The Jerrys

On Monday afternoon, I became very cranky while listening to Jerry Sullivan pitch a fit about Terry Pegula on Schopp and the Bulldog.  Honestly, I’m not even sure I can summarize Sully’s point.  All I really know for sure is that Jerry was offended by Pegula’s meeting with the board of editors, he’s angry about Tim Connolly’s contract, and he feels that it’s his job to be critical of the Sabres.  I was in a bad mood when I turned on the radio, and Jerry’s appearance made it much, much worse.  Later on that evening, I instigated a bit of a tussle on Twitter when I responded semi-aggressively to a tweet from Mike Harrington that defended Sully’s WGR appearance.  The next thing I knew, Twitter was in a tizzy with everyone yelling about everything.

I don’t like being angry about a conversation I hear on the radio about the Sabres.  The fact that I was genuinely upset by Jerry’s appearance on the show made me feel stupid, and it made me feel sort of out of control, and it made me feel like there is something inherently unhealthy about my Sabres fandom.

So, there I was, pissed off, and poised at the computer, about to dig in for a fight with Mike Harrington on twitter, when, a light bulb suddenly went on over my head.  Wait.  Hold on, Kate.  What are you doing?

I had a moment of clarity.

It basically boils down to this: I follow the Sabres for enjoyment. Anything that interferes with that fundamental enjoyment is not worth my time, it’s not worth my consumer dollars, and it’s not worth my intellectual energy.  If some secondary element of my Sabres experience (Twitter, WGR, TBN, blogs) is upsetting me, it’s entirely within my power to walk away.

So, I stood up and walked away from the computer.  In an instant I decided that I would not be reading Sullivan’s columns or listening to his radio appearances in the future, and I realized that I need to seriously rethink how I use Twitter.

I will no longer allow outside influences to interfere with my enjoyment of the Sabres, at least not without at fight. It was Jerry Sullivan on the radio that led me to make this promise to myself, but it applies to a couple of things, most significantly, Twitter.  In some small way, I am wounded by every toxic tweet that I read, and I need to take responsibility for that, and I need to weed out the voices that I find destructive.  And most of all, I need to make sure that my output reflects who I am as a person.  Twitter should not be a dumping ground for negativity.  I need to make sure that my contribution to the conversation is not primarily in response to the people I respect the least.

Becoming a Sabres fan is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  It’s provided countless hours of fun, and I’ve met so many wonderful people as a result my fandom.  This is going to sound very cheesy, but one of my favorite things about rooting for a team is how it opens my heart up a bit.  Being a fan makes me feel a little vulnerable, in both good and bad ways.  The vulnerability is good because during the process of rooting for the Sabres I become more receptive to joy, and more open to hopefulness.  The vulnerability is bad because all of that openness makes bitterness sting a little more.  I have to admit, I wasn’t just offended by Jerry Sullivan on Monday.  I was also a little bit hurt by him.

This post is my first attempt to actively defend myself against the Jerry Sullivans of this world. (One of the things the newspaper guys love to say in defense of negative articles is, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”  Please listen carefully to me right now.  I am NOT shooting the messenger.  I’m rejecting the messenger.)  I used to think I could just ignore the negativity, or make fun of it until it didn’t bother me, but I don’t think that’s true anymore.  I think I need to be a little more proactive.  Periodically, I have to remind myself of the kind of sports fan I want to be, and I need to make sure that I’m actually being that fan.

Optimistic and open-hearted fans must remain vigilant, and we must stick together.  We can control this thing.  We can take over the interwebs, and we can create our own way of talking about the Sabres.  We can be braver, funnier, kinder, and more insightful than them.

The Jerrys speak loudly, but we don’t have to listen.


20 Responses to “The Jerrys”

  1. 1 Don Burtless March 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    this was fantastically written and sums up almost exactly how I felt after listening to those audio clips on WGR. great job, I’m also glad you decided not to “declare war” on negativity.

  2. 2 SueInVA March 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Rule number one of the interwebs: Know when to take a break.

    Great post!

  3. 3 Katebits March 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks Don! Make peace, not war! :)

    Thanks, Sue! You are SO EFFING right about taking a break. I should write rule in Sharpie on the casing of my laptop.

