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Pittsburgh Penguins star Phil Kessel performed a championship troll job during his day with the Stanley Cup this week, posing for a photo with the Cup filled with hot dogs.
This was an overt reference to the infamous column penned by Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun on the day Kessel was traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015, which inexplicably led with the anecdote that Kessel would buy a hot dog from a vendor near his condo “almost every afternoon.”
OK, it wasn’t “inexplicable,” in the sense that it could easily be explained as “fat shaming an athlete on his way out of town in an effort to underscore his presumed sloth and laziness.” Alas for Simmons, it also wasn’t “accurate,” as the Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets revealed there wasn’t actually a hot dog vendor at the cross streets Simmons cited in the article.
Simmons subsequently revealed that the hot dog vendor story was shared by “a friend of one of my kids who lived in the same condo that Phil lived in” and that this source – who apparently creepily monitored Kessel enough to know his hot dog consumption was “almost daily” – had told Simmons the corner he was currently standing on, rather than the corner where the hot dogs allegedly were.
The beautiful Grimm fairy tale about that column is that it’s quite insightful as to why Kessel might have been traded by the Leafs, except no one will ever remember that because Simmons went for cheap, chubby heat off the top and whiffed so incredibly on it. Rather than the sourcing, they’ll remember that he opened the door for Phil Kessel to dunk on him so hard that the backboard shattered this week.
“He has a sense of humor. He has a memory like an elephant, never forgets, but he has a sense of humor,” said Simmons.
“And a body like one!” chimed in Landsberg, lest we forget how this all began.
Simmons continued: “But you have to understand how this thing came to be. July 2, 2015, a column appeared in the Toronto Sun about Phil Kessel, and in the column I wrote three sentences – three! – about him and hot dogs. I think it’s about a 900-word column. And the online world with which we live, and bloggings and all the rest, just went ape whatever when that piece came out.”
If we could pause for a moment: He’s right. It was three sentences. The first three sentences, which as any writer from Steve Simmons to KesselFan69 knows can be the most vital in any article:
On top of that, they were three sentences that literally had nothing to do with the next 900 words, outside of being about Phil Kessel. There was no circling back to hot dogs in the summation, or anything like that. It was basically starting your keynote address with a fat joke to lighten the mood. Or something.
“And there was an inaccuracy in there which unfortunately made it challenging. And, um, because of that, the hot dog thing has taken off to such a point where there’s barely a day goes by where I don’t get a tweet from someone with a hot dog reference, a hot dog graphic, a hot dog picture. It’s amazing how this thing has had a life of its own.”
What did he think about Kessel’s photo?
“I thought two completely opposite things,” said Simmons. “I thought ‘Phil’s pretty funny, good for Phil making a joke about it.’ Two, that this is your day with the Cup. This is your day. You’ve worked this hard, you’re having a party. Why be so small to reference something that really isn’t important in your life?”
Maybe because once you’ve done something, you need to amuse yourself more the second time around?
The full segment is here, including a brief foray into the “vitriol against mainstream media” which Simmons calls “online anonymous vitriol” because so many bloggers have pants’d him. The segment doesn’t address the more pertinent media issue when it comes to Kessel’s time in Toronto, which is how mainstream voices like Steve Simmons turned him into an untouchable hero for Leafs fans as they watched the media use Kessel like a punching bag for its own pettiness.
Anyway, Simmons said he stands by “the story of him having the hot dogs,” so there’s that.
(Oh, and Steve, we actually do know where Evgeni Malkin took the Stanley Cup on his day with it. He made hockey history, in fact. It’s not “fatso eats hot dogs,” but it’s a pretty good story.)
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