Potential is a scary thing. Those who have it are cursed every day they don't live up to it, ashamed every moment they waste it. Conversely, those who lack potential either despise it, or covet it incessantly; sometimes to a dangerous extreme.
Eric Lindros has always had potential, and he's known about itin large partbecause his parents have done everything short of standing on their rooftop with a megaphone and a bar graph. Yet, Eric Lindros is also a lot like bulimia, the more you acquaint yourself with the concept, the more you lose your appetite completely.
His arrogance and attitude are everything the Stanley Cup doesn't stand for, yet, on Monday it was time for even those who loathe Lindros to get down on their knees and beg him one last time, for his own sake, to please never play professional hockey again. But not because Lindros is selfish and regards himself as bigger than the game; or because he continues to live under the thumb of his parents and appears to have never made a single, important decision for himself in his entire life; or even because his absence from the game benefits all involved in the sport itself.
No, Eric Lindros should never play professional hockey again because nobody wants to see any talented athlete become an invalid. Ever.
Do not believe the spin, Eric Lindros is not completely healthy, he may never be, and any doctor will tell you such. Right now Lindros is 'symptom-free.' This does not mean his head has fully healed, just that he's not showing any outward signs of injury. Inward, however, is a different story and concussion trauma is widely known to be cumulative, with each injury compounding the damage of the last.
In a period of roughly three years, Lindros has endured six concussionsthis makes it nearly impossible to know how hurt Lindros really is. That is, until he gets hurt again. Nevertheless, there were the New York Rangers, checkbook in hand, toes tapping impatiently.
The reason everyone is pretending that Eric Lindros isn't one misstep away from serious brain damage is simple. It's potential. The same potential which has dictated his career and which insured that any plea for his health, no matter how sincere, would fall on deaf ears.
What if he can finally use all the talent in his body? What if he can "stay healthy" for an entire season alongside the likes of Theo Fleury and Mark Messier? What if he can be as good as everybody always suspected?
What a wonderful fantasy. If only reality wasn't a factor one might be able to ignore the other question Lindros' track record begs.
What happens when Eric Lindros takes a shot to the chin and the head atop his 6'4" frame suddenly spins and starts to careen toward a solid sheet of ice, toward its seventh concussion in four years?
Before Eric played so much as a shift in the NHL, the world discovered that (save perhaps money) the Lindros family cares for little other than the advancement of the Lindros family. Even Lindros' new home with the Rangers was initially dismissed with the disgusted wave of a hand two months ago, so to pretend that he and his handlers have softened their ways since they held Quebec (and others) for ransom is sophism.
Eric Lindros has convincingly demonstrated a willingness to play professional hockey until he has trouble remembering his own name, and such idiocy is his business. Eric getting paid and Eric getting exactly what Eric wants is clearly more important than Eric's long-term health. Fine.
Of course, the decision of his agent/parents (thusly listed according to the priority they evidently place upon the relationship to their child) is short-sighted and will, without question, diminish the quality of Eric Lindros' life in the long run, but this is their decision to make. The NHL and society at large have no say in this, nor should they.
However, what the rest of the planet might want to concern itself with is this.
Based upon his style of play and the nature of the game, it isn't a question of whether Lindros will suffer his next, ostensibly career-ending, concussion, rather it is a question of when. Thus, no matter when it happens, one has to wonder; how severe will it be this time? Will he lay motionless on the ice, again, or will those in attendance be forced to watch his body convulse helplessly like that of Donald Brashear?
Will that image be worth $38 million?
Early reports have made a big deal about how Lindros can still be one of the 'top five players in the game' and how fantastic it will be to see old number 88 back on the ice. ESPN analystand former Flyer playerBill Clement even went so far as to call Rangers' General Manager Glen Sather "the best I've ever seen when he has a gun to his head." One can only assume he was ignoring the black humor in such a statement, and that Clement thought it inappropriate to speculate on what he might say should he be the one in the broadcast booth the night Lindros is wheeled off the ice on a stretcher.
It's too bad visions of potential only reveal moments of triumph, never ones of terror.
Understand, it is certainly possible that Eric Lindros will never sustain another concussion in his life. It may all turn around tomorrow. But that's not what the statistics suggest, and when it's someone's well-being on the line, at some point justifying the risk is simply indefensible.
Merely because Eric Lindros and his family don't seem to care, should the rest of hockey be given a pass to ignore the obvious warning signs and go along for what promises to be a macabre and gruesome ride? Should the paying public be grateful, fearful, or both?
Eric Lindros has always had potential, only from here on in it seems as if Eric Lindros' future on the ice promises little more than just potential tragedy. On Monday, the New York Rangers put the going rate on such potential at almost forty million dollars.
Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com during the season and thinks Eric Lindros is someone who has never been careful about what he wishes for. Brother Karsh is also increasingly bitter that he can't sit out an entire season and end up with a four year, $38 million deal. Thankfully, he has since fired Mark Gandler and is now seeking new representation.