I should be excited for Teemu Selanne, the Finnish Flash. I should be excited for Dave Andreychuk, who scored 640 goals and should have gotten in years ago. I should be excited for Paul Kariya, who is the first Hall of Famer from the University of Maine. I should be excited for Mark Recchi, who won three Stanley Cups with three different teams, and who was the old man mentor on my favorite hockey team ever. I should be excited for Danielle Goyette, because I have cousins named Goyette and maybe they’re related, however distantly. Instead, I’m just annoyed that Jeremy Jacobs is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, in the “builder” category, along with them.
Jeremy Jacobs is the worst owner of any of the Boston teams. Of the four current ownership groups in town, he is now also the only one in a Hall of Fame. Bruins hockey has always been defined by being good, by being tough, but also by not winning as much as fans want or expect. Since buying the team in 1975, Jacobs made a name for himself pinching pennies and valuing fiscal responsibility over on-ice success.
To be fair, when the NHL got a salary cap, the Bruins spent to it, rebuilt in that system, and won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reached another Final in 2013. But also to be fair, for decades before the cap, Jacobs under-spent, took Ray Bourque and Cam Neely to salary arbitration, and was the among the driving forces in the NHL’s board of governors who locked out the players three times–even cancelling the 2004-05 season–to demand a salary cap.
The rigidity of the NHL salary cap also ended up being the Bruins’ undoing, and mismanaging it is the reason the B’s went from a President’s Trophy winning team in 2014 to out of the playoff picture the next two years. Jacobs put the well being of his fellow millionaire and billionaire owners ahead of the devoted fan base that went to his games and watched his team on TV. A seven year run after the rules changed in the favor of the owners should not undo the thirty years of frustration that led up to that era.
I was just thinking about Jacobs and the frustration he put Bruins fans through this weekend when I was working on my David Ortiz column. I thought a lot about life was like before Ortiz and Tom Brady, before winning in Boston was the norm. The lowest points came from the Celtics and Bruins, the teams with the more recent traditions of winning who had both hit low points in the mid and late 1990s. For the Celtics, Rick Pitino’s “not walking through that door” moment in 2000 was the perfect illustration of how far they had fallen. For the Bruins is was the rally in Boston in the summer of 2001 for Stanley Cup champion and fan favorite Ray Bourque… of the Colorado Avalanche. The rally was attended by thousands, paying respect for the Bruins’ former captain, but also serving as a giant middle finger to the Bruins organization by a disenfranchised region of passionate hockey fans.
In the spring of 2010, I watched the Bruins blow a 3-0 lead in a Game 7, and in doing so blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in my friend Mark’s dorm room. For a long time, I was not convinced I would ever have a more joyful professional hockey watching experience than the night Ray Bourque raised the Cup with the Avs, and nights like that were why. The team, for all its endearing on-ice qualities, was run by a cheap old billionaire who was never going to change as long as fans kept going. There was no reason for the team to extend themselves. Hockey fans are loyal to a fault. There are few things better than watching a hockey game in the arena, and nothing better than playoff hockey anywhere. Even when things looked bleakest, Bruins fans knew deep down they could not quit forever.
Alvy Singer, Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall said “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” He attributed the quote to Groucho Marx and Sigmund Freud, but the sentiment is universal, or at the very least incredibly resonant within my own brain. If I were an NHL player, a Bruin or otherwise, after decades of lockouts and business as usual, I would never want to be in a Hall of Fame that would have someone like Jeremy Jacobs as an inductee. I know it’s hyperbolic, and the Hockey Hall of Fame is obviously a huge honor for any player, but there’s something particularly wrong about spending more time thinking about Jeremy Jacobs on the day of the Hall of Fame announcement than I have been about the great players who were also inducted today.
This post took about a week longer than it should have, trying to include as much about what made Robin Williams important to me as possible without writing what a million other people had already written about such a wonderful entertainer. I probably didn’t do a very good job, but this was something I needed to write about.
I feel like a large chunk of my childhood died yesterday. Robin Williams really was an all time great, both as a comedian and as an actor, and the world is a sadder place without him. He has meant so much to me, and I can think of so many moments that he created that have made me laugh or made me cry, but at this moment, I’m having trouble trying to write about him.
My first exposure to Robin Williams was probably Aladdin. Come to think of it, I’ve probably seen that movie more times than any other, since we had it on VHS, and it was the funniest movie we had. Robin carries that movie. He was absolutely spectacular. We ain’t never had a friend like him. Letting a talent like Robin Williams loose in a recording studio and then animating all hit bits and building a movie around it has to be one of the most brilliant ideas the executives at Disney ever came up with. Maybe someday we’ll get a Saving Mr. Banks type film out of it if Hollywood could ever find an actor to play Robin Williams. Then I saw Jumanji, and now I think of Robin Williams every time I cut myself while shaving (including yesterday!). As I got older, and saw more of his movies, I realized that he was good at being more than just silly. Movies like Good Will Hunting and Dead Poet Society pack more of an emotional punch. He, like Woody Allen, was always a comedian at heart, but was capable of transcending genre and doing so much more.
Williams was always a great interview for late night talk shows whether it was with Johnny Carson, or David Letterman, or Conan O’Brien. Jimmy Fallon paid tribute to him this week with a terrific impression and an emotional tribute. He even got Charlie Rose to crack up and lose his composure.
The key to my emotional connection to Robin Williams was that I saw what I saw of him at the right age. I was four or five the first time I saw Aladdin. I was six or seven when I saw Jumanji. I was 14 when I saw Dead Poets Society. I was 19 when I saw Good Will Hunting. He was a star in every stage of my life. I saw Tom Hanks in Toy Story growing up, and Bill Murray in Space Jam, but Robin Williams was a bigger star to me from an earlier age.
Robin’s death is sad for more reasons than one. It’s depressing to me that someone who achieves that level of success and is that universally beloved still struggles with the demons that cause him to take his own life. On one hand, I would love achieve the creative genius of Robin Williams or Hunter S. Thompson or Ernest Hemingway or David Foster Wallace, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to have to go through what they went through. Phenomenal cosmic power, itty-bitty living space. Robin Williams was able to use comedy as therapy, to express himself in different ways, but you could see in his comedy a human who was struggling through human emotions.
I feel as though we took him for granted. He was there for everyone’s childhood who grew up in the 70s or later, and he was only 63. I thought we would have at least 20 more years of Robin Williams material to enjoy, and I wasn’t ready for the ride to be over. Last year at the Emmys, Robin gave a heartfelt tribute to his friend and comedic mentor Jonathan Winters, who played Mork’s 40 year old alien baby of a son on Mork and Mindy, but I never thought for a second that the next award season would be full of tributes to Robin Williams.
The last great thing I saw Robin Williams do was his guest appearance in an episode from the third season of Louie. He and Louis C.K. attend the burial of a man they both hated, and seemingly everyone hated, and were the only ones there. They were both haunted by the thought of nobody being there, and decided to go. Afterwards they went to the strip club that this deceased jerk always talked about, and when they told the people at the club of his death, it turned into this weird scene of mourning for such a caring and generous and beloved man…at a strip club. Louie and Robin promise each other that they will attend the funeral of whoever dies first. Two years later, Robin Williams is gone, and we are the the crowd at the strip club. There has never been anyone like him, there will never be anyone like him again, and the world misses his funny, quirky presence. “Oh Captain! My Captain!”