Goalless but nonetheless leading the NHL with 42 shots on net and 1.6 million directed somewhere around there, Phil Kessel has become a bigger story than the team he plays for.
I can’t stop watching Phil Kessel. I commiserate when he shuffles back to the Leafs bench after skating his guts out with no result. I count the shifts until he comes back.
Phil Kessel is absolutely riveting because he is doing everything a hockey player can do to manage what should come as naturally as a sneeze.
It’s been said that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Not so. Failure makes us human and right now Phil Kessel is irresistibly, gallingly, unexpectedly human. If you can’t fix your printer, if your teenager stuns you with her staggering lack of appreciation, if everyone but you is getting theirs, you my friend know precisely how Phil Kessel feels. The fact that he is an elite athlete, a multimillionaire and a star for the most popular hockey team on the planet matters not a whit. I can relate to Phil Kessel like never before. He’s one of us.
I die when the puck rolls off his stick. I sit slack-jawed when Michal Neuvirth – the same Michal Neuvirth who gives the puck away to James van Riemsdyk for a slam dunk wraparound – somehow slides across the crease to stone my guy Phil.
Honestly, I don’t know what Phil Kessel has done to deserve this. Life isn’t fair. Doesn’t it feel good to say that?
As far as I have ever managed to determine Phil bears malice towards no one. He doesn’t slash people. He doesn’t toss water bottles or smash his stick. Mostly, he misses the net or prompts a magnificent save and then smiles a pained smile that screams “can you believe what’s happening to me.”
No Phil, I can’t.
Imagine Phil Mickleson hitting 10 consecutive drives into the drink and then not complaining about his income taxes.
Imagine a frumpy Beyonce who just wants to stay in and eat Cheezies.
Imagine James Reimer dancing like Ray Lewis.
None of these scenarios would come close to the bizarre story that is Phil Kessel: the missed empty nets, bad bounces, goalposts, crossbars and highlight reel saves.
We can draw three conclusions from these events.
- Joffrey Lupul is worth his new contract. Lupul, Kessel’s consistent linemate, broke his arm seven games ago.
- The Hockey Fates exist.
- Someone up there is really, really mad at Phil Kessel.
What to do? Colton Orr is one good bounce away from outscoring Phil Kessel. These are not logical times.
Time for Phil to burn his equipment.
Barring that, I suggest an exorcism which you must admit carries a much friendlier carbon footprint. Not a big exorcism, maybe just an entry-level thing.
I am up for truth circles, mood rings, incantations and sweet grass, voodoo, Ouija boards, and brazen superstition. Hey, it’s a big tent.
We should all take a different route to work until Phil hits paydirt.
One final thought: I think Leafs nation should wear the same underwear until Phil Kessel scores.
I know it sounds silly. I mean each of us wear our own underwear. Silly.