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We Or They?

from Johathan Willis of the Cult of Hockey,

That is the contention of Chris Jones, the superbly talented sportswriter who works for Esquire and who has spent the last decade or so racking up accolades and writing awards. I don’t use the term ‘superbly talented’ lightly or in sarcasm, either – Jones does great things with prose, although this particular piece was childish and chock-full of throwaway insults (among Jones’ targets: Leafs fans, North American soccer fans in general and Tyler Dellow in particular, as well as the Florida Marlins). The crux of Jones’ argument is this:

Here’s the deal: If you don’t play for, or you are not an employee of, the team in question, “we” is not the pronoun you’re looking for.

“They” is the word you want…

“We” means participant, not observer.

The argument does not belong to Jones alone; I’ve heard others make it, and on a strictly rational level it does make some sense: the Oilers, after all, don’t score goals based on fan support on a given night.


Even before KK was in existence, I tried to avoid the “we” talk, after all, I am not on the team.  I continue to do so today plus when mentioning a players name, I use the last name instead of the first, something I have been told is Journalism 101.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Edmonton Oilers, | KK Hockey | Permalink



No matter how much I love a team, I rarely if ever use the term “we”. I don’t play for the team and I don’t score goals or make saves. So “we” really isn’t appropriate no matter how much marketing the team does to get fans to think otherwise. The only exception is that from time to time, I may refer to my college teams as “we”. I guess that has more to do with the fact I was a student at the university and the team was literally owned by the school and it was our students who played on the team.

Posted by timbits on 10/20/11 at 12:17 AM ET

awould's avatar

I read about this earlier on MGoBlog. The blogger had this to say, which I thought made sense and also points out the fact that, really, who effing cares?

If I am discussing the Michigan-Michigan State game and wish to refer to the teams by words shorter to read and type, I can either continually re-introduce the team names and briefly refer to whichever one is the most recent antecedent as “they.” That’s potentially annoying and confusing. The other option is to dump them entirely in favor of “we” and “they,” which clearly indicate who is who while preventing constant repetition of already established facts—that we are indeed talking about Michigan and Michigan State.

It would take a fun-hating mutant whose super power is pedantry to object to this, which is why someone who works for a newspaper or magazine writes this column every three months

Posted by awould on 10/20/11 at 01:32 AM ET

WingMan's avatar

Have to agree, I never use we… ever.  I didn’t earn that right, no matter how bad the NHL team.

Agree again with the University reference.  But that is a little different since as was stated “we” are a part of the bigger entity.

Have to admit though, I have used “we” when reference my sons teams… still catch myself and correct, but it slips out from time to time.. and hey when I am paying the bill I guess I can say whatever I want wink

Posted by WingMan from The Q C on 10/20/11 at 01:34 AM ET

elphantasmo5000's avatar

lol….i have been know to say “we”.

no i dont work for “my” team, but i do pay money to them to support them. along with many thousands and in “my” team’s case, millions of other people spending money to fund them as well. making it “our” team as fans.

i definitely see and agree with both sides of this debate, but i dont care. its “my” team damnit! and “your” team. and i will hate “your” team for as long as i love “my” team.

and no more fricken 6 days between games NHL. not cool!

Posted by elphantasmo5000 on 10/20/11 at 01:43 AM ET


The team wouldn’t exist without its fans.  The observers are participants.  I use “we” every time.  You whiny dorks; this article was lame and the tone was snotty.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt on 10/20/11 at 04:16 AM ET

Alzy's avatar

I use “we” quite often, for reasons already stated: I’m one (of many) who pays their bills so they can all play this awesome game, so excuse me if I get emotionally attached.

But, and I’ve noticed this from myself and others, it seems when your favourite team is struggling, suddenly it’s “they suck!” and not “we suck!” I don’t know if it’s a subconscious distancing of an unhappy event, but I have noticed a lot when the Red Wings are losing, I tend to start using “they” instead of “we.”

Also you’re spot on Paul about last name being journalism 101. Even in opinion pieces I wrote for my college paper, I’d have to use the full name on the first reference, then last names only for the rest of my article. If I slipped up even once I got grilled for it by my editor LOL.

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 10/20/11 at 04:35 AM ET

Sadie's avatar

The column that’s linked here is excellent; if anyone reading this has only read the excerpt, check it out.

I feel that it’s a bit ridiculous to use “we”, but I sometimes do, and I think that overall the use of “we” is a very good thing for sports teams.  As Willis points out, teams encourage fans to identify with them.  Does anyone remember that study of fans’ physiological reactions to wins/losses?  On some level we’re living vicariously through “our” teams, and if that weren’t the case, I don’t think there’d be many teams around to employ professional athletes.

Posted by Sadie from Ann Arbor, MI on 10/20/11 at 10:06 AM ET


I’ve never used “we” and always have been annoyed by others who do.

But, and I’ve noticed this from myself and others, it seems when your favourite team is struggling, suddenly it’s “they suck!” and not “we suck!”
Posted by Alzy from Innisfail, Alberta, Canada on 10/20/11 at 02:35 AM ET

That’s a real good example why right there.

Posted by NathanBC on 10/20/11 at 01:11 PM ET


I don’t always use the term “we”, but I often do. THe team takes the name of the city it represents and therefore it becomes a part of “we”. It is not the New York IBM, but it is the New York Rangers. So since there is a civic element to a sports team I have little problem with the term we. Even when used by broadcasters, I don’t care as long as they are objective.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 10/20/11 at 02:00 PM ET

UMFan's avatar

I use we. I use we with my sports teams just as I use we when talking about my country. We shut out Vancouver last Thursday. We lost to Michigan State last Saterday. We beat the British Empire during the Revolution. We killed Bin Laden.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 10/20/11 at 03:55 PM ET


What I said on A2Y:

We don’t practice, don’t play, don’t get injured or have surgeries.

We do miss weddings, parties, happy hours and, in general, leave our family and friends regularly to watch games.

We don’t swap from red to burgundy for $2 million for a year.

We wear the Winged Wheel from nursery room to the retirement condo.

Tell me I wasn’t a “we” on H2H and I’ll friggin kill ya.

Posted by Guilherme from the office on 10/20/11 at 04:34 PM ET


“We” is what the team wants you to use.  “We” is the perfect marketing tool.  It gives the fan the ultimate feeling of belonging, and I bet the teams absolutely love that.  Fans using “we” mean more money in the pockets of the teams.

I use “we” off and on.  Sometimes it feels weird, other times it doesn’t.  Honestly, I don’t see why anyone should care, one way or the other.

Posted by BuzzFledderjohn on 10/20/11 at 11:19 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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