The Movement You Need

by Ryan

No matter how this ends, I promise the lesson here is to never doubt the Beatles.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been decidedly undecided when it comes to writing about the Sabres. I’m not in love with them and to be honest I don’t think we’re even in crush territory at this point. I don’t get warm and fuzzy when the team is on, and watching games has become a begrudging chore at times.

Most of my time has been spent wondering what this means. Is the team just uninteresting or have I simply lost interest? Probably both, but until I was sure I didn’t want to say too much. I am never one to waiver and while my reticence may appear stoic that’s not it, I just want to mean what I say.

Here’s the truth: I think the Sabres are a mostly boring hockey team. I am not alone in this thinking, but trying to qualify this statement with evidence puts me in an uncomfortable position. It’s easy to say a team isn’t good or not fun to watch, but in the end elaborating on this often implicates the speaker more than the object.

Deep down I worry that the Sabres are boring to me because I am detached, that the movement in my life is taking me away from hockey. And I hate that feeling, that implication more than anything. After all, the Sabres are the boring team, right? They lack true movement towards anything and have uninteresting characters and all that, right?

Well, maybe. That was the argument I was going to make while I was watching the first five seasons of The Office, but then I got to season six and finished reading High Fidelity and things changed. The thing is, I loved The Office. I think it was charming and unique and very different, and absolutely in a good way.

Season two was one of the best runs of a television show I’ve ever seen, and the season finale was practically perfect. What I really loved about it (and have raved about in conversation) is that everyone in the ensemble cast showed true movement, distinct changes that made the show interesting.

Watching that season play out fueled my distaste for the Sabres because that wasn’t happening on the ice. While we learned what Michael really wants and see Jim suffer the Sabres seemed to just exist. Years ago I remembered a team that shifted and changed and showed us something, and it made me sad to realize I could get more out of a television show than sports. That’s not what I remembered and loved about watching hockey.

That theory floated around in my head for a long time, spilling out only when a drink or two brought the words out in front of friends. I wanted to be sure, and when I saw Corey address a similar theory to end his last post I worried he stole a bit of my thunder.

But it only made me think more because season six of The Office was mostly awful. Sure the show had movement, but the new ownership wasn’t what made me want to watch the show. I was watching for the characters, which over the years had become less and less endearing. At first I had thought they stopped moving, but that wasn’t it at all.

They were moving all right, I just didn’t like where they were headed.

One of the things I took away from Hornby’s High Fidelity was that a lot of people are unhappy with the current state of people. It seems crazy, but one of the signs you really like someone seems to be when you want to change something about them. It’s a fact of life, but a completely illogical reaction to something that is somehow normal these days.

Why do we just accept that whatshername is going to start dressing like a skank and smoking at the end of Grease and things are going to work out just fine? That’s the least believable part of a movie where a fucking car took flight and John Travolta played a heterosexual man.

Why is this endearing to people? How does prostitute Julia Roberts end up with a rich dude without The Clap getting in the way? Why do we love things so much we assume we could only love them even more if things were just slightly different?

The easy answer is that people are irrational, but that’s too easy if you ask me. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much we want to avoid it, change is inevitable and uncontrollable. The problem is that we want that control, which in a way fights against every reality we know about sports.

In one way or another we may all hate what the Sabres have become this season, but they are still moving somewhere. It might not be the place we want them to go, but whether or not they are worth saving seems to be the next question to answer.


  1. Mike

    Very insightful as always. I’ve been a Sabres fan ever since I can remember basically so it becomes hard to separate one season from the next. This season so far reminds me of three years ago, when they lost to the Islanders twice to start the season and were mostly inconsistent. They were never in the playoff picture but teased us until the very end. I’d prefer that actually I think to the next year, when Miller’s injury doomed the team. One thing that gives me hope is actually Roy’s injury. Lindy Ruff always seems to do better with teams with a talent deficit. Even the team during the cup run was mostly composed of role players, not stars (besides Hasek), and I believe that team was a seventh seed that went two games from winning it all. Yet we all look with nostalgia on that year, even though it mostly was not very good at all.
    I think the Sabres inconsistency can theoretically make them more interesting than if they were dominant, actually. It says something about the team and about the fans. It’s what separates the Buffalo fanbase from say, the Caps fanbase which totally reminded me of your Office analogy. I think the Caps are going into 6th season of The Office mode. I live in the DC area, and although the Caps are still solidly in the playoff picture, there’s so much less buzz about the team already. You’d better be first overall in DC if you want people to pay attention to you (unless you’re a team that goes between 4-12 and 7-9 every year. Then everybody wants a piece).
    While I agree that this particular team is not that interesting, I’m not sure things are going to change that radically when Terry Pegula takes over, at least in terms of winning. Even successful operations take some time to get off the ground, and if winning is what is going to make the team interesting, it might take a few years. But fans are going to post anonymously saying “SELL THE TEAM TERRY” and “FIRE EVERYONE. TRADE MILLER FOR CLAUDE GIROUX” and then we’re in the same place. I really hope that doesn’t happen, but I kind of feel like it will.

  2. Ryan, as you know, I’ve been a Pirates fan all of my life. It’s been a long 18 years since they’ve had a winning season. Even though they took a few steps back record-wise last season, they’ve finally been kind of fun to watch again recently. In the previous 15 seasons, however, there were some seasons where I didn’t pay much attention. There were some seasons where I didn’t pay ANY attention. But I’ve always come back to them. Maybe you’re outgrowing hockey and/or the Sabres. It happens. But maybe you’re just setting them aside for a while, something that makes sense when they’re not really much fun to watch (and that goes for the NHL as a whole many nights) and when you’re in a new period in your life and focusing on a lot of other stuff. Just go with the flow and see what happens.

    (I’ve always hated the movie Grease. Just for the record.)