In Praise of All-Star John Scott, Everyman

When I first wrote about John Scott in March, praising him in his role as a San Jose Shark, I had no expectation this would turn into a John Scott trilogy. But an article in March was followed by another in early December at the early stages of the All-Star voting.

Let me start this third article with the proper confessional. I have praised Scott, though the praise has always been through the prism of expectations. Against a low bar, I praised Scott for doing more than was expected. I used evidence to show that his critics were overly harsh and sometimes mistaken. But I never set the bar high. Like most everyone else, I underestimated the man, just less than most. The line for who has been wrong about John Scott is very long. I’m in that line, just not at the front of it.

Every Kid’s Dream

John Scott
Scott’s journey took him to San Jose last season (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Most of us have had the dream and almost all of us have seen it dashed at some point. We dream of winning the big game. Hitting the winning shot, the winning home run or the winning goal. For some, the dream is coming from behind to win on the last lap. For others, nailing the last routine and the judges awarding nothing but 10s.

For some, the dream meets reality early. Being not quite good enough even before becoming a teenager. For others, the competition goes into high school and college. For a very very select few, they make it to professional levels. Against the other very very select few. Scott made it to that level, that rare air. And that is where his chance at becoming a sports hero came to a stop. Or so it seemed. Even getting to the highest level the sport has to offer guarantees little; only a small number get a shot a being a hero.

Whitney Houston sang ‘One Moment In Time’ as the theme for the 1988 Olympics. The song spoke to the glorious moment when a person proves themselves in a test among the best of the best. Who among us hasn’t wanted to prove the world wrong, even if it is for just one moment in time?

Almost everyone has been benched. Or replaced. Or superseded by someone whose talent is greater than their own. For all but a few, the question is when that happens, not if. A good friend of mine (who has lived a terrific life) occasionally jokes about having peaked at age eight. We both know it is not true, but we also understand that each time the competitive circle widened, the legend in the making took another hit.

In my second article on Scott, I mentioned Cal Ripken, a player having a poor year and playing his final All-Star Game. But the fans wanted to see him and they were right. Ripken hit the home run and took the MVP award, much to the delight of baseball fans everywhere. The comparisons between Scott and Ripken run very thin, very quickly. However, both possess an everyman quality, a working class mentality infused with joy, grace and gratitude. I had no expectation when I mentioned Ripken that Scott would become an All-Star MVP, but he did. The fans were right to vote in Ripken. They were right, even if many did it for questionable reasons, to vote in Scott.

Carpe Diem, A Dream Fulfilled

John Scott Blackhawks
Chicago was another stop for Scott (Warren Wimmer – Icon SMI)

Yesterday’s All-Star Game featured a person with one shot to live a dream. His path to get that shot was absurd, but there was no questioning the integrity with which he pursued it. People can relate to John Scott because we have all hoped to have that one shot.

John Scott was good enough to play at a high level. But only marginally able to play at the highest level. He was the guy on the bench. The guy being passed over. The guy being demoted. The guy who was only around for a single skill. Though he had risen far higher than most, he was the everyman.

Yesterday, he lived that universal dream. He got the chance to step onto the big stage. He had the opportunity to be the hero. And in a script that was truly unimaginable, he became the hero. Not just the lovable guy who happened to be on the winning side, but actually one of the reasons that his team won.

Part of the universal dream is the winning moment. Another part is the world taking notice. The ovation that lets you know the world is with you. On that front, Scott was perfection. The hero was pitch perfect. He was proud without being arrogant, appreciative without a hint of condescension towards those who had doubted him — which was pretty much everyone. Scott was already a winner, long before an All-Star appearance became even remotely possible. One only had to look at his adoring and adorable family to understand how tall he stands as a person. Away from the bright lights, Scott was already winning big at the game of life.

Under yesterday’s bright lights, the underdog became the victor. He showed that the everyman can be something special, even if it is for just one moment in time. As the song lyrics say, “to taste the sweet, I faced the pain.” John Scott faced the pain, literally. Then he got to live the dream in a way he could have never expected. He seized his moment. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.