  4. 4 Meg March 2, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Way to be proactive Katebits!

    I’ve found that I’m a happier hockey fan if I never, ever read the Buffalo News columnists because they fill me with rage.

  5. 5 Mendola March 2, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    There is a lot of wisdom in this, but I reject some of it. I think we cannot avoid every dissenting opinion on things we love, even hobbies. I’ve made an effort to ignore people who – without any real attempts to understand it- bash soccer, but I will have conversations with people about it. I believe in God and will have discussions about it with any athiest unless they want to dwell on the Crusades as the reason I am an idiot.

    What I find works is to find where intelligent discussions is… where people aren’t using fake numbers and stories to make their point. Don’t believe good goaltending is necessary to win a Cup? Cool but let’s look at the numbers and systems of minders who’ve won. Don’t just call me dumb for opposing that idea! Civil discourse and intelligent discourse are similar but not equal. There are a lot of unnecessarily abrasive terms in some intelligent discourse.

    I think im on too much of a tangent plus im on a long bus ride home. Hopefully you get what im saying.

    And Sully is a really good guy, writer and friend. I didn’t hear his rant on Pegula but that’s because I don’t hear much of WGR.

  6. 6 Katebits March 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Nick, thanks for your comment. I am in full support of discussion and dissension, and I hope there is nothing in this post that suggests otherwise. But, I can think of no reason to subject myself to opinions that are packaged in such an abrasive and angry manner. And I wasn’t sitting at a bar, having a discussion with a friend, I was actively consuming a product, and listening to commercials, and listening to a conversation where I had no voice (because, um, it was the radio).

    Of course there are issues where I feel a moral obligation to make sure I’m informed of both sides of the issue. Sports are not one of them. I follow sports for fun. When I start feeling like I did on Monday, I’m out, and I make no apologies for that.

  7. 7 KevinP March 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    There is a huge difference between a dissenting opinion and one presented in an angry, irrational manner. Nick, I suspect you lack context because (1) you didn’t hear it and (2) he’s your friend, so if you did hear it you would hear it through the ears of a friend and be less objective.


    I just want to be able to have civil, intelligent, nuanced discourse. Using the owners name in a condescending manner with a sneer in the voice (“Terr”) brings the conversation down. And when Sullivan said, in some shocked and incredulous way, “I don’t think he’s even been in front of an editorial board before” (I used quotes there but paraphrased) I thought it was like he was trying to make him out to be some sort of hillbilly. How many of us have been in that spot?

    Specifics aside, Nick’s latter point is right; civil discourse is the goal and Jerry Sullivan did not represent that on WGR that day.

  8. 8 Ed March 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Sully, in many ways, exemplifies all the worst attributes of the “old-school” sports reporter. He feels privileged and entitled; he’s jaded and cynical; he has a nickname; he’s dismissive of other points of view; he’s a cranky old man. He has his good points — I thought his coverage of the Beijing Olympics was excellent. I don’t really have a point here. Just talkin’ Jerry. He sure makes me miss Jim Kelley.

    Regarding hope: you weren’t here in ’99. I don’t mean that as some kind of, “You’re not a real fan,” thing, just…it’s hard to describe that deflated feeling. I grew up a huge Sabres fan. My friend and I took the train downtown for the rally after that loss, and it was cool, an attempt to draw something positive from the loss.

    But we walked home, all the way up Main Street, from downtown to University Plaza. Not to get all melodramatic, but looking back that walk seems kind of symbolic in my memory – some of that youthful enthusiasm and hope fading with each passing mile of boarded up storefronts and graffiti covered walls [cue the mournful pentatonic guitar solo].

    So the last few years have been kind of hard to be a Sabres fan. This year I pretty much took “off” of hockey. No enthusiasm. Thought about folding up my fantasy league that I’ve been running for 10 years. Didn’t watch a whole game until some time in December.

