Stop Smiling, Gary

Bruce Bennett

In which we vent our lockout frustrations, not the least of which for this humble author is the attitude Commissioner Bettman seems to take in his public appearances.

Since today was arranged to be an airing of our lockout grievances, I figure this is a good a time as any to hoist my largest one: Gary Bettman's insufferable smile.

Every time the commissioner has spoken to the media over the last several months, you see it: A smirk, a grin, a twist of the lips that seems to say "Hey, look, I'm enjoying myself."

Even if you're winning this fight (for certain values of 'winning'), consider the way you're presenting yourself, sir. You are the commissioner of a sports league that has A) Written off the first 1/3 of its' season, B) canceled it's marquee on ice event, C) just toasted their biggest sponsor event / marketing opportunity (Oh, and $(%* you very much for that, too. Because the fanbase here in Columbus needed another kick in the wedding tackle.)

When you show up smiling and cracking jokes here and there, it may well be part of the plan to appear cool, calm, and in control of the entire situation. I'm sure it's a tactic that works great in the boardroom or the court, but when people are losing opportunities to work, losing the game that comforts them, losing their interest...it's inappropriate. You broadcast a message that everything's dandy and you couldn't give a damn about the situation, despite the fact that Rome is burning beneath your feet.

I may not like Donald Fehr that much, either, but at least he manages to look genuinely concerned and dismayed when he's spoken to the media over the last couple of months.

You're losing revenue. You've lost the PR war. You've lost the buzz and traction that an amazing playoff run in two of the largest TV markets you have generated. You're losing sponsorship dollars by the truckload, and there's a pretty good chance that you'll be losing a great deal more before all is said and done because of scorned and frustrated fans who decide their money is better spent elsewhere.

I'm not saying you have to wrestle up a load of crocodile tears, but at least a little more gravitas and solemn reflection would be nice. Maybe act like this is a personally impacting matter - to say nothing of a professional failure - and that you understand how serious the situation is.

It's difficult to think the NHL ownership and governors give a damn about this game, after all, when their chief representative just can't stop smiling.

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