By Greg Ellis
It comes with no great surprise that the worshipping of any-one seems distasteful. For religion we make an exception. Religion is an abstraction, a concept of God not fitting the molding of someone. Running into Danny Heatley, the NHL’s top up and coming star at a Subway Sandwich Shop at 3:30 a.m. provided tre-mendous observational opportunity.
My discomfort was visibly present as his “girlfriend” approached ever confidently towards me. An attractive woman, confident, with a stride in her step and a mesmerizing eye contact of almost an intoxicating nature. Much to my chagrin she was not checking me out, but advertising Danny Heatley being on her shoulder. Mr. Heatley’s behavioral modalities and physiological signals suggested he was on a great vacation via the hockey lockout. No objections there. His female friends’ demeanor was ostentatious, condescending and vitriolic while she appeared sober to me. Objections start here.
It began with her challenging my actual educational background, going further to making snide remarks about my attire. Entirely unprovoked, she seemed, prima facie offended that I had first not recognized her shoulder candy, and second, I had verbalized while shaking Mr. Heatley’s hand (with neither merit nor explanation) that I did not recognize him. My arrogance must have been inferred, because I could feel and see her angry eyes piercing into me. From this point forward, I had challenged her, and civility left for a fire drill.
Perhaps I should not have expected less or more. Puck bunnies are known for this type of demeanor. In person however it’s subversive repugnance was a difficult pill to swallow. On some level her veil of pride suggested she had achieved something by being in the company of Mr. Heatley. This was troubling. My worry was compounded in the company of a good friend of mine, one I have a great respect for, being reduced to a red faced school girl in Mr. Heatley’s company. Perhaps, before criticizing too far the argument should be flipped. Would I behave the same way in front of Noam Chomsky, John Stewart, Dennis Miller, Lewis Lapham, Hemingway, Steinbeck, or Warren Buffet? Probably. Or is it that Mr. Heatley seemingly will get off from proper prosecution after violating the duty and standard of driver care, thereby killing his long time friend and hockey mate. Mr. Heatley’s actions were not criminal but negligent, negligent indeed. The family of the victim, giving forgiveness in light of Mr. Heatley’s overwhelming contrition. Mitigating only, exculpating not. I don’t question Mr. Heatley’s remorse, its authenticity surely genuine, yet I am concerned as the chorus of opinion sides with the family of the victim’s coping technique of forgiveness while simultaneously ig- noring the reprehensibility of the action.
Surely, the public is not so easily star struck? So why are his actions readily defended? No mens reas right? No acteus reus right? Maybe. Mr. Heatley’s female friend be- coming the natural embodiment of all that’s wrong: Idol wor- ship, blind adherence and bandwagon behavioral opinions. Celebrity becomes a cathartic whitewash of influential proportion. Unfortunately, I don’t feel many of us are much far behind.
Mr. Heatley, I could tell, noticed I did not reflexively bow down to him, searching for a paper to have him sign or initial. Mr. Heatley’s seemingly momentary resentment of me caused perhaps as he peered into my mind and saw I was not the public. I would not let him off that easily. His hockey prowess and achievement gave him little lead way with me. He was just another man waiting in line for a sub sandwich, with a one followed by many zeroes in his bank balance and a contributor to a large causal zero in distorted public morality. Nonetheless, he was gregarious, engaging and somewhat humorous. Yet my problem lies orders of magnitude beyond Heatley, OJ, Scott Peterson or Martha Stewart. It resides in the nucleus of abject public opinion and watching its ugly head manifest through the unsavory actions of others. Thankfully I still play for the away team.