Laddy Smid as Homo Sacer




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.

The Interpellation of Acid Eater: An Althusserian Case of Grebeshkov's Arbitration









A long time ago, in 1970, Louis Althusser developed the idea of interpellation. This is the process in which the individual recognizes themselves as the subject, or in his words

that ideology ‘acts’ or ‘functions; in such a way that it ‘recruits’ subjects among individuals (it recruits them all), or ‘transforms’ the individual into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: ‘Hey you there!’ (On Ideology, Page 48)

Since the existence of ideology and the process of interpellation are one and the same thing (that ideology can only be observed through ‘hailing’) and that ideology is eternal (existing outside of time or as a suppression of temporality), “individuals are always-already subjects” (ibid. 50).

What can this mean? One interpretation is very Lacanian (which Althusser heavily relies upon his mirror-stage): Through recognition of the other, the subject recognizes himself or herself but the other already recognizes the subject as a subject. Hence through hailing—interaction with the other, looking in the mirror—the individual sees themselves as a subject, or active agent in process, while the others recognizes the individual as the subject before they could hail them—just as the child recognizes their own body in the mirror and separates his body from his mothers, while the mother already-always had recognized the child as separate.

What does this mean for our always-already subject? According to Althusser, that they are subjected to (i.e. forced or submissive to) the Subject (the other always-already subject of the other). The Subject is the mother in our case, or God to the Christian subject in Althusser’s case. The interpellation of the subject by the Subject is a speculary, or mirror-structure, of ideology that centralizes (makes Absolute) the domination of the subject by the Subject, as well as proving the existence of the individual/subject: “[interpellation] subjects the subject to the Subject, while giving them in the Subject in which each subject can contemplate its own image (present and future) the guarantee that this really concerns them and Him” (ibid. 54).

The overall process of ideology is:

“1. the interpellation of ‘individuals’ as subjects;

2. their subjection to the Subject;

3. the mutual recognition of subject and Subject, the subjects’ recognition of each other, and finally the subject’s recognition of himself;

4. the absolute guarantee that everything really is so, and that on condition that the subject recognizes what they are and behave accordingly, everything will be all right” (ibid. 55).

All of this happens simultaneously, and ideology bookends the process of ideology: in hailing, and the fact everything really is so. That ideology is eternal, or out of time: that it pre-exists subjectivation and is the end result (that everything will be all right, so don’t rebel).


Now what does this have to do with hockey?

Well, the young man Denis Grebeshkov, aka Acid Eater to those in the know, needs a new contract and is currently scheduled to go to an arbitration hearing, on August 4. Now the great folks at Copper & Blue have done an excellent job proposing what might go on at that hearing, so I am going to see if I can describe the hearing according to Althusser’s theory of interpellation. In each of these case the Subject and the subject switch around, but in each one the arbitrators is always Ideology!

Idea A: The idea that the Oilers brass favours. Grebeshkov is the subject in this case: not just as a subject of a hockey player but also as a subject as a two and a half million dollar (or more) hockey player. The Subject—mother or God—is the Oilers in this case.

Step 1: The Oilers hail Grebeshkov with a two year, 2.5 million dollar contract

Step 2: The arbitrator sides with the Oilers, and subjectgates Grebeshkov to the Oilers for a period of two years.

Step 3: The mutual recognition of Grebs as a 2.5 million dollar man and the Oilers as the dominating force. In this Grebs learns that he really is an offensive D-man, and the Oilers are his bosses

Step 4: There is an absolute guarantee of the contract, that Grebs will be paid and that he really is just a 2.5 million dollar man. That, if, Grebs recognizes this and plays up to his expectations, everything will be all right (i.e. he will not be demoted to Springfield or trade) and next contract he’ll get what he is looking for: 4 million, or more, per season.

Idea B: One that the fans want. Grebs is both the subject and the Subject; and the Oilers are both as well. (I don’t know if this can happen in Althusser’s system of theory, ‘cause I am making up as I go along).

Step 1: Grebeshkov and the Oilers both submit ideas for contracts to ideology/the arbitrator. Hence they both hail each other at the same time.

Step 2: The Arbitrator assigns Grebs a two-year contract worth 3.25 million dollars. Hence Grebs is subjected to the Oilers or that he must play for them for two years, and the Oilers are subjected to Grebs or that they must admit he is worth more then they originally offered.

Step 3: There is a mutual recognition of their own faults and their greatness. That both recognize each other in a way that highlights the best in each other.

