Although he used to wear the number 68 to commemorate Prague Spring, former NHL star slash advocate for Russia’s new ice hockey league, Jaromir Jagr, has changed his tune. This comes from the New York Times via AOL Fanhouse:
“Here, it’s not like in the U.S.,” Jagr says at a different point. “You got such freedom, it’s hard to believe. In the U.S. you have so many rules, everything’s regulated and structured. When you make a mistake you pay for it – a lot.” It is a theme that Jagr returns to often, the freedom of this strange place. It is not so much that his departure from New York has left a disquieting wake, but that he has discovered the unlikely and unexpected promise of Siberia. “Look at A-Rod,” he says. “No matter how well you do – they always want more. Expectations only climb higher. In Russia you don’t have to worry if you make a mistake. And that’s what I love about living here. There’s always another way to make up for it. Nothing’s too serious. Nothing is a problem, and at the same time, everything’s a problem. But somehow no matter how bad things are, you can always work it out.”
Jagr’s enthusiasm to bash the United States and praise Russia is a good example of the kind of sports nationalism we talk about so often on this blog, and, in many ways, is parallel to the investment dialectic we see coming from Barclays, Eni, E.On, and so many others. Of course there’s nothing wrong with preferring to live in Russia, and Jagr probably has a point about the unreasonable demands placed on high profile U.S. athletes. But it seems rather dismissive to both his fans and former teammates to just shrug off the country where he spent 18 seasons earning many millions of dollars, as well as an insult to his family’s legacy (his grandfather died in a Soviet prison during Prague Spring). However, when Jagr refers to “mistakes,” he could just be referring to his outstanding gambling debts and failure to pay taxes.