To Be a Fan, or Not to Be



© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

When does a player’s actions outweigh their contributions?

Anymore, it’s not that uncommon to have players do something either on or off the field that makes you question if they should even be playing. But for good or bad, because they have a huge impact on the field everything else has a blind eye turned towards it. Or maybe because they play for your team it’s not considered as bad. At what point does that change for you?

This season I’m forced to reevaluate something I never thought I would have to.

The Colorado Mammoth traded for John Grant Jr. (JGJ) from the Rochester Knighthawks.

This is a very significant trade. Although older, JGJ is still considered to be on one of the best players to have ever played the game. I certainly can’t deny he’s talented, but I hate the fact that he’s going to be in a Mammoth uniform this season.

All because he did something out of anger while playing at the Pepsi Center.

December, 2006, 4th quarter is winding down and the Mammoth have the lead. Play moves from the Mammoth side to the Rochester side but 2 players remain behind. Some helmet mashing and pushing ensues before one of them turns and walks away. He gets several steps before the other player charges him from behind hitting him with his lacrosse stick to the neck below the helmet. The first player crumples to the arena floor while the aggressor leaves the scene, meanwhile play continues for several seconds on the other side.

The two players were John Grant Jr. and John Gallant. Apparently Gallant was doing a great job that night on defense and really got to JGJ who finally snapped and took his anger one step too far. Because the incident wasn’t caught on tape JGJ was slapped with a one game suspension while John Gallant was out for six weeks and missed three games.

Needless to say,Mammoth fans were livid at the time, but here we are four years later.

When Gallant was asked on the Mammoth forums what he thought of the trade he said “I’m excited to have Jr. on our team. He is a close friend and one of the best lacrosse players ever to play. He is a pure goal scorer, something we have not had here in Denver in a long time, if ever. Most importantly his number one goal is to bring a championship to Denver.”

So if the Mammoth Captain who was the recipient of the cheap shot is able to forgive JGJ, shouldn’t fans? Many think so.

In a week long poll asking what fans thought of the trade, most were split between loving the trade, and disliking it but still willing to support the team. A few felt JGJ was just fodder for another trade we haven’t seen yet, but at least a couple didn’t really want to support the team because of the trade.

I consider JGJ to be similar to Todd Bertuzzi and as such, could not imagine ever seeing Bertuzzi in an Avalanche uniform. But here I am being asked to cheer on a player I feel crossed a similar line and only received a slap on the wrist.  It could be argued that since Gallant is still playing, comparing JGJ to Bertuzzi is excessive but the Mammoth have lost at least two players because of concussions.  But that is a debate onto itself.

Regardless of where you stand, as a fan, I never thought I would be in this position.

I detest this trade so much that I’ve considered whether or not I wanted to keep my season tickets this year.

Am I overreacting? Maybe. I’ve been a season ticket holder for all but the inaugural season. I have a Mammoth tattoo. I have more Mammoth memorabilia than I would really want to admit to. My husband and I have done several road trips to catch Mammoth games. And I’m seriously considering whether or not I want to cheer on my team because of one player.

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  • http://www.prosportscolorado.com Jason Ackerman

    Well, without the historical context – ie, I don’t have the emotional reaction because I wasn’t there to see what happened, I don’t really have a strong reaction either way. All I can say is if the Bertuzzi comparison rings true, I would absolutely step away from the Avs as long as Bertuzzi wore that sweater, if he were ever brought to town.

    I think the difference is that no one sees Bertuzzi as much of a difference maker anymore. But I have to say I would be livid if the Avs ever brought him in. It’s a gutsy move by the Mammoth, they had to know fan reaction would be intense.

    • http://www.prosportscolorado.com/author/mdafni Melissa Dafni

      I’ve definitely hear from a lot of people that Bertuzzi is nowhere near the player he was before the incident. I really don’t know. To be honest, that situation and how the they handled it was a key turning point in how much I watch the NHL.

  • Tinthe303

    Two totally different incidents i was there and saw what JGJ did, it was very very stupid no doubt, but it didn’t end Gallant’s career. Bertuzzi changed Steve Moore’s live forever with that. Gallant was out yes but came back can’t say it’s the same situation.

    • http://www.prosportscolorado.com/author/mdafni Melissa Dafni

      That’s an interesting point. So to you, they’re mostly different because one is still impacted? I don’t know if he still does, but I know for awhile at least he suffered from severe headaches resulting from the incident. Watching both incidents definitely gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  • Dan

    I disagree, I think it was the exact same kind of indecent. One was just more severe than the other. One player used a stick on a part of the body that could have left the recipient paralyzed, the other used his fist and nearly did paralyze the recipient. So are you saying that just because Gallant didn’t have his career ended(and whole life changed) we should view the violent physical retaliation differently in JGJs case?

