The Best Role Model in Sports?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The other night, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel tweeted this:

As evidenced over at The Bleacher Report, some fans proceeded to rip Kessel. Shortly thereafter he replied with the following (and subsequently deleted both tweets):

I'm a Leafs fan. And, while it sucks watching the NHL Playoffs without them after yet another collapse, I have to wonder if Kessel's onto something.

In case you're unfamiliar with the NHL's 5th leading goal scorer (tied with Dallas's Tyler Seguin and one goal ahead of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby), he might be the most laid back guy in the league. At times, it seems as if he doesn't care. I'm betting he actually does care -- even if, quite possibly, less than his more intense and outspoken counterparts.

On one hand, I guess Kessel's attitude rubs me the wrong way. Kessel makes $5.4 million and plays in the league's most intense hockey city. A place where fans buy tickets and merchandise no matter how poorly the Leafs play. Toronto, as the you probably need a life If you use this old adage goes "lives and dies" with the Maple Leafs. So, intuitively, it's well within the bounds of sports fandom decency to wonder if Kessel's easy-going attitude contributes to the fact that, out of the league's top ten regular season scorers, only he and Alex Ovechkin missed the playoffs. Both sport +/- ratios on the negative side of the equation.

However, OTOH, Kessel's way of being spews fresh air. In fact, I wish I could be more like the guy. Win. Lose. Succeed. Fail. Who cares? Just live life the best way you can.

But, of course, like most of the fans ridiculing Kessel for taking it easy during a postseason he's not playing in, I don't want to be exactly like him. He has become one of sport's best role models (and players), but the route life forced him to take to get there was anything but desirable.

Phil Kessel only has one testicle. If you're laughing, stop. That's immature.

But, as Sean Gentille of ... I'll always say The Sporting News noted last year:

For whatever reason, the fact that Phil Kessel is a testicular cancer survivor has faded into the background.

For whatever reason ... maybe because some sports fans are idiots. That's one possible reason.

Around the time of his diagnosis -- as a 19-year old in 2006 -- quite a few articles noted how the experience helped Kessel "put his life in perspective." Leafs' fans who go after Kessel for relaxing with friends after a disappointing season could probably use a new outlook as well.

Kessel shouldn't have deleted his original tweets. If somebody made him, shame on them. He should tweet freely, ignore people who need to stop living life vicariously through others and pay attention to the social media fodder that really matters.


And, as if he was on cue, just as I was about to hit the publish button, Phil Kessel tweeted this ...

I think that's Leafs Center Tyler Bozak. Rip him for enjoying himself during the postseason, but he still looks better with his shirt off than you do. 

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a full-time columnist for TheStreet. He lives in Santa Monica. Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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