What's in a (nick)Name

Al Bello / Getty Images

Aka the "Cindy" Crosby rage piece.

Sidney Crosby is really good at hockey.

That's a bold statement, I know. But that's my story, and I'm sticking to it: Crosby = NOT sucky at playing hockey.

Crosby is an elite athlete, with stunning vision and the numbers to go along with it. He will (along with folks like Malkin, Neal, and Letang) present a challenge for those Bruins defensemen/defensive forwards (*coughBergeroncough*) in charge of getting him off the damn puck.

It makes sense, then, that he presents one of the prime targets for harassment from opposing fans. It's no fun to call out a fourth liner who has 3 minutes of ice time a game: it's much more satisfying to heckle a team's star player. Chara gets booed in opposing rinks, and so does Giroux. Hell, some folks in Detroit (sort of questionably) trolled the hell out of Patrick Kane the other night. It's part of the beauty of being a fan, trash-talking the other team's players.

Which brings us to the "Cindy" Crosby phenomenon, or as I like to call it, "misogyny wrapped up in homophobia with a great big helping of laziness and unoriginality." My version is, admittedly, a bit of a mouthful.

This phenomenon is the tendency of opposing fanbases to avail themselves of gendered and often homophobic (and transphobic) language to insult the Penguins' best player. Calling Crosby "Cindy" or "Sydney" (get it, they're GIRLS names instead of boys, get it get it?? Because he's like a girl because girls are bad and lame and weak so it's an insult and stuff. Sick burn, bro) seems to be the most common, but then there are the "princess Crosby" chants, the shouts of exactly what Crosby sucks, in terms of anatomy, and my personal favorite, the classic screaming of "fucking faggot" everytime he touches the puck.

Even some Boston media can't seem think through the implications of that kind of language. As one article wrote: "Sid the Kid has those that appreciate him as the greatest talent the NHL has to offer, and then there's those who think of him as ‘Cindy Crosby,' who harp on his chronic complaining to officials." It's a throwaway line, but it's one that happens one line into the piece: the use of the nickname is the lede in an article on the upcoming showdown between the Bruins and the Penguins.

Now before people jump down my throat for mentioning this, the problem isn't that the nickname was brought up: the problem is that it was left to stand on its own, with no context and no disapprobation. The scarequotes imply it isn't the author's opinion, so there's not necessarily endorsement there, but there's certainly not the condemnation that the practice deserves. Now, the article is problematic in other ways -- who cares about actual important things when there's a narrative to be adhered to by the way did you hear about Matt Cooke trying to kill Erik Karlsson blah blah blah -- but I'm mostly bringing it up to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the kind of language that's used around players like Crosby and the refusal by many (including those in the media) to problematize it.

The counter argument has been made (and rightfully so) that if being a girl isn't an bad thing, then why do people take it as an insult? Believe me, I would love to live in a world where calling a male professional sports figure a girl was considered anything other than a deep insult, but that ain't the world we live in. People call Crosby "Cindy" to imply that he's feminine, which is seen as a negative attribute within the hyper-masculine culture of pro sports. They call him a whole host of gay slurs because being gay = a perceived lack of masculinity and toughness. They do this because they want to insult him in the most cutting way possible, and to do that they need to attack his masculinity cred. So "Cindy," it is.

The thing that's infuriating to me is the sheer laziness of it all, or I don't know, the inaccuracy in this kind of chirping. What people MEAN to say (I would like to think) is that Crosby is a whiner who dives. The article mentioned above certainly seems to suggest that when "Cindy" is used, it's to point out that he's a whining diver who whines a lot. But instead of just saying that, they resort to calling him Cindy -- or a whole litany of other insults that are so intensely homophobic that I once had to almost leave a Pens-Devils game because I simultaneously felt personally threatened and was also on the verge of starting a fist fight with a drunk dude twice my size.

Personally, I think the whiny/diving rep Crosby has is a bit dated: sure, it was pretty bad when he was 18, but he's matured as a player and a person. Doesn't mean it never happens, of course, but we are none of us who we were 7 years ago. Is Crosby always going to get the calls? Probably. Is he going to work to draw those calls, perhaps with a bit of embellishment? Yep. So will people on this Bruins team. So will people on every NHL team. But go ahead, call him a diver, make scuba references, say he's whiny: those are legit (if somewhat outdated) complaints. Chant "Crosby sucks" if it makes you feel better as a fan, even though it is a patent falsehood.

But as we head into this ECF, Bruins fans, don't be a lazy asshole who resorts to calling one of the best players in the league "Cindy" like somehow being called a girl is the worst insult in the world. It's cheap, it's misogynistic, and it's so so lazy.

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