As the seconds ticked down last Tuesday night, something rare but not completely foreign stirred inside me.
Of course, I was happy that the Carolina Hurricanes were losing. I had picked the Penguins and quite frankly, I liked them better. A minor rooting interest was coming through for me, and that’s always nice.
Still, it wasn’t happiness for the right reasons, but with outright hatred in mind. We’ve touched on the subject of schadenfreude many times here on the site, but I was a bit surprised by the amount of satisfaction I took from watching Carolina get swept by the Penguins. The more I thought of it, this wasn’t just a minor rooting interest coming through. This was hatred. Pure, intense hatred I was surprised to see still exist.
I just can’t believe I still hate the Hurricanes that much. What happened between Carolina and Buffalo is over three years old, and I still feel the same way about the team, the arena, the city; everything. There is a part of me that still gets worked up when they say how loud the RBC Center is, and that’s just the start of it.
I think that a large part of this is how unfairly that series ended. For Sabres fans it was a feeling that the Hurricanes survived rather than won. Injuries proved to be too much, and as the ever-bitter fans we are we say things should have been different. However, we all know what really happened, and that’s all that matters.
The lingering result is that suddenly, Carolina matters to me. I’ve always felt indifferent towards the team that was ripped from Hartford, but since that series everything has changed. In a way, it’s what sports is all about: creating rivalries and meaning out of nothing. Still, the… vendetta I have against a team like this makes me wonder if it is a product of this unique circumstance, or something larger about fandom.
I know I wasn’t the only person happy to see Rod Brind’Amour hit with a puck on the bench during Game Seven against Boston. Still, I don’t know if anyone else enjoyed it quite as much as I did. The same goes for every sad panda Canes fan Versus panned to after an Evgeni Malkin goal during Game Four.
Perhaps it says something about an area that has never really seen such success. A few years ago I remember seeing an article from a Dallas columnist openly wondering why Sabres fans still cared about the 1999 Cup Finals. In his opinion it happened a long time ago, and we were clinging to the past. Perhaps not having championships of our own make us hold onto these rivals in an unnatural way.
Perhaps it is because of personal experience. I remember those same faces mocking my father and I when the Sabres lost Game Five of the ECFs in Carolina. Maybe because I’ve seen the enemy up close and personal makes it more important to me, but that sounds self-serving and elitist if you ask me.
Still, I do think personal experience means something in rivalries. You don’t hate teams unless they do something to your team, or their fans do something to you. I know someone who hates the Red Wings just because they know someone who likes them. Simply put, that person has ruined a hockey team for her just because of who that person is.
There has been no real thesis to this post, and for that I apologize. Still, I think there is something larger involved in who and what we as sports fans hate. We don’t randomly hate, that’s just crazy. There is always a reason to our opinions, and hatred is one of the strongest opinions someone can have.
Honestly, I think rivalries and hatred is constructive. Hating an abstract organization like a hockey team is a relatively safe way of blowing off some steam. Instead of hating something tangible and dangerous, such as a religion or other beliefs; we hate a revolving door of players dressed in a uniform that changes every five years or so based on revenue streams and market testing. Instead of focusing rage towards something harmful, I simply hope a hockey team loses forever.
Plus if you hate the Leafs, that can become a reality.