The Peoria Sabres

bookfaq I’m reading Will Leitch’s “God Save the Fan” right now, and it’s often pretty funny, and it’s often really repetitive (Yes, ESPN sucks.  WE GET IT ALREADY), but one essay really jumped out at me last night.

Leitch writes about sticking with his boyhood football team the St. Louis Cardinals when they move to Arizona.  He even goes so far as to suggest that a person who doesn’t follow a team through a geographical move is not a real fan.  This idea blew my mind mostly because my instincts tell me that if the Sabres ever moved, I would devote my life to rooting against them.

Leitch’s argument:

See, here’s the thing: Being a sports fan is a year-round job.  At the end of the season, You’ve got your free agency period and then the draft and then your salary cap cut date and the next thing you know, it’s training camp.  So, when exactly was I supposed to switch loyalties?  Was there one day that I cared about Vai Sikahema, and another day when I was supposed to stop?  I read some piece of information about my Cardinals every day of the year.  I know the fifty-three-man roster.  I know the draft picks, I know the coaching staff, I know the name of the guy who plays the mascot.  It’s a full-time position, rooting for a football team….so how am I just supposed to say, “All right, yesterday I cared about these players, but now I care about these”?  If something as wishy-washy as geography guides your rooting interests, isn’t it wishy-washy to move your loyalty around just because someone realized the franchise could make more money in Boise rather than Topeka?

He loses me a bit when he argues that geography is a silly reason to choose one team over another (the reason I became a hockey fan was so that I had an excuse to cheer for Buffalo- nothing wishy-washy about it), but he does make a good case for loyalty.  Once you have your team, you have your team.  Plain and simple.

Although the Bills are the most obvious comparison (and the most likely to actually leave) I’m going to use the Sabres simply because I just don’t care enough about the Bills to make this interesting. If the Bills left town, I’d be sad for all the Buffalonians who love them, but NO WAY would I cheer for Marshawn Lynch if he were running girls over with his car in Toronto or LA instead of Buffalo.  The Bill can just forget it.

The Sabres might be a different story.  Would I suddenly STOP rooting for Goose and Crunchy just because the team moved away?  It’s difficult to imagine.  As much as I bitch about the Sabres and claim that I want them ALL TO BE TRADED, it’s hard to picture rooting against them as a group.  If Lindy and the whole gang were playing in a different city, would I still cheer for them?

I’m not bringing this up to get everyone depressed imagining a bleak future without the Sabres, I just think it’s an interesting way of thinking about the team.  It’s an interesting way to measure what it is that we’re cheering for.  I really think I’m mostly cheering for Buffalo, but I spend so much time watching these players that I do have attachments to them.  I am cheering for the players too.  In the absence of an NHL team in Buffalo I might find myself cheering for the Peoria Sabres just out of habit.

I really don’t know!

Please don’t get yourself depressed by thinking about this too hard, and please don’t spend any time trying to figure out what kind of terrible situation would have to evolve in order for the Sabres to leave.  This is just a simple exercise.  If the current Sabres were plopped down in Peoria, Illinois tonight, would you still be a fan tomorrow? I think it’s interesting and kind of fun to ponder.

After a lot of thought, I voted for “I’d probably keep cheering for the Sabres,” but honestly, I might devote my life to hating them.  It’s a really tough call.

12 Responses to “The Peoria Sabres”


  1. 1 Meg June 8, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I suspect that I would cheer for the Sabres for a little while because of my attachment to certain players, etc. and then gradually transition to cheering for a team that is closer to where I actually live now or something like that. Although that not being an option I went with choice A since I think I would eventually wind up there.

  2. 2 Heather B. June 8, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I was thinking the same thing as Meg. As the Sabres I love drifted off to different teams, I think the attachment would fade. Although it would be much easier to follow a team from afar now than it was when I was a kid. Center Ice, blogs, team websites, newspaper websites… it might be easier to stay attached.

  3. 3 Katebits June 8, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Although it would be much easier to follow a team from afar now than it was when I was a kid.

    Yeah, essentially nothing would have to change at all, except that you couldn’t go to the arena.

    I suspect that I would cheer for the Sabres for a little while because of my attachment to certain players, etc. and then gradually transition to cheering for a team that is closer to where I actually live now or something like that.

    Yeah, but in the meantime, don’t you think you’d probably become attached to whatever new Sabres pop up along the way? I like Leitch’s point about there never being a specific time when your loyalties would shift. While you were rooting for Crunchy, a kid like Chris Butler might sneak in, and the next thing you know, you’re attached to the Peoria Sabres! But I TOTALLY respect your decision to hate the Sabres forever, Meg. It was my first instinct and in reality it might be what winds up happening if it ever came right down to it.

  4. 4 Meg June 8, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Yeah, but in the meantime, don’t you think you’d probably become attached to whatever new Sabres pop up along the way?

    Maybe…I just feel like my affection for the Sabres is very tied up in the fact that it’s a connection to my hometown and if that connection were severed my feelings might change. But I could be totally wrong about myself. Maybe I would love them forever and ever regardless of where they played. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out! :D

  5. 5 Sam June 9, 2009 at 12:06 am

    He loses me a bit when he argues that geography is a silly reason to choose one team over another (the reason I became a hockey fan was so that I had an excuse to cheer for Buffalo

    In Leitch’s defense, he was from St. Louis. There’s really no geographical pride to be had there. At all. And yes, I’ve been there, and to Buffalo. No comparison.

    I get the argument that these are players you care about, so why stop rooting just because some asshole owner took them away from your town. But to me, that’s not a good enough reason to keep rooting for the team. It’s a reason to keep rooting for individual players, the same as you do when a great player leaves in free agency or via trade (without being a dick about it.) When the Twins traded Johan Santana to the Mets (a team I despise,) I didn’t start hating him. I honestly hope he does well every year, in every start in which he’s not facing my Phillies. He’s a class guy, and I was lucky to have the chance to watch him pitch for a few years.

