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Brother Karsh's Column for LetsGoPens.com

Needing to Want

July 12, 2001

Perhaps there are innumerable ways to rephrase the age old axiom that, "You can't always get what you want." However, to truly touch upon the underpinnings of this argument, one would probably need to add this; it is impossible to make everybody happy all the time, and to expect such is pure folly.

Yesterday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Penguins traded future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr. They did so after he spent eleven years with the team and collected five Art Ross trophies and two Stanley Cup championships. They also did so based on the fact that Jagr was set to earn more than $20 million dollars over the next two seasons and that he seemed to sour on the team and city he'd done so much for over the course of his career.

Fans and followers of the present situation have recently taken to stressing this latter fact far above the former, but perhaps that's as it should be.

This is the Jagr of today; more assertive, more petulant, occasionally more gregarious, and certainly more skilled. Unfortunately, being skilled is not enough—moreover, it will never be. Not in Pittsburgh.

The reason for the discord surrounding this trade is simple, value is subjective. What the Penguins received yesterday was what Jaromir Jagr was worth to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals on July 11, 2001. For everybody else, the price should have been something else. Something more, something less, but most importantly, something different.

Only in all this debate about "equal value," and Jaromir Jagr's actual "worth," one begins to wonder why a value needs to be attached here at all.

Can one honestly put a price upon being in the building when Jagr batted that puck out of mid-air from his back to score against the Flyers, or when he basically beat the Devils single-handedly in Game 6 of the 1999 playoffs? Even if it's possible, ascribing any meaning to these and the hundred other moments like them is entirely up to the individual who witnessed the feat, is it not? For everything Jaromir Jagr has given Penguin fans over this last decade, did each of these people really receive "equal value" yesterday? Probably not.

But perhaps that is because there is no convenient currency exchange from memories and sentiment to dollars and cents.

There are those who've never liked Jaromir Jagr no matter how good his play. His attitude toward the fans, the game, the city; even his hair has taken a beating on the street and in print—as if the world lacks a more pressing issue. For these people Jagr's mere removal from the team they love constitutes more than appropriate payment. For these people, the wine has never tasted as sweet as it does today.

Nevertheless, no matter which side of the fence one wakes up on this morning, the only hope here is that there is gratitude for the talent Penguin fans were privileged enough to witness for over a decade.

It is all-too easy to get swept up in the 'good riddance' mob mentality sweeping the city, and it's just as effortless to condemn this trade when none of the players received have even set foot on the ice in Pittsburgh. However both of these actions discount the performance Jagr bled for during his tenure, as well as any future contribution those received might ultimately provide the Penguins—before they've even had the chance to put forth the effort.

Rather than looking at this moment and lamenting no big name defenseman, no number one draft pick, and no "value" to place opposite an equal sign, perhaps Penguin fans should attempt to see something a bit larger here.

Maybe this time would be better served if everyone decided to remember Jagr for what he did give the city, the team, and the fans. Perhaps instead of running him out of town, complaining about a trade that isn't even finished yet, or crying over what was hardly the crucifixion of a star athlete; those who wish to evaluate what transpired would be best advised to recall what actually did transpire.

How many times did Jaromir Jagr lift you up as opposed to let you down. How many times did Jaromir Jagr do things you thought you'd never see done on a sheet of ice. How many memories; which of his over 1,200 points scored will you, your friends, and your family take away from what his performance on the ice gave you, personally, uniquely, individually.

Maybe that's the way this should be seen now that it's all said and done. Maybe real "value" has nothing to do with a dollar sign, and maybe when one decides to quote an axiom, they should do so in the same context Mick Jagger did, relating not simply, "You can't always get what you want," but rather that, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com during the season and thanks Jaromir Jagr for giving everything he had to the Penguins over the last decade, because it's tough to ask any athlete to give much more.

Back to Karsh's Column List


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