My name is Heather B. and I love hockey.
I bring this up because there seems to be a question among certain people - journalists and even some fans - about why I still spend money on the Buffalo Sabres even though they're not very good. It seems like every recent TBN chat and blog has had some remark about how I'm supporting mediocrity and being held hostage by management. Putting aside the fact that the Sabres have been not good for two consecutive years which is not exactly a lifetime, I just happen to love hockey. Even more, I love going to hockey games.
I went to the Flyers game last week and while I wrote a very melodramatic post about it that night, the truth is, I had a blast. Kate and I had a merry time debating who should be fired, ragging on the team, defending our favorite players (kind of), and just enjoying the company of a good friend. Would I have preferred to be watching a team that's gearing up for the playoffs? Of course. But I had fun anyway.
I feel like sometimes people who write about sports for a living forget what it is about sports that people fall in love with. I know that journalists by definition watch sports in a different way than we do. I don't believe for one second that emotion and personal feelings never influence them but I do think most of them try to leave that stuff out of it and offer an objective point-of-view, pointing out things that fans, in their zeal, might miss. But I also feel like, even though journalists are not writing from our point-of-view, they should respect that our point-of-view is different and they should never talk down to me because I'm acting like a fan. Point out that my money is supporting management and that you think management is a joke and then let me make my own decision about what to do with my money. And if you don't like the decision I'm making, don't suggest to me that I'm wrong or that I don't understand what's going on. That's not reporting. That's passing judgment on your audience and you know what? It's really annoying.
I'm not a dullard. I understand that my money is lining Tom Golisano's pockets and I understand that maybe there's no reason for him to improve the team as long as he's making a profit. But I like going to hockey games. My perfect Buffalo evening would be a foot long and fries from Ted's followed by a Sabres game. I've been a sports fan for pretty much all of my life and I've yet to see one of my teams win a championship. Yeah, I hope that changes one day before I die but I also feel like a fan that lives only for championships is probably going to be a pretty unhappy fan. There's so much more to going to a game than who wins and who loses.
When I look back over this season, I can't even tell you how many times I saw the Sabres win. I can tell you about how stoked I was to see Henrik Tallinder score his annual goal in person and how I was still jumping up and down even after everyone else had taken a seat. I can tell you about how riveting Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly are when they're on, even from the 300s. I can tell you about the proud Sharks fan we sat next to whose 7 month old daughter was attending her first game. I can tell you about the lengthy discussion I had with another fan about why I like Darcy Regier and why he hates him. I can tell you about how amazing it was to sit so close to the ice that I couldn't really see the jumbotron and how Kate spent most of that pregame texting friends in the building to point out where her seats were. I can tell you about bemoaning poor Chris Butler scoring his first NHL goal in the waning moments of a terrible game and taking a moment to cheer for him even though he couldn't cheer for himself. I can tell you what an emotional release it was to boo the Sabres off the ice at the end of really bad periods and how entertaining it was to good-naturedly boo Danny Briere after he kicked our ass. The guy who forgot he had a beer in his hand when he stood up to the do the wave and dumped it over his head, the know-it-all blowhard behind me who was calling players by the wrong name, the fan who cracked up our entire section by yelling, "THE LITTLE NET, HECHT!" when Jochen's shot barely stayed in the building, that guy who insists on high-fiving everyone he can reach, the other fans who, for a few hours became a part of my life, that's what I love about going to games.
Winning is not the be all and end all of sports. It's really not. It's sharing the moments of joy and agony, it's seizing those brief moments of hope and optimism and sometimes it's irrationally loving a certain player even when he sucks. (Not that I know anything about that.) It's escaping from work and responsibility for even a short time and it's setting aside a few hours to enjoy being with your friends or your family. Yeah, if ticket prices keep creeping up and quality of play keeps creeping down or if the team continues to be bad for the next few years, there may come a tipping point where I decide I'd prefer to stay at home and watch the Sabres on TV. But for now I'm perfectly happy to give Golisano my money because the Sabres and hockey are bigger than him and because believe it or not, I still have a ton of fun every time I set foot in HSBC. You don't have to agree and you don't have to like it that I feel that way but you don't have to lecture me about it either.