Step One: Identify the Problem

by Ryan

I missed pretty much everything tonight. Jon went to see the Yankees play the Sox at the Stadium, and I worked all night. I missed five games and really have nothing to say about any of them, which really bothers me. Something has been left unsaid about last night, though, so here it goes.

What is it about this photo that is so ridiculously enjoyable? I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I’m pretty sure the best part of that shot is that we know exactly how it feels.

Don’t you absolutely f–king hate that Chrysler commercial? You know the one, with the bridge from “Better Days” playing while nice looking cars roll by on pristine city streets? As a Sabres fan, hasn’t that song been murdered by the results of last season? For me that Goo Goo Dolls’ song brings up an emotion I’m still not sure how to handle, and I really don’t need to have that stirred up while I’m watching playoff hockey.

Not being in the playoffs sucks, there is no other way to put it. We missed the majority of the blogger playoff party last year and this year we never had the chance. I get insanely jealous reading sites with teams in the postseason, and I can’t help but envy the excitement that is generated in a hockey rink this time of year. (God I miss those crowds…)

Still, it seems that my enjoyment of the playoffs thus far has been focused on the failure of other teams. What made the collapse of the Senators fantastic was that they had such great expectations and fell so far short of them. After last year’s Finals appearance and their subsequent start to this season there was no question this team would do great things. There were talks of record high point totals and “best ever” tags were thrown around.

Before you know it, Brian Murray is behind the bench again and guys like Cody Bass and Brian Lee are letting Rutuu score soft goals in must win games. Seriously, does anyone know what happened to this team?

If the last two paragraphs seem a bit familiar, well, welcome to Sabres hockey. I still haven’t found the proper words for how far this team has regressed in the span of a calender year, and it sure feels like fans in Ottawa will be doing the same thing over the summer.

The sick thing about all this is that I love it.

There is something about watching a team die the slow, familiar death of underachiving that just fills my heart with joy. Because the pain of an early exit is still so fresh, I want anyone even close to that position suffer along with us. Somehow knowing we are not alone in failure makes me feel slightly better about how things shook out. As awful as it sounds, watching good teams lose is just fun.

The other side of the coin is that we get to root for the “underdog”, one of the most fun aspects of fandom. Watching that crowd go bezerk in Calgary or the two games in Nashville this week are what being a sports fan is all about. Put aside personal vendettas and rivalries, watching people get excited about the game really is an uplifting experience.

That picture is what hockey is all about. Forget the contrived gesture the Rangers pull after every game, a spontaneous thank you between a crowd and team that everyone left for dead over the summer is something truly remarkable. No matter what happens tomorrow for Game Five, the Predators have fed off that crowd and proved that maybe hockey can work in Nashville after all.

I guess my point is that I’m sick of rooting against teams I don’t like and players I want to forget. I want to root for teams. Nashville, Pittsburgh, Calgary, even Washington. I want to see these teams do well for their own good, not for the malcontent I have for their opponent.

Still, it’s hard to forget the feeling of leaving that arena in silence last year. That feeling has burrowed deep into my skull and makes me want to set the world on fire at times. That part of my brain longs for Schadenfreude and snarky comments about former captains. This spring I’m trying hard to forget that part of my brain.

I can’t make any promises.

5 Comments

  1. Anne

    For me that Goo Goo Dolls’ song brings up an emotion I’m still not sure how to handle, and I really don’t need to have that stirred up while I’m watching playoff hockey.

    I actually tried to get myself to be ok with Better Days and it’s fine if I choose to play it on my iPod, but when it comes up and I’m not expecting it, like in that commercial, it’s not pretty. Its like a mix of anger and nostalgia and some sadness, I just don’t enjoy that feeling.

    I was more cheering against Detroit than for Nashville because everyone just assumed they’d wipe the floor with them, but now I find myself really wanting them to at least take this thing to 7.

  2. Jennifer

    I guess my point is that I’m sick of rooting against teams I don’t like and players I want to forget. I want to root for teams. Nashville, Pittsburgh, Calgary, even Washington. I want to see these teams do well for their own good, not for the malcontent I have for their opponent.

    Can’t say that I agree with you yet. I’m still in the bitter stage of denial that Buffalo didn’t make the playoffs. So, I’m still cheering AGAINST the teams/players that I don’t like. It’s a very healthy way to deal with my feelings! HaHa!

  3. dani

    “Don’t you absolutely f–king hate that Chrysler commercial? “

    Whoa. I effing had that posted and then I deleted it because I thought I would get murdered for saying it. Thanks!

  4. Becky

    Actually, Ottawa has erased the Sabres from the collective memory of all but Buffalo in the conversation that starts “What happened to THAT team?”

  5. Ryan

    Anne,

    I’m still with you, but late at night I get fed up with the bitter part of myself. I think I’m getting better at it…

    Jennifer,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model

    Hits us all different ways. I seem to fluctuate. Sometimes I still try to bargain with myself before I realize I have nothing left to barter…

    Dani,

    Someone had to say it. I’ve been holding off looking for the video to post but it seems to be staying away from the youtubes…

    Becky,

    That’s a really great point I didn’t think of. They are the new failure of the moment, and just like us losing in the postseason last year made everyone forget about the Canes and Oilers missing the postseason, Ottawa has done the trick this year. We’re off the hook to everyone but ourselves.