I Will Not Fail Summer

“The playoff run is something magical. You go through rough patches. You got (sic) through some good things. The last few years have been rough for us in the playoffs, so you kind of lose the feeling of what it is to win.

Playoffs is when you find that thing inside of you, and we got it back, which I think is pretty cool.” — Martin Brodeur

Hockey season is over. Make of it what you will.

The story arc of the last eight-plus months did not fit within the confines of my brain. Maybe you noticed things get a bit quiet around here. That was not an accident. The storylines just become too much, the talking points too heavy and overwrought.

‘Make of it what you will’ sounds dismissive. It’s not, I think it’s good advice. Sports fans tend to worry about a lot of things. The less popular the sport, the more the worry. Feeling disenfranchised is a good way to make sure you think everyone else knows better than you.

We are so worried about The Other that I sometimes wonder how we keep it all together. People routinely come unhinged and find themselves in handcuffs and I can’t help but wonder what mention on Twitter ruined that guy’s Tuesday.

Even the smallest of incidents are a crisis of faith these days. Hockey fans, for example, worry about everything under the sun. Ratings. Violence. The perception of hockey by other sports fans, other hockey fans. It’s not enough to be a hockey fan; you have to be a certain kind of hockey fan. The right kind, of course, just happens to be a lot like you.

Somewhere along the course of this season I realized that I just wanted to be happy. Forget the sarcasm and anguish and cynicism that goes along with watching sports these days. Try to minimize it. If that fails, take it as lightly as possible and move on to the next game. This is supposed to be fun, guys. I swear.

I’m weighing the value of happiness in sports because I’m currently weighing it in my life as well. Things have changed for me over the last few months: A new job, a new schedule and a new way of looking at things. I’m no longer working in sports, not full-time, at least. For the moment, I am happy with that.

Being a sportswriter changes you because it’s supposed to. The removal of bias, the stresses of the industry, all those things that happen to a writer when he or she puts on a press pass and bangs out 18 inches of copy at a time. It’s inevitable.

I wrote about it almost two years ago, a long and winding post about covering baseball just before I started working full-time at the Gazette. I wondered if I was allowed to like the guys I watched play, if it was okay to be happy for them.

The answer, of course, depends on how much you can push that out of your mind when you’re on deadline. That was actually the easy part, because the rush of adrenaline didn’t allow for much to be up there when the clock was ticking. I managed, and I think I did a good job — in that regard at least — as a writer.

But being a journalist does change you, in good ways and bad. It rewires your brain to think about the game differently, to evaluate sports in a different light. I’m a rational person in most regards, sometimes too rational according to some. Thinking about sports every single waking minute, though, is enough to take that part of you and drive it over the edge of a cliff.

The easy way to put it is that I’m glad to be done with that part of sports for a bit. There are struggles outside of the deadline, with the state of the industry and the business itself, that made me look elsewhere for my 9-5. Well, it just plain made me look for a 9-5. I’m quite happy writing in a different way and being around a different group of people.

My love of journalism hasn’t left. I still think and write and podcast about it all the time. I’d love to get back into the game someday, maybe when the paywalls and circulation and furloughs have worked themselves out. I think somewhere along the line it’s going to get a lot better, and maybe I’ll be ready to dive back in a bit wiser and better at it all.

Sometimes you need a spark to get it all going again. I’m not sure what it was for me. Maybe it was taking in the NLL Championship Game in Rochester last month. There I watched lacrosse as a fan for the first time, for the hell of it. I had a blast. I came back down the 90 with nothing more than a broken purple cowbell and the feeling that something had been missing in my life. It was enough.

It could be baseball, which I can finally take in on a day-to-day basis this season. My new occupation frees up nights and weekends, and baseball is thankfully very much on the schedule of 90s long distance calling plans.

Or maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe watching hockey and basketball playoffs without worry, mixed with two games of European soccer a day, is just that good for the soul. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

At some point I will start to worry again. Maybe on July 1 or when the lockout looms a bit larger in the NHL. Maybe when football season starts getting closer and the Bills determine my mood on Sundays. Maybe Arsenal will start to grate at some point.

But right now it feels good to enjoy the little things about R.A. Dickey as he mows down batters for the Mets. It feels good to not worry about snubs and snipes and all the bullshit we often care far too much about. Right now it’s the score and the experience, nothing more.

Schadenfreude and anguish will always be there in sports, but happiness is fleeting. I plan on chasing it for as long as I can.

2 Comments

  1. Mike

    I just got finished listening to your last podcast. To be honest, I don’t find myself having that much to say about media criticism, but there was a little thing that you touched on as it relates to the Sabres blogosphere that I found really interesting.
    The blogs that are out there now putting out stuff on a regular basis are completely different from the blogs that were in the same place 3, 2, and even last year. I’ve watched your blog roll evolve constantly. I think this year represented a massive sea change among Sabres blogs in part because this season was so unremarkable. And for the blogosphere that was the one thing that I think really would have caused such change.
    I think if the Sabres had just been an outright disaster throughout the year, and the core was blown up and Lindy was gone and they were picking in the top three – some of the voices that have gone silent would still be there. If the Sabres had been as dominant as they looked on paper last offseason, there would probably be even more blogs out there.
    Should this be so? I can’t answer that, but I think it does say something about why people blog. Sabres blogs used to be more focused on “x fan’s experience with the Sabres.” The Sabres were bad this year, but also boring and unremarkable. And seemingly nothing changed? Who wants to write about that? Who wants to read what they’re writing? People who are angry and people who want to channel the anger. And that negativity ironically enough spawns even more negativity amongst people who don’t like the negativity.
    I’ve listened to a few editions of Kevin Sylvester’s show. He has sparred with numerous callers over the fact that he’s not objective and that he’s being told what to say. It seems like there is a premium on independent critical voices and the internet purports to be good at providing that. But is it really? It seems like what’s out there is increasingly critical of everything. That’s what sells. But if that’s the case, is it really independent? Isn’t it kind of boring itself when the criticism ceases to be creative and is just “X sucks, trade/fire him.”
    It seems like a lot of those fan-based perspectives are going silent and I think that’s a real shame. You have a lot of sites purporting to be news sites like you mentioned. You also have some fan-based perspectives but 3MI and Two In the Box just always kind of seem angry and not really like they’re having fun. Sure the Sabres sucked. After last year, isn’t there some humor with that? Instead, everyone is treating them like a relative with a drug problem.
    I miss Sick Jersey Bro, Queen City Sabres and Harvard is My Safety most especially. The latter was especially witty, and both writers seemed to think blogging was fun. Perhaps that’s why they discontinued. Even thinking about a non-sports website: I love markprindle.com which was going on since the dawn of the internet seemingly. If you’re not familiar, he’s a guy with a regular job who is a music fan and would write these reviews which he would only do once he had listened to a band’s entire catalog so that he could give it proper perspective. His writing style is completely original and also completely hilarious, but in recent years, along with personal difficulties, he had to deal with people just taking what he said way too seriously. I’ve been thinking about getting into the whole thing but you make great arguments for not doing so.