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Blackhawks Wed May 16 2012

Time for Kane to Rein it In?

GB blackhawks icon.pngAthletes are held under a tight microscope, both criticized as villains and heralded as gods for things that any other man might just call a full weekend. To some extent, an athlete must be allowed the right to make mistakes, and even drink to excess every so often, like any other person. However, as a society, there is the hope that the people who wield extraordinary talent will also demonstrate extraordinary self-control and prove themselves worthy of being a role model beyond their jersey. Somewhere in the middle though, an athlete's image is also a brand, and poor maintenance can be bad for business.

Patrick Kane is one such athlete. The kid likes to drink. It's not surprising when he goes out and gets himself into a little bit of trouble (or a lot, depending on which side of the cab you're on.) He likes to celebrate too. Who knows how much of the Stanley Cup parade he remembers from 2010, though he held himself together pretty well - enunciating most of his words during his speech, and even throwing a shout out to cabbies. In his latest outing, he joined hoards of other inebriated 20-somethings in Wisconsin and was raked over the coals for it.

Kaner doesn't hide his extracurricular activities, and the nation is all too eager to jump on the inevitable photos that surface in order to rain judgment down on the talented center. While this makes for some entertaining and clever photoshop jobs is he reaching a tipping point for raucous behavior? Every 23-year-old is entitled to a few "boys will be boys" antics. But Kane is scrapping the bottom of the barrel - which is a bit shallower when kids look up to you.

Blackhawks President John McDonough and owner Rocky Wirtz have put a lot of work into building a strong fan base for the franchise. They put home games on television for the first time in 2008. They reunited past stars like Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita as team ambassadors. A Scarborough Research report showed that interest in the Hawks is more than five times higher than it was five years ago. A tainted image could undo much of this progress, deterring the large family-focused demographic, no matter how skilled the perpetrator is on the ice.

Kane's individual indiscretions can be brushed away so long as they don't affect his play or cause injury to others. He's apologized in the past, and acknowledged that he has some growing up to do--which we can only assume is a work in progress. He plays well. He's entertaining and fun to root for. However, when an athlete demonstrates a significant trend of poor decision-making--even when he's not wearing his team's colors--sooner or later he becomes a liability that outweighs his scoring ability.

Right now Kaner is still just a kid goofing off. Every misstep gets a lambasting a doomsday cry from the media, but he's yet to really cross a line that can't be mended. However, if out of control outings become the rule rather than the exception, he needs to take his role as a public figure seriously and cut back on the libations, or at least steer clear of the cameras.

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