In Defense of #18
From the first day that Mike Richards pulled on the sweater emblazoned with the “C,” a target was on his back. He’s one of the select few athletes in Philadelphia who will never, no matter what he does, get the credit he deserves.The man could hoist a Stanley Cup over his head - which he almost did last season - and people would still give him grief.
This is a man who deals with pressure unlike any most of us have or will ever know. He gets flack when he struggles. He’s the scapegoat when the team as a unit isn’t playing well. As a captain, that’s to be expected. But at a certain point, it’s a little much.
Today, on Twitter, Richards tweeted “Tim Panaccio thinks I'm moody and withdrawn with him. Maybe because he writes articles that are no where close to being true.” This was in reference to numerous quotes and reports from CSN Philly’s Panaccio that Richards is rude toward the media, simply because he doesn’t like to be in front of the cameras and tends to give short answers.
Imagine the pressure a person must feel, being under the spotlight as the face of a team. Richards is not a flashy person, on or off the ice. He is a quiet leader, and that apparently makes him unworthy of being captain. Does it say anywhere that a team captain has to be vocal? Chase Utley is considered to be one of the leaders of the Philadelphia Phillies, and it’s difficult getting a few words out of him. Does that make him a bad leader? His teammates, just like Richards’, will defend his leadership until their last breaths.
Richards had every right to say what he did. He comes under enormous fire and scrutiny, and he is allowed to speak up for and defend himself. Was it the right thing to do, saying it on Twitter? For the most part, Flyers fans have been supporting Richards, replying to him with words of support and gratitude for the way he plays. However, he may face some backlash from the media. Knowing Richards and his relationship with the media, if his tweet is brought up to him, he’ll either give a short response to brush the subject off (or not give any response at all), someone may make a story out of that, and the vicious circle will start all over again.
Leadership is much more than being friendly toward the media. It’s more than saying the right things. It’s about having heart, and doing everything one can to ensure that his team succeeds. It’s about carrying a team on his back when he’s barely able to hold himself up. It’s about accepting the scrutiny, even when it isn’t deserved.
Fans and members of the media alike are able to form their own opinions of players judging from what they see. Of course, media members may have somewhat better insight since they have more access, but only the members of the Flyers team and organization truly know what kind of a leader they have in Richards.
While it often gets lost in the midst of his issues with the media and the team’s struggles, Richards’ style of leadership cannot be ignored. It may not be flashy, and it may not be up to everyone’s standards, but his heart, determination, strength and everything else he brings to the team are not things that can be easily replicated or replaced.