The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/10/12 at 09:44 PM ET
From the land of, "Holy *#$%@&, I haven't been this sick in over a year, and it's been two bloody weeks with this virus" land (sorry)...
At this point, it appears that a lockout is all but inevitable, and that we're at least going to miss a couple of months of hockey given that--as TSN's Darren Dreger and player agent Allan Walsh have noted--the NHL chose to change the definition of hockey-related revenues in its proposals, yielding a necessary translation from Finnish to Swahili every time the two sides talk about cutting up the pie.
Honestly, cut off from the news and on my back while ill, that's the thought that keeps going through my mind: it took almost ten months for the NHL and NHLPA to open those books and agree upon what constituted hockey-related revenues and what was outside the realm of split dollars in 2004-2005, and by choosing to change the definition of what constitutes a penny subject to divvying up, what doesn't, and then for Gary Bettman to call the 100,000+ pages of independently-audited books "irrelevant"...
That was it, way back in July, that was it. In a lockout that is all about greed on the owners' parts this time, the die was cast when the NHL chose to start speaking to its players in a language that needed forensic accountants to translate into what had been accepted economic parlance for the previous seven years.
Of the little news I've been able to survey while bedridden, I have seen, over and over again, pundits and even people who were passionately engaged in protests during the last lockout telling fans who have started petitions, crafted YouTube videos, are organizing boycotts and gatherings to voice their discontent to get over yourselves and accept that you are completely and utterly powerless to affect change, and can only sit back and endure the ride.
Is that true?
Regardless of how hard we protest, how many sponsors we boycott, how many rinks we show up at and protest for the sake of the game-night employees and concessions staff who are being screwed most blatantly by this money grab on the part of the billionaires intent upon a bailout from their millionaire talent that brings money-paying fans to rinks, to sports bars, to memorabilia-selling shops...Regardless of the petitions, songs, videos, and any other creative means of protest we fans think up to make it through what is very literally going to be a grieving process, grieving hockey and perhaps grieving a bit of innocence in believing that the owners of the teams we cheer for and the employers of the players whose names adorn our jerseys, t-shirts, hats and posters on our walls gave a shit about us...
I don't expect Facebook pages, Twitter campaigns, protests, nothing to affect change, nor do I expect sponsor boycotts to do much other than hurt the people who are already going to be hurting for business sans the advertising we see on the boards, in the stands and watch on TV and listen to on the radio during games.
That being said?
This is going to be a greiving process, a period of time in which we fans are going to feel incredibly powerless, and there is one thing we can do to affect change:
Get through this, together, in any way that we find meaningful--and in a way that we can effectively find a voice for our frustrations, disapproval and discontent for lockouts-as-a-matter-of-course.
Will being loud and annoying affect the course of negotiations?
Will spending time, energy and effort engaging in activities that probably won't cut a second off this "work stoppage" matter?
If it matters to you, hell *#$%@& yes. If it makes you feel like more than a lone fan cast adrift in a sea of business stupidity, hell *#$%@& yes.
What we fans have, the reason we spend so much time, energy, effort and especially money following NHL teams and NHLPA members is because hockey is more than a game to us. It's a passion, it's a religion for some of us, it's a way of life, and the vicarious living through watching professional athletes play a kids' game for a living makes us feel like we're part of something that's bigger than ourselves, like we're part of a community of like-minded fans.
That's special. That's important. That's meaningful. And it matters. During however long this lockout takes, we remain part of communities of Red Wings fans, of--God forbid--Penguins fans, you name it, we are hockey fans, we are NHL hockey fans, and while we may not be able to affect CBA change, we can help each other get through this.
And we can be loud, annoying, persistent, angry, upset, disappointed, we can express ourselves on Facebook, on Twitter, online, and regardless of whether we're the first person to think up an idea or petition-starter 8 billion and twelve, what we say will matter to us and matter to our community.
Whatever we create will serve as a means by which we can get through, and, in the odd circumstance, maybe even be heard and be seen as something more than a walking dollar sign.
That's more than powerful enough in my book, more than worth the effort.
Don't despair, don't give up and just "endure the ride," and please don't stop fighting against the tide, even if its sweep across us is inevitable.
Because if we don't have anyone to believe in, we may as well believe in ourselves.
I'll talk in more concrete terms when I'm able to. For now it's back to dealing with the East Nile Virus or whatever the *#$%@& I've got. But I'm still here and I promise that one way or another, TMR readers...We're gonna find a way to get through this together, and to make ourselves heard...And it doesn't *#$%@& matter whether what we hockey fans say or do will affect collective bargaining change.
It will help us get through, help us get through this together, and maybe even get a Sidney Crosby fan and a Jimmy Howard fan standing in front of the NHL headquarters in New York or the NHL and NHLPA's offices in Toronto sometime this month or next month, taking inspiration from Predators fans' chants, and, for once, chanting something appropriate, like:
Gary is a baby, Gary is a baby, YOU SUCK!
Because he and the owners suck big, hairy, sweaty donkey balls right now, and I think they ought to know that. Including Mike Ilitch, frankly. There is no excuse for this, and one way or another, voicing our discontent can at least serve as an annoying buzz of background noise.
Sometimes there ain't nothin' wrong with being the irritating, persistent buzzing fly that can't be slapped.
In the words of Bono, "It's no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest"...And it's time to become that pest.
Update: after having read Paul's post from Eric Duhatschek, who suggests that fans can only affect change by not coming back to the NHL?
We'll worry about that fact of life later. The whole *#$%@& point here--for me, anyway--is that I'm not ashamed to admit "hypocrisy" in suggesting that I'm too bloody passionate about and entwined with the game and my identity as a Red Wings fan to walk away, and we will have to have a long talk about what we're going to do when we come back, and how we'll ensure that "coming back" is not tacit acceptance of this whole process. We need to have a long talk about how we can affect change over the long haul, once the games are back on.
But I don't believe there is any shame in not only being but remaining a fan of your favorite team and your favorite players. We'll figure out how to make sure our dollars are conditional over the course of time.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.