    Likewise, if the Wild moved to Las Vegas tomorrow, I’d still wish only the best for Mikko Koivu, Nik Backstrom, et al for the rest of their careers. But root for the Las Vegas Wild? No. Never.

  6. 6 Shauna June 9, 2009 at 12:43 am

    I read your blog to my husband and we had a discussion about this topic. Being Oilers fans, this situation has, in the past, come too close to reality. We decided that it depends on how messy the whole situation ended and where the team moved to. If it moved to Peoria and the fans seemed excited and grateful and were really, really nice, maybe I could continue cheering for the team, but if they moved to Toronto and became the second team there, there is NO F****** WAY. I would be sad it they moved to a non-hockey market too. Actually the whole concept sucks…they are not allowed to move. That is all.

  7. 7 Mikey June 9, 2009 at 2:05 am

    Peoria is a great choice since there are some of us in Chicago who call it “the Buffalo of Illinois.”

  8. 8 Grrrreg June 9, 2009 at 3:29 am

    As a fan of a team playing 5000 kms away from where I live, of course I can see how geography is not the only reason to root for a team. But I think that it’s really a personal matter.

    It’s perfectly ok for some people to be able to overcome the move and to keep on rooting for the franchise after it’s gone. But it’s perfectly understandable too to be crushed by such a move, to feel that the team turned its back on you, and that it’s not worthy of your support anymore. Also, it’s a theme that has been discussed already here, but there’s often a strong tie between your team and your city’s identity. A “blue collar” team playing in a “blue collar” city, and then moving to Las Vegas is bound to lose some of its identity I think. It’ll lose some fans in the process.

    It’s a little bit like love after all. What do you do when you get dumped? Some people stop loving their ex overnight, for some other, it’s a slow process, and for some others, it never ends.

    The only problem I have with Leitch’s argument is that he shouldn’t judge the other fans reactions. It’s not morally better to keep on rooting for your team, or to believe you’ve been betrayed and to stop to care.

    Wow, this inspired me a lot!

  9. 9 Becky June 9, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Eventually the players and coaches that you have a vested interest in will go elsewhere. The replacements will naturally gravitate only to the new place. In short, somewhere along the line the team will completely belong to Peoria with no recollection of the way things used to be. Peoria will dump Buffalo, leaving fans to watch the slow deterioration of the former HSBC arena.

  10. 10 pjf-usrt June 9, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Well, I guess I’d have to go back to Peoria to see a hockey game again.

    Yep, been there too.

    Sabres fan in those circumstances, no.

    The minor league baseball team that I grew up with moved to Lowell, Mass. in 1996. I finally worked up the desire to go to a game there last season. F’em….

  11. 11 Pookie June 9, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Man, this is a tough question! I’m someone who the instant a player no longer plays for the Devils, I cheer against him (with few very notable exceptions). It doesn’t matter why the guy left, my theory is he’s no longer a Devil, therefore he’s no longer my concern. I suppose this makes me a pretty unsentimental (at best) fan. So I suppose it comes as no surprise that I voted for A. Here’s the deal. It has nothing to do with geography — I lived in AZ and cheered as heartily for the Devils as when I lived in NJ. It has nothing to do with the players. Players come, players go, it’s a business. It has everything to do with the fans. And not in a Will Leitch blame-fans-for-not-thinking-the-“right”-way way. But in a schadenfruede-I-cheer-against-the-home-team-so-fans-of-other-teams-go-home-unhappy way. The fans of the Peoria Devils wouldn’t give one wit about the fans of the NJ Devils, nor should they. (Lord knows I’ve never given a thought to the fans of the Colorado Rockies.) But because they’d be the fans that got my team, I’d probably want them to go home unhappy from every game. They’d have some brand-spanking new team that they’d love unconditionally and I’d be there screaming at the TV “You a-holes never had to watch your team coached by Robbie Ftorek! You jerkwads never had to sit through Scott Neidermayer’s growing paisn! You cretins never had to watch Doug Gilmour shadow Mark Messier! You have NO IDEA what we’ve been through with this team!” I wouldn’t feel a part of their community at all, and that would probably be the kicker for me. At best, the Peoria Devils would probably have to be my Tranny Brides.

    However, all that said, I reserve the right to act completely different when the Devils move to Vegas or Winnipeg or Mexico City. I suspect this is one of those scenarios that you can never fully prepare for.

  12. 12 Katebits June 9, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Oooh. Thanks for all your great responses, guys!

    I few thoughts on your comments- I totally agree with the people who thought Leitch was wrong to judge fans for not following a team through a move. I wanted to keep the scenerio simple for the purposes of this post, but Leitch actually said he has no sympathy for Browns fans whining about Cleveland’s lack of championships because, “If he were a real fan, he’d have celebrated his first Super Bowl win seven years ago….with the Baltimore Ravens.” That’s got to be the stupidest shit I’ve ever read. In fact, even writing that sentence is making me want to change my vote to “a”.

    I also agree with Pookie that this is a situation we could probably never fully prepare for. For the purposes of this post I didn’t want to get bogged down in trying to imagine WHY the Sabres were hypothetically leaving, but in reality, whatever it was that caused them to go would CERTAINLY create some animosity towards the new location. Maybe I’m with Pete- Fuck ‘em.

    I had the Sabres moving to Peoria because it was the most benign place I could think of (and I’ve always liked that expression, “Will it play in Peoria?”), but I think it’s AWESOME that Peoria is the Buffalo of Illinois. I assume that means it’s super rad. :P


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