  • Charmaine

    I understand where you are coming from but if John Gallant has moved on and other team members are not having a problem with JGJ being on the team I would not give up on the Mammoth yet. I do not think he will be around very long. I know you are a die hard fan but you can let the team know your displeasure one is way to give up your season tickets. But could you not see the Mammoth for a whole season? Maybe boycott a game and let them know why.

    On a personal note I will only be able to see them three times this year in person because of work.

    • http://www.prosportscolorado.com/author/mdafni Melissa Dafni

      It’s true… me giving up my tickets really only impacts me. I would definitely suffer the loss of not seeing them. Although it would free up quite a bit of time which would make my friends and family happy. They think it’s weird I plan my schedule around the Mammoth games. =D Bummer work will be interfering for you to see them. Especially now that we don’t have Altitude to fall back on.

      My husband and I have been discussing the possibilities since the trade was announced… and I think I may have found another way to voice my displeasure which makes him happy since he doesn’t want to give up our tickets.

  • http://spacesbetween.spaces.live.com Ian Cerveny

    That’s a heck of a quandary. As a die-hard Avalanche fan I would march on Pepsi Center with pitchfork in hand if Greg Sherman ever brought in Bertuzzi. Both plays were clearly displays of cowardice by the offenders.

    It seems like players feel obligated to uphold a macho image in cases like these, saying that physical play is just part of the game. Even Joe Sakic came out in defense of Bertuzzi last year. But from the outside looking in, incidents like these seem unforgivable. If you act out in a way that potentially takes the game away from another player permanently, there should be no end to your penitence.

    The two incidents are different, though, even if that difference is dictated predominantly by the outcomes. It seems that JGJ leveled with Gallant and the two have a good relationship despite it all. Bertuzzi & the NHL are still stonewalling on Steve Moore’s civil case. Todd is making millions a year while Moore struggles to make ends meet and will never play again. Now THAT is unforgiveable.

    • http://www.prosportscolorado.com/author/mdafni Melissa Dafni

      I agree. Bertuzzi’s mistake is very long reaching and still impacting Moore in numerous ways. I know I’m not the only fan the NHL turned off because of how the incident has been (& continues to be) handled.

      It’s interesting to me though that in general, how much most fans can forgive a player for. I’m obviously just highlighting a couple of very specific incidents… but when you factor in some others…

      • http://spacesbetween.spaces.live.com Ian Cerveny

        Even many fans make the excuse that violence is “just part of the game” when it comes to sports like Lacrosse & Hockey. And while that’s true, anything that would be felony assault outside of the arena has no place in the arena away from the play. A fight is a fight. A blind-side assault is a jailable offense no matter what.

        That either league would try to whitewash such instances of cowardly assault away from the active play is ridiculous, and definitely hurts their viewership outside of the hardcore fan base.

  • http://www.prosportscolorado.com/author/mdafni Melissa Dafni

    I thought this was a very worthwhile blog post in response to mine, so wanted to make sure and share it:

    Get Over It by Graeme Perrow
    http://nllblog.tumblr.com/post/1584514475

  • Joan

    Is what John Grant did right? Of course not. He made a mistake, granted it was a big one but never the less it was a mistake. Did he say to himself lets see if I can injure this player so he can’t play for the rest of his life? I think not. He acted out of frustration and as many of us do when in a situation like that he did the wrong thing. I can’t compare it to the Burtuzzi incident because I don’t follow hockey so don’t know a lot about that. But does one bad decision make you a outcast for life? Does it mean you never get a second chance? If that was the case many atheletes and other well known people should be hated for life. I think if John Gallant and the rest of the team can forgive him the fans ought to at least give him a chance.
    As for you giving up your tickets the only one you will be hurting is your self, and possibly the other playes on the team. I think knowing that nothing they mean to fans could outweigh one person might sting a little to them. One person does not make a team and if you support a team you support them. If you don’t want to cheer for John Grant don’t. Turn your back when he is announced or even boo him, but don’t make yourself suffer because one person did something wrong. If we never associated or forgave someone who made a mistake we would have a very lonely life. We are all human, including John Grant, we all make mistakes and if no one ever forgave anyone this world would be in a bigger mess than it is now.

    • http://www.prosportscolorado.com/author/mdafni Melissa Dafni

      Thank you Joan for putting it so eloquently.