Monday, August 8, 2011

Everyone look. A Hockey Player Is Showing Personality.

I think one of the unfortunate things about Americans and Canadians is that many Canadians have a relatively easy-going, dead-pan sense of humor. As such, we, as Americans, don't always get the joke. We don't have patience for subtlety. As a result, hockey players don't have the same ease of marketing themselves in this country as they do in Canada, but it's not their fault. It's ours. Often we don't want to take the time to find them funny. We want something loud and obnoxious like Penny Hardaway yelling as a marionette or LeBron James pretending five different people.

Those commercials are, well, really stupid, but the unfortunate thing is that you never get to see hockey players in them because we just don't find them as funny. But today we got a reprieve from the totally amazing in every way Zach Parise. Now, it's odd that I bring up the whole bit about us not understanding the Canadian sense of humor because Parise, who just might be my favorite player in the NHL these days, is, as any hockey fan would know, American. But he grew up in Minnesota, which may as well be Canada, has a Canadian father, played hockey at the University of North Dakota, which I kind of assume is what Canadian prairies are like, and having spent so much time playing organized hockey at a high level for most of his life, he almost certainly has cultivated that Canadian sense of humor to relate to his teammates.

But in addition to Parise's barrier from making some headway into the American market, he plays for the Devils, a team that I have loved dearly since I was eight years old, but that has built it's entire era of success around a team-oriented game that can sometimes have superior talent lost among the smoothly-functioning machine. Parise is not as famous in this country as he should be. Granted, the appetite for hockey players being marketed wildly may not be the same here as it is for, apparently, the class act known as Stephon Marbury, but Parise is a brilliant and remarkable athlete, despite missing most of last season due to a torn meniscus. Aside from last season his injury history has been nearly impeccable while he's put up offensive numbers that, in the Devils' system, are truly remarkable. Factor into that his two-way play and you've easily got one of the top ten and maybe top five players in the game. That right there should mean his face should be plastered all across TV, but for some reason it's not.

In this country.

But thank God for Canada's insatiable appetite for hockey in all things, and thank God for the creative marketers at Easton who decided that the best way to pump up the Parise marketing machine is to make a Starsky-and-Hutch-esque detective parody with the highly skilled forward.

Apparently this video came out in March, but somehow I didn't actually come across it until today. I don't know what took so long, though I feel better knowing the Devils apparently didn't find it until yesterday, but thank goodness I've seen it now, because it's not brilliant, but, well, it's pretty funny. And it's way less awkward than some of the other commercials some of my favorite hockey players have been in.

I doubt this is any gateway to Parise breaking into the American market, and the ending may be a little morbid, but with the dog days of summer starting to bear down and the Mets season effectively over after yesterday's demoralizing loss to Atlanta, I'm glad this 45-second bit of 1970s minutiae came into my life this morning. In fact, it was the best bit of Devils-centric news I came across today other than Martin Brodeur going back to his old mask.

It isn't exciting, but this is what keeps me going during the dark days of August, particularly since I'm not in Europe enjoying my vacation anymore. And just to think, if I had come to Berlin three weeks later I would have gotten to meet a dark lord of the Sith. Either way, the point remains that clever, fun commercials like these don't show up with hockey players enough, in this country or any other.

I would love to see more players in goofy situations like this one, and while there are a fair number of commercials with hockey players doing goofy things and showing a sense of humor -- just do some YouTube-ing if you don't believe me -- we don't see them on TV enough in the United States, particularly when there's an opportunity to do so with an American-born star like Parise. Hopefully, it won't be the last time he gets to market himself like this.

I just hope that stunt over the car in the beginning isn't how he actually tore his meniscus.

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