out sprinting. There's more gliding. Ray Bourque--who for career value, I'll call the best defenseman of all-time (again: for total career value, not peak or prime; that would be Bobby Orr)--regularly played thirty minutes a night.
If McAvoy is so good, why do thirty-nine players in the league net more ice time than he does? A stud defenseman is not fortieth in the league in ice time. That's not how being a stud defenseman works. Part of the whole deal of being a stud defenseman is it seems like you're always on the ice. There are forwards who play more than Charlie McAvoy. He's not even first on his own team. Think about that. He's not even the defenseman who is out there the most on the Boston Bruins.
His coaches feel a way about his game and its limitations that is obviously in place, despite what they might say or have said. Why do I say coaches? Obviously this is Jim Montgomery's first year as the Bruins' head coach. But Bruce Cassidy, the previous coach, used McAvoy the same way that Montgomery is using him. He's young. Healthy. A bull. He should be out there twenty-seven plus minutes a game, if he's this stud, which he isn't. He's a very good player. He doesn't match the hype he gets, though, or I should say the credit he is given. Drew Doughty, who has been around for quite a while, is second in the league in ice time. It's not a maintenance thing. His coaches think that his game gets worse if he plays more. Is it conditioning?
That is a huge hole in someone's game if they're supposed to be a Norris contender, which is how people talk about McAvoy. You're going to win the Norris as the best defenseman in the league when you're fortieth in ice time? That is absurd.
Charlie McAvoy is a strong player. You can win a Cup with him as your best defenseman. I don't think you can win a Cup with him as your best player. His playmaking has improved this season. His game has gotten stronger. Cale Makar is someone who could be a Hart finalist in his career. That's not McAvoy. He reputation is amplified by a bunch of people who don't know hockey, who think they know hockey, who say all kinds of laudatory things about him because they want to. People don't elect to say something because they've thought it through. Because they examine. Because they think critically. They say it because they want to. And because no one knows anything or ever thinks, there isn't anyone to halt or question them, because everyone else is the same way. It's babble--it's all babble. There is no knowing anymore.
Ryan Whitney was a defenseman himself. He wasn't very good. He was okay. Ryan Whitney played more minutes per game than Charlie McAvoy does.
Fortieth. He's fortieth in the league. Fortieth.