After much speculation about who would get picked last at the NHL All-Star Draft, Phil Kessel suffered the ignominy of being the final guy. For the concerned: he'll live. In fact, I thought the only embarrassing thing about Kessel's turn as Mr. Irrelevant was the way the NHL tried to pacify him. In an infuriating bit of babying, host James Duthie coaxed an ovation out of the audience, verbally consoled Kessel (who couldn't have cared less) and then gifted him $20,000 to a charity of his choice as well as a brand new 2011 Honda CR-Z.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, the hundreds of children picked last in schoolyards across the country that day were given nothing, save a wedgie and an insecurity complex. Come on. These are NHL players, not grade-schoolers. Picked last does not mean picked on, and this was a room full of grown men capable of making that distinction. By reaching to console Phil Kessel, the NHL turned a relatable moment into another instance of millionaire ego-stroking.
Kessel didn't need to be given any consolation prizes. He was already at the All-Star Game. Know who wasn't? Tanner Glass. Where's his car?
Simply being invited was good enough for Kessel, and he said as much to Duthie. Not mentioned, but also a fairly decent consolation, was the fact that Kessel makes $5.4 Million a year, and if he wanted a new car, he could have paid cash for one. I hate talking about player salaries, but Kessel really didn't need that car, and you could tell by his reaction. Have you seen what happens when normal people are given a car? Their heart explodes. Did you see what happened when Phil Kessel was given a car? He smiled appreciatively, like he'd been given a gift card to Denny's.
It was a startling lack of perspective for the NHL to A) showcase Kessel's corresponding lack of perspective and B) take a very human moment like being picked last and turn it into another example of the divide between athletes and normal people. Most kids who are picked last can be consoled with a trip to Marble Slab Creamery. For a millionaire athlete, however, it had to be much more extravagant than that. Granted, they tried to balance it out by giving Kessel twenty grand to donate to charity, but that's about as meaningful as being given a Christmas present by your baby brother. Yes, I'm sure he picked this out himself.
These guys are still role models, after all. Considering the audience for this event was likely a lot of younger kids, I would have much preferred for the NHL to simply show what a good sport Kessel was being. Everything after that was overkill.
That said, if the event lost some of its relatability with this moment, we can thank Alex Ovechkin for saving the day. The highlight of the draft: Ovechkin's sheer glee at Kessel sitting alone--an image so comical to him he snapped a picture with his phone. Hilarious. Part of Ovechkin's charm is that, despite being one of the best hockey players on the planet, he's also plainly human. His parents live with him; he often gets caught sneaking a peek at the ladies; he can't dance. Heck, is there anything more human than the place where schadenfreude and camera phones intersect? That exact place is where the Internet was born.