Step 4: Grebs sees that he is an elite offensive D-man, and the Oilers see that they got him under contract for a good price and term (that everything is as it is). If Grebs plays as he did last year and the Oilers treat him with respect, everything will be all right (Grebs out performs the contract and at the end of the contract he signs a four year deal at 4 million for a home town discount).

Idea C: The idea that no one would prefer. Grebeshkov is a 4 million dollar subject, that he is always-already a four million dollar subject and just now is everyone recognizing him as such. The Subject is money the arbitrator signs to Grebs, rather then the Oilers.

Step 1: The arbitrator assigns Grebs a 4 million dollar contract to the Oilers.

Step 2: the Oilers can’t afford that much, but Grebs is subjected to Money rather then the Oilers, and he stays loyal to the money on the table (wouldn’t you?)

Step 3: There is a recognition of Grebs being an elite and well paid D-man around the league. Also, others recognize the Money as the dominating force in the young Russians life. Grebs head swells with ego and pride.

Step 4: There is undeniable proof that Grebs is rich and expensive (that everything is what it is). That if Grebs just accepts this and doesn’t run of his mouth, that he’ll get his payday. Because of this the Oilers will have to trade him or let him go to UFA, or that everything is all right for Grebs.

In this and the last post, I have taken a philosopher and applied their ideas to an Oiler defender. I think it is a good idea for a series that should last the entire summer. If anyone (except Shepso) wants to see his or her favorite philosopher applied to an Oiler D-man, just write the person or idea in the Comment section and I’ll try and oblige you (extra effort if you link up a philosopher or concept to a specific Oiler on the back end).

The Affirmation of Big Sexy

So over the summer the OilDiaspora has decided that conventional wisdom is to trade Sheldon Souray as soon as possible. Most of the commentators on the great Oil Blogs I read, repeat the same mantra over and over regarding Souray “Sell high, Sell high.” The point I think is that they either think he is old, oft injured, and unable to repeat his phenomenal season, or that he is an over-rated player.

While their maybe an element of truth in the former, the latter is absolutely stupid. There were many Montreal Fans saying the same thing about Souray after 06-07 season: including my Uncle who laughed in my face for two years (but I really did enjoy asking him if he wanted Souray back this year to lead the Habs' power play). Souray plays mean & tough, is strong defensively, plays both special teams, and scored goals—tied as our team leader with 23. Any discussion of him not being a elite defenseman is bunk: he is not Lidstrom or Pronger, but I think most teams wouldn’t mind a powerplay expert who plays over 20 minutes a game against the other teams top opposition (and still manages to come on the plus side).

In reality both the ‘sell high’ theory and the ‘Souray isn’t really that great’ theory are dependent on the same conceptual framework, or in other words, the idea of trading Souray now is exactly the same as him being an ‘over-rated’ player. In both cases Souray’s value (as a hockey player) is identified in a reactive rather then in active way: that his value is created by being compared to the Other (aka CFP) rather then as a purely affirmative expression of his worth.

Nietzsche can help in understand this difference: in an earlier post, I briefly outline Master and Slave Morality and these categories can be used to understand how we value Souray. Most bloggers are slaves (no disrespect, really), that they always compare players/individuals—hence indirectly create their value—by expressing it in relation to one another. In the same way the slave looks at the master, sees what s/he is lacking, and labels that evil: the blogger looks at the pinnacle of power (Chris Fucking Pronger), sees what Souray is missing, and labels that as inferior. The value (the Good) of the slave and Souray is always mediated by the Other: it is reactively asserted rather then affirmed by his play. Both the ‘sell high’ and ‘Souray isn’t really that great’ theories are negative rather the positive conditions of hockey, both focus on the Lack of Souray.

Few commentators focus on what Souray brings to the Oilers: they express his worth as an assertion of his on-ice play. Instead of comparing his value, we see Souray as directly creating value for the Oilers: his volatile temper, his shot, his physical play, his leadership, and his special team skills. In order to be masters, bloggers need to stop valuing these elements because no other Oiler defenseman brings them, but starting valuing them because they expression of all that is good in defensemen. To objectively see the value of Souray, we need to construct a positive and active assessment of Souray: one that is not based on the play and talents of Others but focus on what Souray brings, everyday, to the team.

