'Knuckleheads' can't wait to boo 'traitor' Hossa

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In Philadelphia, it has been written and said, the fans are so nasty they boo Santa Claus.

Philadelphia has nothing on Pittsburgh.

In Pittsburgh, they regularly and vociferously boo the second-greatest hockey player to perform for the beloved home team.

In Pittsburgh, they boo the kid third baseman who had put up Roberto Clemente-type numbers until he was mysteriously traded.

When it comes to knuckleheads, Pittsburgh has it all over Philadelphia.

Jaromir Jagr, who is clearly behind Mario Lemieux and clearly ahead of everyone else on the list of Penguins' greats, won two Stanley Cup titles and five scoring titles -- four in succession -- while playing in Pittsburgh. Also while with the Penguins, he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP once, the Pearson Trophy, the players MVP award, twice and was a five-time all-star.

For this he is relentlessly booed at Mellon Arena every time he touches the puck.

Knuckleheads rule.

At least, there is a degree of twisted logic to the booing of Jagr. He often behaved like a petulant child during his time in Pittsburgh, which began when he was 18 and ended before he was 30. While such behavior is not acceptable, it's not uncommon for young people who have suddenly found themselves millionaires, and in no way should be allowed to diminish his sterling accomplishments.

There's no explanation for the booing of Aramis Ramirez. The Pirates traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 2003, at the age of 25, while he was on his way to his second 100-RBI season. To put that statistic in perspective, Clemente had two 100-RBI seasons during his entire career, the first of which came when he was 32.

For unfathomable reasons, Ramirez was regularly booed at PNC Park when he came to bat with the Cubs, where he is one of the best third basemen in the National League.

Knuckleheads rule once more.

And now these people are rubbing their hands in glee with anticipation of Feb. 8, when they can show the world the depth of the Pittsburgh knucklehead population. That's when the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings make their only appearance at Mellon Arena in the 2008-09 regular season. The knuckleheads aren't excited about a chance for the Penguins to get some measure of revenge for their loss in the Cup final. No, what they can't wait for is the chance to rain down boos on Marian Hossa.

Hossa's crime?

He chose to play in Detroit instead of Pittsburgh.

No question, Hossa's decision on where he would play his hockey in 2008-09 was a strange one. He left tens of millions of dollars on the table in Pittsburgh and other places to play in Detroit for one year at $7.4 million.

For that, the knuckleheads want him enshrined in the Benedict Arnold Traitor's Hall of Infamy.

The knuckleheads have quickly forgotten that without Hossa the Penguins probably would not have made it to the Cup final. They forget he owes no allegiance to the Penguins since he played here for only a few months, coming over in a deal with Atlanta at the trading deadline.

Here's what the knuckleheads can't understand: How could Hossa walk away from the honor of playing with the Penguins?

How could he dismiss the opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby?

How could he turn down all that money?

Easy! Hossa wants to win a Stanley Cup and he's using this one-year window to take advantage of that opportunity. The Red Wings were the team with the best chance of winning the Cup, and by adding Hossa they increased their chances.

And, in case you missed the six games of the Cup final, Detroit has some pretty good players with whom Hossa can share the ice. Maybe not a Crosby, but close.

What about the money?

Penguins fans revere players who take less money to play for the Penguins. It shows these players are team oriented and put winning in front of the almighty dollar. But when Hossa does the same thing, he's lambasted.

Hossa will take out an insurance policy to cover himself in case of career-ending injury this season. He will then go after the big pay day next year. For one year, he wants to win a Stanley Cup.

He put winning ahead of money.

For that the knuckleheads will bask in the glory of booing Hossa Feb. 8. That's why they're knuckleheads.

Bob Smizik can be reached at bsmizik@post-gazette.com .


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