Crosby a superstar everyone should respect

| Friday, July 13, 2007

At 19, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has established himself as the face of the National Hockey League.

He's a superstar who doesn't behave like one.

Crosby is every sports fan's fantasy: The hands-down No. 1 player who plays for the love of the game and doesn't take himself too seriously, while understanding that playing in the NHL is a privilege and not a right.

What a concept.

A league featuring a player such as Crosby -- the reigning league MVP who graciously turned down millions of dollars to sign a more team-friendly, five-year contract extension Tuesday -- is worth watching.

It should behoove NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to acquire a better television contract, so more people can watch a league with a star attraction such as Crosby, who's too good to be true.

True hockey fans know all about Crosby, who's worshipped here.

But Crosby's blue-collar appeal transcends the NHL and has the potential to draw people who don't know a red line from a foul line but pine for a humble superstar with a strong work ethic.

What Crosby did this week off the ice rivals what he accomplished on the ice last season.

What he did is just about unheard of for a player of his lofty status. He's a superstar who left millions of dollars on the table when he could have waited another year to negotiate and drive up his price.

Peyton Manning wouldn't do it in the NFL. A-Rod wouldn't do it in Major League Baseball. Kobe Bryant wouldn't do it in the NBA.

Make no mistake, Crosby is every bit as good in hockey.

He's the best of the best. He zigs when other players zag. He sees plays unfold before they happen. He plays the game on a completely different level from everyone else.

He's earned the right to squeeze every dollar out of the Penguins because not only does he help his team win, he brings more value to the franchise.

But Crosby isn't consumed by ego. He's comfortable with who he is.

He wants to win, and the best way for the Penguins to win is to keep their young and talented nucleus intact.

He's doing his part by signing a contract extension that will pay him what he's worth, but it may not be what he deserves over the length of the deal.

Crosby will be set for life before he turns 24. He'll never have to worry about money again. But it's still a bargain for the best player in the NHL.

Penguins fans should never begrudge Crosby his money and fame.

To his way of thinking, Crosby doesn't have to be the highest-paid player or drive the most expensive car to be happy. Heck, he's still a renter at Mario Lemieux's home during the season.

It's the kind of thinking fans would love to see from more superstar athletes.

Respect the game. Respect the fans. Remember where you came from.

Crosby has never forgotten.

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