I have a confession to make: I'm a bandwagon fan.
I try to act all tough like I've been watching hockey for a good solid decade now and yeah, I've been familiar enough with Sabres players to have favorites for a number of years now and yeah, I do remember pre-lockout hockey. But the truth is, like much of Buffalo, I was totally swept up in the team's success post-lockout. It wasn't until that point that I really started paying attention and picking up on things about the game and learning all of the individuals on the team. Almost everything I've learned about hockey, I've learned in the last handful of years.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately for some reason. I think in the back of my head I haven't really considered myself a real Sabres fan because of how successful they've been since I've been watching them. The Pirates? Well, jeez, they haven't drafted anyone talented since the Middle Ages and they're looking at their 118th straight losing season. I can wear my Pirates fan badge with a little honor. I've earned that sucker.
The Sabres however have been one of the better teams in the league since I really tuned into them with consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances and a Presidents Trophy. It's easy to root for a team like that. Anybody can root for a team that wins so much. Even last season, when the team struggled, I wasn't completely sold on myself. I know a lot of fans were really down on the Sabres but I thought there were some legitimate reasons for their uneven play - lack of leadership, youth, processing a lot of changes in a short period. It was a sucky year to be pulling for the Sabres but I thought it was still pretty easy to say, "Hey, they'll pull it together. They're still a good team."
This season has been a little different. The Sabres came into the regular season vowing that things would change and at the start it seemed like they meant it. And then they bottomed out. Those little brats started doing the same things they were doing last year - giving half efforts, trying to coast through games, playing undisciplined, occasionally flat-out stupid, following up a few good games with games they would've lost to a local Timbits team. My favorite player has been scratched three times and everyone else not named Thomas Vanek probably could've been too. Things have been so defeating that fans started talking about firing Lindy Ruff who has in the past been an untouchable. Last season I was patient and willing to make excuses but this year? Good grief, I've hated these jackasses at times as those of you who were reading a few weeks ago might remember. I've ranted and raved and called them pretty much every name I've learned in six years of working with really mouthy kids. And trust me, that's a LOT of names.
My favorite player is out, the Sabres have played well for a few games which, based on recent history, means they're due for a clunker, half our defensive corp for the night is under the age of 12 and the game is a late start (although truthfully, as a night owl, I love late starts). This team hasn't really given me much of a reason to hope they're going to do anything beyond make the playoffs and even that's with help from the really terrible teams below them. And yet here I am, watching hockey and blogging at 11:30 when I really should be in bed. I've come to the realization this season that no matter how much I might claim to hate these stupid brats, no matter how much I yell at the TV, "Keep it up and I'm just watching Lost now!", no matter how much I try to pretend I don't care, I do care. Way too much. Even when I hate these guys, I love these guys. Because they're Sabres and I'm a Sabres fan.
Yeah, I'm screwed, aren't I?