My friend Mike Schopp wrote a very thoughtful piece for WGR a few days ago and I highly recommend that you read it right away.
It’s difficult to talk about the Sabres right now because we’re all so surly. Even the rosiest personalities among us are fed up and exasperated. Unlike the past five years, I’ve successfully tuned out a lot of the chatter this season. When the Sabres are this bad, I lose the taste for blogs, and newspaper columns, and radio shows discussing their many shortcomings. It’s really not in my personality to get rage-y about the Sabres, so, instead of getting rage-y, I get indifferent. Every once in a while, something cuts through the fog of my indifference and I think, “Hm. That’s a smart and reasonable position,” and it makes me feel better. Mike’s post was like that.
Mike went into a lot of particulars about his job and about the current state of the Sabres, but what I liked best about his post is that it caused me to step back and ask myself, “Where exactly do I stand? What are my core Sabres beliefs?” I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
I watch the Sabres for fun. It’s my responsibility to make sure that my Sabres fandom doesn’t turn into something toxic. My response to the Sabres is more a reflection of me than it is of the team.
Now obviously, this season BLOWS A MILLION CHUNKS EACH AND EVERY DAY. You’d have to be delusional to be walking around projecting optimism and sunshine about the current state of the Stupidhead Sabres. There is absolutely NO reasonable cause for hope here. BUT, there are steps we can take as fans to ensure that our fandom doesn’t veer towards a head-on collision with Crankytown.
If you are reading this blog, I think it’s safe to say that you’re a Super Fan of the Sabres (let’s not even THINK about what it means if you’re writing this blog). People who have a healthy/casual relationship with sports do not read blogs about their horrifying hockey team. No, if you’re reading this, you’ve already surrendered some portion of yourself to the Sabres. The Sabres own a little piece of your heart, and that’s just how it is. To some extent, you and I are helpless. Since we can’t totally ignore the Sabres, the best we can hope to do this season is manage the damage they inflict.
It’s my sincere belief that things are going to get worse for the Sabres before they get better. It’s sad but true. This season is lost. They’re done. I’ve been saying for weeks (on Twitter, not here. Sorry, blog readers!) that I think Regier is going to get fired the second the Sabres finish missing the playoffs. I still believe this, and I also believe that a lot of the stuff Pegula and Black have been saying about injuries being a legitimate excuse is just something they have to say because they really don’t have any good moves at the moment. GMs get fired in the summertime, not in January. Coaches get fired mid-season all the time, but Lindy Ruff exists in some weird alternative coaching universe where nothing can ever really touch him. (The sooner you accept the weird Laws of Lindy, the sooner you’ll feel better. Just surrender.) So, the prudent move for ownership is to just wait this out, sell at the deadline, and plan for next season. Ryan Miller is right. There is no trade that can save this team. They need an overhaul. They need at least one trade deadline, one draft, and one July 1st to fix this. They might need even more than that.
So that’s where we stand.
The bad news is that as a Super Fan you’re going to have to suffer through seasons like this, and you’re going to keep watching, and you’re going to keep reading redonk blog posts, and you’re going to keep wishing YOU HAD NEVER EVEN HEARD OF THE BUFFALO SABRES. But the good news is that… well, wait… there is no good news. This blows.
Just kidding. The good news is that there ARE steps you can take to survive the season. Here are some things that work for me. This list is by no means complete, and not every suggestion is going to work for every fan.
1. Believe in the things that make you feel better.
This is not about being delusional. This is about protecting your ability to be hopeful.
The thing I liked most about Mike’s post is this:
Maybe you’re right but maybe you’re wrong. Since no one knows I’ll lean toward the side that makes me feel better.
I’ve been struggling to articulate something like this for weeks. No one knows (NO ONE) what is really going on with this team and what would solve the problem, and furthermore, fans have absolutely no control over any of it. Wouldn’t it just be nicer if we all just followed our hearts a little bit here?
For Mike, the belief that the Cup would be sweeter with Regier and Ruff at the helm has value. For me, it’s my faith in Pegula and Ted Black that makes me feel better. As a reasonable fan, you would be wise to consider what makes you feel better, and then take steps to ignore the rest.
2. Ignore the rest.
Stop reading the paper, stop listening to the radio (sorry, Mike), and for the LOVE OF GOD, stop reading this blog. (Heh.)
3. Stand by your man.
A few years ago (during one of the 10th place years), I wrote this about Jason Pominville. (BTW, that post is a good read if you want to be reminded of a.) how right I’ve always been about Jason Pominville and b.) how there’s a lot of ebb and flow with every player over the course of any long contract.) I think about that post a lot because I remember that after I wrote it I felt a LOT better about being a Sabres fan.
One of the things that makes me sad about the current environment is how often I hear people say there are NO likeable Sabres. I certainly can’t judge anyone for disliking these guys, but for what it’s worth, I’ve always had a few players that I just like, no matter what. If you have a guy that you just like, don’t give up on him now. Hold onto him tight and do it without shame.
My guys are Goose, Crunchy, and Pommerdoodle. I don’t care how hard they suck or how hard they rock. I like those guys, it makes me feel good to like those guys, and beyond that I just don’t care.
