In Giorgio Agamben’s theory of biopolitics, the concept of the homo sacer takes a central position (see Agamben’s book, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Meridian 1998). The homo sacer is a (pre-)Roman judicial concept of an individual that literally means the ‘sacred man.’ Its role is that an individual can be killed without fear of retribution under law, but cannot be sacrificed or killed ritualistically. This is strange, to say the least; “What, then, is the life of the homo sacer, if it is situated at the intersection of a capacity to be killed and yet not sacrificed, outside both human and divine law?” (p. 73).
What is could the analogy of the homo sacer be in the field of Hockey, rather then politics? One reading could be based on the analysis of a player; that the player could be dissected and judged by statistical numbers (killed / ruled by human law), but not judged and ranked on their qualitative attributes (sacrificed / ruled by divine law). Another reading could deal with how a player is traded: that the player could be traded for a presently useful part (killed without retribution from law/fans) but not moved for picks or a superstar (sacrificed for the future, picks, or for the past, a superstar).
The first reading is easily applied the homo sacer to Laddy, and it is done all the time on the Oilblogosphere. He is often judged for his lack of offensive production or his lack of defensive production, but always with caveats. He is dissected for his minimal quantitative growth as a player, while certain qualitative caveats are always brought up in the next breath: his underlying skill, or that he can skate, he is always seeing the game better, he can make the first pass, and he is getting meaner. He can be killed, judged by anyone, but the moment that he is sacrificed (judged on his skills) there is a never-ending uproar on the comment page. We all—including me— trot out his talents that do not translate into stats or claim that Dman don’t get good till they are 24ish. He is outside the laws of hockey: that any judgment on him cannot be seen as complete or valid, no matter what laws of hockey are applied.
The second reading of considering Laddy a homo sacer is more difficult. A starting place can be seen in the recent trade the Oil made (Brodziak for picks), the almost Not-Yet trade for Danny Heatley, and the Oilers’ desperate need for a third line Centre. The homo sacer in this case could be seen as a player that could be traded/killed for that useful third line center, but not traded/sacrificed for either of the types of player that the Oilers have/had been gunning for. To trade Laddy and his potential for draft picks, like Brodziak was, would be seen as a sacrifice to the future (and a sacrifice of the last meaningful piece of the CFP trade). If the Heatly deal went through, Laddy would be seen as a young defense-man sacrificed for a player that did not want to be here anyway: as a waste of potential for a disgruntled employee. But, according to the theory of homo sacer, if Smid was traded for that third line Centre the OilDiaspora dreams of every night, then he would be considered a causality of need: a killing without retribution by the fans. He is outside the laws of hockey based not on him as an individual but based on the desire of the law/fans.
Agamben sees the figure of the homo sacer as a way to “uncover an orginary political structure that is located in a zone prior to the distinction between sacred and profane, religious and juridical” (p. 74). I am suggesting we can use Laddy Smid to uncover the zone of indistinction that contains the desire of the OilDiaspora, an orginary structure that shapes the way we see hockey. He becomes a great case study on how we evaluate players in the many hours we spend reading blogs: the ideas that structure how we see the game of hockey in the twenty-first century. Laddy helps provide limits or boundaries to the zone of the Oilers’ current team, through our arguments about what we could trade/kill him for.Well this is the third post in the series of Theory and Defensemen; I hope you are enjoying it as much I am writing it. Again if you want to see your personal favorite philosopher and one of the remaining Oilers’ D-men (the Slovak, Gilbert, Steady Steve, or Strudwick) smashed together, with a hammer, just let me know and I’ll try and oblige.