    But, even before the ownership change, I’d decided to try again next year. To just go all-out. I’m gonna buy a jersey. I’m gonna watch every game I can, and scrape together a few bucks to maybe go to a few. Cheer loud and gnash my teeth. My dog is trained to jump gleefully straight into the air whenever I yell, “Scoooooooores!” in my best RJ voice, but she hasn’t done that at all this season. She’s going to get a workout next year.

  9. 9 Ed March 2, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Jesus, what a pretentious tool I am.

  10. 10 Brian Koperski March 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    I just want to say I loved all of this. Great stuff.

  11. 11 Heather B. March 3, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Kate, I’m really glad you finally posted this. It’s good stuff. I always get a little annoyed with myself when I flip out on Bucky or Sully because there’s probably more power in choosing to ignore them, but man, I just get so annoyed when I hear or read them and realize these are the guys who are, in a sense, representing us. They think they’re the voice of the people. Gross. I’ve been trying to remind myself all season that I follow sports for fun, for the stupid joy and excitement that they bring. Stepping away from anything interfering with that is a good idea once in a while.

  12. 12 CDR March 3, 2011 at 1:28 am

    I like to read the Buffalo News’ Sabres Edge blog for the game live-blogs and actual bits of news, but that’s about it. When I want to read discussion and opinion about the Sabres, I look to you, Heather, Paul, or the Goose’s Roost first. In my opinion, you guys already have accomplished the things you mention in the last paragraph. So keep up the good work.

  13. 13 James March 3, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Personally, I’ve been more annoyed by Schopp’s side on this whole thing than Sully’s.

    And I usually HATE Sully’s takes.

    I was ticked off at Pegula when he asked the media to back off. Maybe it’s because I do a sports talk radio show and am a volunteer member of the media. But, I would not take kindly to the owner of the Rhinos or Flash asking me to suppress negative commentary so that their players feel better about themselves and play better because of it.

    The issue for me isn’t whether the media or fans are too negative.

    The issue for me is whether the Sabres have the right players and staff to be successful in this environment.

    As someone who was once tasked at work to try and change customer’s behavior to be more cost effective for us and not the end user I can say “Good Luck” to trying to get the fans and media to change.

    The team needs players that can either filter it out or actually thrive in this type of environment. Heck, Bulldog was wondering if Nathan Horton was sleep walking in Florida because nobody cared about the Panthers when talking up Horton to the Sabres. So I reject Schopp’s idea that players today, by and large, don’t thrive in the environment here in Buffalo.

    Some do and some don’t.

    If certain players can’t thrive in Buffalo because it’s too negative, then get them out of town.

    And as far as tuning out Sully, Bucky, and anyone else that ticks you off, Good Luck with that because it can be extremely hard for me when people annoy me!

  14. 14 scottymcss March 3, 2011 at 7:21 am


    Thank you for writing.

    Thank you for existing as an objective voice in the social media. Your blog, and a few others, have become my primary resource for Sabres info and rink vibe over the last few years.

    When I was growing up, J-Sul was a writing hero of mine. Now, I too avoid his columns. He is still a fantastic writer, but he doesn’t cover the whole story anymore. And that is a shame.

    What is wonderful is that there are bloggers like you, who provide the real spectrum of this team, this town, and all of the ups and downs that we go through together. You do it objectively, smartly, and provide one heck of an entertaining ride along the way. Fun!

    Maybe J-Sul will see some of these blogs and heed them as a sort of “clarion call” for his own work to return to the grounds of objectivity. I certainly hope he does. I, and the rest of WNY, would be thrilled to have him back.

    Besides all that: DIE CANES DIE!!!!!! The playoffs begin TONIGHT!!! WOOoooooo!

  15. 15 Katebits March 3, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for responding to this everyone!

    I want to clarify a few things. First of all, I didn’t want this post to directly bash Jerry’s position on the show, or even his work in general (although, the 1st draft definitely did both of those things, so believe me, I’m not judging you guy who did so in the comments).

    As for Jerry’s position- I agree with those who said Pegula deserves some criticism for the TBN interview. It’s Jerry’s tone that I roundly reject. That’s kind of the point I was trying to make. I simply do not accept that level of spitefulness in regards to sports. It detracts from my enjoyment.

