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The Curious Case of Emerson Etem

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25:  Emerson Etem, public enemy No. 1..  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Emerson Etem, public enemy No. 1.. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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By now, you’ve heard the story: Emerson Etem Tweeted less than favorable things about the city of Buffalo during the World Junior Championships. In case you haven’t read his supposed hate-filled rant, I’ll share it with you.

Buffalo is a ghost town. The worst city ever! It makes Medicine Hatlook like paradise. I never thought I'd say that.

In return for this comment, Etem was subjected to boos from the crowd at the HSBC Arena every time he touched the puck in Team USA’s game against Slovakia on Tuesday night (Dec. 28, 2010). Now, I don’t know this for sure, but I think it’s safe to assume the booers were Buffalo residents offended by his comment. Did you catch that? Buffalo residents...Buffalo, NY...Buffalo, NY, USA. Americans were booing a player on the American team, a team they came to see and, I would hope, cheer on to victory in the championship. It seems counter-productive to me to do that, but perhaps that’s just me.

Perhaps it’s also just me, but I just can’t understand why those comments warranted booing in the first place. An 18-year-old kid doesn’t like your town because he thinks it’s boring. So what? The truth is that in the dead of winter on a weeknight when the colleges are on break, Downtown Buffalo IS a ghost town. Or at least, that’s what all the residents are saying. I’ve read comments like, "What does he expect..." and "The city is a victim of bad politicians and a terrible economy..." So let me get this straight: you folks are admitting that your city does not have much going on right now, yet you are mad that a kid on a hockey team points out that your city does not have much going on right now? Yeah, that’s worth booing him over and risking the on-ice offense he could provide.

This begs the question as to what action warrants booing? Do players who are traded without warning to an inter-division rival deserve it? What about players who choose to leave after their contract is over? Is there ever a time to boo a player because he did not sign with your team? How about a player who isn’t playing well or seems to be mailing it in? If a team is having a rough go of it, should they get the booing treatment? Really, these are asinine reasons to boo a hockey player.

In Denver, one player will always get booed every single chance the fans get to do so: Todd Bertuzzi. Why do Avs fans do this? They do it because Bertuzzi ended the career of one of their own via a ruthless and unnecessary act. If you ask me, that’s the kind of player who deserves the boos. Matt Cooke deserves them, too, for the dirty tricks he’s unleashed on opponents. You could also make an argument for booing guys like Chris Pronger and Sean Avery. But to boo a guy like Ilya Kovalchuk because he came to your city on the pretense of signing with your team without intending to actually do so or Adam Foote because he asked to be traded to another team is an insult to the reasons guys like Bertuzzi and Cooke are booed.

Etem didn’t deserve the kind of treatment he received Tuesday night. For those that think he did, well, he’s been told in no uncertain terms that the residents of Buffalo don’t appreciate his comments. I hope, however, the fine folks in the HSBC Arena let it die and give Etem and the rest of Team USA the support they need to win this tournament. If they don’t, what does it say about them and their commitment to seeing their country honored by their team taking home the Gold?  Perhaps it says they may be the ones who deserve the boos.