In my opinion, we need Sheldon Souray precisely because of all that he affirms while he plays. The Oilers, and their fans, need to stop comparing the flaws (the Lack) of Souray and examine him based on the value he creates by himself. We have be so convinced that Good is a construction based on reaction to the Other, that we don’t see the active value Souray affirms by his individual play. If the Oilers are going to make the playoffs, they need more players like Souray not less. Damn it, we should just make him the Captain and move on.

Heart Break and Heatley

Here are the two players I wanted the most on Free Agency Day (or known as Canada Day, for my more nationalist friends). One is John Madden from New Jersey; a good third line centre and a UFA. The other is Danny Heatley from Ottawa; a pure sniper Left-winger and a selfish player demanding a trade. I will deal with Mr. Heatley first and them move on to the more pressing need (third line Centre, which myself- and half of the OilDiaspora- have been begging for since Sept. 2008). Maybe if I am not to angry and drunk, I'll deal with goalie situation.

Well the Heatley situation reminds me like my recent love life: shooting for the moon to reach my Ariadne, but only to find a empty island and I can't quite figure out how to get home. Both the Oilers and I should learn that aiming for princess (some out of our leagues) often gets us alone on the island: after reaching Naxos we only learn a God, and the God of Wine, had beat us there. The Oilers offered a package of Youth (Cogliano and Smid) up for her, while really I don't have much to offer (but I did travel to reach her), to find out that a son of Zeus- aka the Rangers- is also in the mix. But both my Ariadne and Heatley have haunted my dreams for the last few weeks . . .

Maybe we never found Naxos, and spent the last little while searching the wrong island. Maybe we should have never reached out to the demi-mortal, and aimed for a more practical love. Either way we have had our dreams for a while and now we need to take Mick Jagger seriously. So what do the Oilers need:
- Martin Havlat: would look great with Hemskey. I think he is big enough and is definitely defensively responsible. Would he come here?
- Marian Gaborik: mister glass groin! But I would think he is the most talented player available. Would love to see him with Hemsky, but size and dependability's is an issue.
- Mike Cammalleri: is a shooter, and we need that. But is really small and we have too many Smurfs. The Folks on the Team think he will be the biggest over pay of free agency.
- Jason Williams: he could be a fit and is a UFA. I would think he is more of a second line player (tops) and really is a decent third liner. He would be affordable, I am thinking 2 million for two years. Kinda small again.
- Ales Kotalik: he seems like he wanted to be here, and he can play on multiple lines (from one to three). Can quarter-back the power play, and could replace Big Sexy or the Slovak on the first or second PP. He is big, but doesn't hit that much. Most likely will be cheaper then the rest of the second liners on this list (about 2.5 Million for two years).
I know I have tried to find what I need (and have found it on a weekly basis), and I hope the Oilers try to figure out what they need. Neither of us can get the total package, but lets aim for two out of three: looks, intelligence and emotions, or size, skill and dependability.

Now on to the most pressing need for the Oilers: the third line centre! A lot of folks (bloggers and MSM alike) think we need a starting goalie first, but those are always cheap on the trade front: Thanks to coach, JW, and others on Lowetide for teaching me this. We need a reliable third line centre that can shut down the big skilled forwards in the West. I think John Madden is the guy for us. First, he is smart since he is from the Jersey system and we know that the Oilers love that trait. Second, he plays the toughs: 0.03 QualComp (2nd highest of all Centres in NJ, playing 50+ games) but with -0.37 QualTeam (the lowest of all centres). He did have the worst GAON/60 and traditional plus/minus of all those centres, but those can be related to his play the toughs with the dregs. I think we can get Madden for a reasonable price tag: I'd give him 2.5 million for one year, so that he clears the cap so it would be easier to resign Gags. Think about the third line of:
New LW grinder (Moan/Ward) - Madden - St. Fernando
Hopeful all three of them could come of the books. Pay them 6.5-7 million (1.5-2 Million new guy, 2.5 million for both John and Freddy) and then they all come of the books. This way we can re-sign the ones that earn their keep and are willing to take a pay cut.

Now to the Goalies: We got Nikolai Khabibulin! I am pretty happy about this, even if others are saying he too old (Roli was older then this when we signed him to his three year deal after of the run 2006). I was hoping for this since the middle of the season. His contract is very reasonable: $3.75 Million a year for four years. He has a career goal against of 2.67 in the regular season, and 2.40 in the playoffs! His save % is 0.908 in the regular and a 0.914 in the playoffs! One Stanley Cup: This man is a BIG GAME player!! Good job every Tambo, now go get Ariadne.