    Which leads to my next point. I don’t think Jerry’s work is valueless. But he’s definitely detracting more than he adds to my enjoyment at this point. That’s why he’s off the playlist. But, I assume someday in the future, he’ll write something great again, and people will link to it, and I’ll read it, and hopefully, by taking the steps I’m taking now to avoid becoming incredibly bitter myself, I’ll be able to appreciate Jerry’s column for what it is- a good piece of writing. At that point, he’ll be adding more than he detracts.

    I also specifically want to use Heather’s comment to make another point- I actually often detect a lot of joy in Heather’s pieces where she rips into the TBN guys. Sometimes getting all enraged can be super fun. I have no intention of laying off the “comically raged” aspect of my own writing.

    This isn’t really about positivity vs. negativity. It’s much more subtle than that.

  16. 16 Heather B. March 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I also specifically want to use Heather’s comment to make another point- I actually often detect a lot of joy in Heather’s pieces where she rips into the TBN guys.

    Ah, well that’s good to know at least. :P

    James, for the record, I also agree that some of Pegula’s comments are silly. TBN *has* been brutal to Connolly but if that’s part of why he’s playing poorly, that’s his problem. But Bucky Gleason, of all people, had a much more reasonable response: Pegula had owned a sports team for roughly 24 hours at the time of the editorial board, there’s a steep learning curve, it’s a much different way of relating to the media. He’ll figure things out. And let me tell you, if Bucky can be reasonable about something and you can’t, you’re in a bad spot.

    Like Kate said, my problem with Jer was the tone: angry, over-the-top, and sarcastic. It doesn’t add anything and it’s impossible to have a real discussion with someone like that. I also got the feeling, listening to him rant about how much Pegula has already screwed up, that this one dumb comment is something Jerry is going to hold against him for a while. For all the criticism Golisano took for holding a grudge, I think Jerry has shown that he is more than capable of doing the same. I hope that’s not the case because that would be too bad for everyone involved.

    I think Jerry is super talented. His columns can be plain beautiful. I really like peeking in on his chats. I’ve had a few reasonable, enjoyable discussions about various things via email where I’ve found him to be smart, funny, and totally willing to admit that he and TBN don’t always do everything right. I think it’s too bad that he goes on the radio and shoots all that down with one shrill, angry performance. The differences in the various medias is probably a totally different topic, but you know, for the record, I’m perfectly capable of enjoying Jerry. Doesn’t change the fact that I think he sounded like a raving lunatic this time around.

  17. 17 Katebits March 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Here’s something else I just thought of:

    Even if tomorrow Jerry writes the most moving, thought-provoking, beautiful piece ever written about the Sabres- people will link to it, and I can just… go read it. But from now on, for the good of my mental health, I’m going to assume that what Jerry is writing and saying is utter bullshit until I’m informed otherwise by people I trust. Unfortunately for organizations like WGR and TBN, because of the interwebs I literally DON’T have to miss a THING. So, if Jerry suddenly gets brilliant, I CAN JUST GO ONLINE AND READ/LISTEN TO THE ARCHIVES.

    There is absolutely ZERO chance that I’m going to “miss” something amazing in this day and age. So, for me, it’s just safer to ignore Jerry Sullivan until someone I really trust says, “This is worth a listen/read.” That might be something radio stations and newspapers should consider. The “what will he say next? I don’t want to miss a thing” phenomenon is really over.

  18. 18 Mike March 5, 2011 at 11:28 am

    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. Sports are supposed to be fun, and if they aren’t then you’re doing it wrong. Great post.

    On the “Twitter as a dumping ground for negativity” point: as a side effect of following everyone who follows me, I tend to follow a lot of overly negative people. Everything doesn’t need to be puppies and rainbows all the time, but on the flip side, constant negativity gets tiring as well. That’s why if I’m ragging on a player, I at least try to make it snarky and funny – otherwise I feel like I’m just complaining for the sake of complaining.

  19. 19 Alex March 6, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Yeah back when the Sabres were awful at the beginning of the season I came to the same conclusion. “Well, f— it, I’m just going to have fun.”

  20. 20 BuffaloPeg July 11, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Well said. Couldn’t agree more

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