by Mike Chen on 04/17/09 at 12:45 PM ET
(Apologies for the Public Service Announcement tone of this but I had to get it off my chest.)
Have you seen those commercials for USA Hockey/Hockey Canada reminding psycho parents to “relax, it’s just a game”?
Sometimes, I feel like certain fans need to watch that friendly reminder during the fervor of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Look, I love the game. I invest a significant portion of my time, energy, and money, both personally and professionally into it. I break down replays, talk about trade rumors, cheer goals and groan losses, just like all of you. It’s my game, it’s our game, it’s the best damn game on the planet.
But really, it’s just a game.
I make no secret about my San Jose Sharks fandom despite writing about all things NHL. So like any good Sharks fan, I was in my season seat for the disappointing Game 1 loss against Anaheim. Two things off the ice made me shake my head and roll my eyes in disappointment/amusement.
The first took place in the third period. After the first Anaheim goal, a woman in my section—a regular who’s very vocal about her support—pushed her way out of the row, telling people that she just couldn’t take it anymore, that the Sharks were going to go scoreless in four straight, and that she just couldn’t stand being in there. She disappeared into the night, leaving her bewhildered companion to sit there next to an empty seat (I hope they weren’t driving home together).
Whoa. Easy there, friend. First off, despite the Sharks being shutout, they did outshoot the Ducks 2-to-1, and that’s not counting the few posts they hit, along with the near-miss crease scrambles. Yeah, they didn’t play that great, but had a few bounces gone their way, they would have won 3-2. Ok?
Second off, it’s just a game, you know? Of course people are going to leave when they feel the game is out of reach, and of course people are going to be frustrated or disappointed, but isn’t that the nature of sport? No game is predictable, no score is predetermined, and no outcome is guaranteed. To storm off in a tantrum when you’re down by one, that’s just immature and, quite frankly, short-sighted and stupid.
The other thing that made me shake my head was the screaming match I encountered on my way to the side exit of HP Pavilion. A guy in a Ducks jersey was screaming bloody nonsense at a woman in a Sharks jersey, who reciprocated with an ear-piercing “Get out! Get out of our house right now!”. Behind her, another guy in a Sharks jersey was yelling obscenities (complete with teeth gnashing, death looks, and huge veins popping out of his forehead) while his friend was holding him back. If you’d changed their outfits a little bit, it’d be a perfect scene out of WWE RAW—or an episode of Cops. I walked past them, so I’m not sure if it actually came to blows or not but it looked pretty close.
To think, these people are probably at work this morning telling their friends over a cup of coffee that they were at the game last night. Do you think they include this little bit of aggro-lunacy in their anecdotes?
Like all sports fans, I’ll talk about how I “hate” the Ducks or the Red Wings or their fans. Does that mean that I want Chris Pronger to get hit by a truck? Of course not, though him twisting his ankle in practice is totally acceptable.
Now I normally share my seats with my dad. He’s missing Game 1 and Game 2 because his uncle died and he had to fly to Taiwan for the funeral. I’m not going to turn this into a sob story (my dad’s 64 and it was his uncle that passed, so it’s not totally unexpected), but I remember asking him while he was packing if he was going to have internet access to check on the scores. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I hope so, but it’s just a game.”
That kind of puts things in proper perspective. Look, I yell at the refs about a blown call. I’ll send taunts against the opposing superstar, and I’ll boo a frustratingly bad power play. I’ll cheer a great save, hug the stranger next to me on an OT-winning goal, and I’ll dedicate a good portion of my life to watching, analyzing, talking about, writing about, and thinking about the game. But it’s just a game.
For game 1, I took a casual hockey fan with me. This is a good friend who’s more of a baseball guy but he watches the Sharks because they’re local. In other words, he understands offsides but doesn’t recognize a puck cycle; he knows Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau but doesn’t care who Jonas Hiller or Ryan Getzlaf are.
Before the game, I asked if he’d ever been to a playoff game. He said no and I replied by telling him that if they win, you’ll feel like you have 17,000 best friends in the world—but if they lose, watch how quickly the angry and drunk ones turn on themselves or each other.
It’s just too bad that I was proven right.
Seriously, folks—it’s just a game. Don’t hurt yourselves or others, even if they’re wearing the opposing jersey with a poop-eating grin and a snarky comment.
In other words, please don’t be an idiot. It’s really not worth it.
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