4. Listen to music while watching the games.
This one has absolutely saved me this season. A few weeks ago I found myself unreasonably irritated by the Sabres broadcast team. The details are unimportant (and completely forgettable, apparently), but for some reason that night I was all, “I would totally fight Rob Ray right now. I WOULD FIGHT HIM, AND I WOULD WIN.” In a fit of frustration, I put the television on mute and turned on some soothing tunes. Magically, I didn’t need to fight Rob Ray anymore. I calmly watched the rest of the game (the Sabres lost miserably), and I escaped relatively unscathed. Now I do this all the time. Don’t forget that even when the Sabres are horrible, music is still wonderful.
Never underestimate how much better you might feel without the Sabres broadcast team feeding you a bunch of bullhonky about how the Sabres aren’t the worst team ever.
5. If a bunch of people are screeching about something, listen to what they’re saying, and then believe the opposite.
This one is hard to explain, so bear with me for a minute.
Here is what the screeching, angry hoard is screeching these days: “NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE AND DARCY REGIER IS A MORON AND PEGULA IS JUST MORE OF THE SAME AND LINDY SHOULD BE FIRED AND I HATE ALL THE SABRES AND BLAH BLAH BLAH POOR ME I’M A SEASON TICKET HOLDER AND I’M NOT RENEWING WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” On one hand, all of these points are totally legitimate, but on the other hand it’s just SO DUMB.
Even if the screeching is factually correct, don’t you just want to distance yourself from that? I do. I think there is almost always a completely reasonable way to counter any sports-related screeching. Here’s how I would counter the current screechers:
Um, hello? Last year, out of nowhere a billionaire no one had ever heard of bought the team and vowed to win us a dozen Stanley Cups. Then he proceeded to spend like a drunken sailor in free agency. Things DO change. Things HAVE changed. The problem here is not lack of change, it’s that the change hasn’t worked. What that probably means is that Darcy Regier is going to get his ass fired this summer. Once Darcy is fired and a new GM takes over, Lindy will FINALLY be on the clock. Yes, it is true that the current Sabres suck in nearly every way, but no, it’s not true that this will necessarily be true forever.
*Patrick Kaleta hand wash gesture*
I take pride in disagreeing with the Whiner Line dummies. If they say one thing, I say the opposite. It’s not actually so much about disagreeing, it’s more about finding the intellectual high ground. The best move is to ignore the screechers entirely, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you can’t beat them, whatever you do, DO NOT JOIN THEM.
I’m not sure that this one would bring solace to everyone, but it does for me.
5. Don’t be afraid to change your mind about Sabres-related issues.
I would never judge you for changing your mind. In fact, I’d respect you for it, because it means you’re using your brain and responding to the situation at hand, and not to some prior position which was every bit as dumb as whatever position you’re currently taking. My point is that when it comes to the Sabres, we’re all idiots, all the time. Try to mix it up a little. Variety is the spice of life!
Example: I’ve flip-flopped a million times on Lindy Ruff. My opinion changes weekly, and yet I’m quite certain I’ve never been wrong about him. Heh.
6. Watch the game in a bar.
It’s hard to pay attention to a game in a bar, and even harder to get all bent out of shape about a game you watch in a bar.
7. While you’re in that bar, drink a lot.
8. Figure out which of your friends are Sabres-sane and which are Sabres-crazy, and choose to hang out with the Sabres-sane ones.
Everyone who is reading or writing this blog is Sabres-crazy. If you were even remotely sane about the Sabres you’d be ignoring them completely by now. If you put two Sabres-crazy people together for a game like last night things can go south in a hurry because you’re both so invested in the outcome.
I actually have quite a few friends who are Sabres-sane. These people watch the games when they happen to be in front of a television when the Sabres are playing, and while they’d certainly prefer a win to a loss they’re not going to go to a dark place no matter what. These friends are worth their weight in gold right now. If you have friends like this, you should be nice to them and buy them lots of beer.
9. Don’t judge other fans, and stop caring about the opinions of people who do.
This is going to sound contradictory in light of the fact that I just called a bunch of people “Whiner Line dummies,” and encouraged you to disagree with them on principle, but whatevs.
It really bothers me when people who sit at home (or worse, FAR WORSE, the press box) rag on the fans at the game. I work really, really hard to pay for my seats, and there is no conceivable way to care more about the Sabres than I do. The constant message earlier this season that I was “doing it wrong” in the arena was actually very hurtful to me. I stopped giving those opinions my respect a few months ago, and it felt GREAT.
If someone puts the word “fan” into quotation marks on twitter, feel free to disregard their tweet entirely. They’re just having a douchey moment and hopefully it will pass. If the douchey moment doesn’t pass, unfollow them.
For better or for worse, we’re all in this together. There is really no reason to turn on each other. Do your best to refrain from fan-cannibalism and NO MATTER WHAT don’t let the worst of it get to you.
I know some people in Buffalo love to hate basketball, but I bet you’re not one of those people. Basketball is fun and since you don’t care about it at all (to the point where you regularly forget which teams you like), it’s a totally safe distraction from the Sabres.
I haven’t watched much basketball yet this season, but I like knowing it’s there.
11. Have your sister and her husband make you a niece.
This one is a little impractical because the best babies (i.e. fattest) take about nine months to prepare, but with proper timing, a new niece can do wonders to put a spring in your step.
At the risk of sounding very cheesy, now is a good time to put the Sabres in the proper perspective. Following hockey is our hobby, but I’m positive that everyone reading this has a lot of other important and beautiful things going on in their lives. Let’s dwell on those a bit.
Well, that’s all I’ve got! Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments. Stay strong, Sabres fans.
Let’s go Buff-a-lo!