If you ever took part in the American education system you’ve had intimate experiences with butterflies.
Someone once decided that butterflies are the ultimate teaching tool for anyone under ten years old. I’m not really sure what we were supposed to learn from them because I never read the accompanying literature, but there are millions of those kits out there for a reason.
Teacher and pupils wait 3-5 days for shipping and handling and set the kit up in the back of the classroom for everyone to gawk at. You’re about to take part in a magical journey, a literal metamorphosis that will change the way you think about life, the universe and everything else.
The problem is you never actually see the beautiful transformation for yourself. All the cool things the ad in Highlights for Children boasts about happens when you’re at home watching cartoons or sleeping.
You’re eating Mac and Cheese in the living room while the caterpillars shimmy their way to the top of the cup and make with the sarcophagi. Just when you think they’re ready to pop out it’s spring break and by the time you come back the butterflies are either released into the wild or dead on the box’s floor due to malnutrition.
The bang for your buck just isn’t there, and you’re never getting back the dollar your mom donated along with the permission slip. Somehow you end up oohing and aahing about meaningless things and pretend to love it, mostly because you’re nine years old and don’t know the difference.
Sometimes I think about those kits when I try to weigh change. Life keeps moving and sometimes it’s hard to see it, but with those butterfly kits everything is supposed to be visible. It’s a metamorphic process that is entirely physical, yet somehow all the important stuff stays hidden.
Right now I think it’s extremely difficult to comprehend the changes the Buffalo Sabres have undergone over the last few months. The physical change is easy: a new owner, new carpet and all that. But what has happened, the real change, is almost entirely emotional.
People are happy. There is hope and faith and suddenly the team itself isn’t underachieving. The playoffs are no longer a question, but the real inquiry is just what happened to make all this spring up? Can an owner really change so much, even things that don’t really change at all?
It’s an admittedly weird question, but again, that’s the change you can’t see. The Sabres are not your metaphorical caterpillars waiting to grow ten times their size and cocoon, but something happened to them over the last few weeks. The players are now different. Very, very different and I think some people are still coming to terms with that.
We’ve gone from a world where there is no hope for this team to a place where the owner’s daughters are doing crazy things on Twitter and we’re wondering just how far good mojo and Thomas Vanek can carry them. Everything feels light years away from early October and the sense is that things are only going to keep on changing.
That emotion is incredibly tough to explain, but you know it when you feel it. There are moments you can just sense things moving, the wheels turning or some other Industrial Revolution metaphor whirring and firing. Those are incredible times, and it takes a while to really understand what it all means but when you’re lost in that moment it’s hard to be anything but happy.
So that’s where I think we are as Sabres fans, and maybe as people in general. This team is a big part of our lives, and change this drastic absolutely impacts the rest of who you are. It’s a complicated emotion that may never be properly verbalized, but if you look close enough you know it’s there.
When you’re lost in the cotton gin it’s hard to imagine it never was.