A Moment of Clarity

In the stupidest turn of Sabres-related-events ever, all anyone ever talks about anymore is whether FNC is loud enough.

So, let’s just solve this once and for all: Is the crowd at FNC loud enough?

Short answer: No.

Slightest expanded answer: No, because the crowd is a reflection of last five years of Sabres hockey.

Now that we have that settled….

I’m as guilty as the next viola player of indulging in this conversation. I’ve spent the last three days taking the bait and rigorously defending the FNC crowd as though my very life were on the line.  For reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, I’ve taken every single criticism of the FNC crowd personally this season. Every time someone tweeted that season ticket holders are all rich middle-aged assholes who only have season tickets as some sort of status symbol, I was all, “Hey… that’s not nice. My feelings are hurt!”

I’ve been all over the place with this one. I spent a gruesome morning collecting tweets critical of the FNC crowd from local media and bloggers with the intention of blasting everyone to the moon. (Seriously though, the uniformity of thought on this issue from the people sitting in the press box should be setting off warning bells in the minds of free thinkers.)  I also have at least three half written posts about how all of this neurotic hand wringing and mean-spirited finger-pointing is a reflection of Buffalo’s deep-seated need to hate ourselves. (While ignoring our real problems, let’s all hate ourselves about something of exactly zero consequence to our community!) I also had a theory about how Buffalo ex-pats are the root of all sports-related evil. (Basic theory: Ex-pats try to use their Sabres experience to re-live their youth. They get irate and foot-stompy when the reality doesn’t match up with their rose-colored nostalgia: “Back in MY day we knew how to cheer for the Sabres! The streets of Buffalo were paved with gold and Grampa gave me Werthers and Blue Light at the Bills game. I lost my virginity in the Mighty Taco parking lot after prom and I had the BEST CHILDHOOD EVER! Then I moved to NYC/Raleigh/wherever. Now Buffalo sucks … probably because I’m gone.”)

I can admit that all these theories are juuuuust a tad over-wrought and defensive. Like 99.99999% of all conversations about sports, there’s probably is no greater meaning to any of this. It’s just a storyline. That’s cool, I guess. Obviously this is not my favorite storyline ever, but neither was, “Sabres likely to end in 10th place, AGAIN.” We need stuff to fill up the newspapers and blogs and radio waves. This will do.


I went to a cello recital this afternoon and while listening to the beautiful music I had a moment of awesome clarity: “Wait a second,” I thought to myself, “I have Sabres season tickets.”

Having the opportunity to go to many Sabres games is exactly as awesome and wonderful as it sounds. I think the arena will perk up when the Sabres perk up, but either way, I’m grateful for my personal Sabres experience. If you’re a regular attendee of Sabres games, you’re my people, and I love you. If you’re not a regular attendee of Sabres games, but you still love the Sabres, and you at the very least have the decency to be funny while you’re being a jerk on Twitter, I love you too.

The end.

After my moment of clarity I did this dance, and I decided never to care about what Twitter thinks about my worth as a season ticket holder ever again:

Let’s go Buff-a-lo!

9 Responses to “A Moment of Clarity”

  1. 1 mikespub March 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    I like to think I’m a funny jerk on twitter, and love the Sabres….and you’re spot on about the FNC

  2. 2 Jaime Dippold Nowicki March 12, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I used to have a mini pack about 10 or so years ago and yes, the arena seemed a lot louder than it is now. I don’t don’t know why that is but I still love me some Sabres. When i do get to a game now, I cheer and boo though I sound silly doing it. I don’t really care if the people around me think I’m being annoying.

  3. 3 Tom March 12, 2012 at 9:01 am

    The FNC is NOT loud at all.

    I’d like to add a reason to yours…the past 5 (15 years) years….the building itself.

    I’m a native Buffalonian who has been living elsewhere for about 16 years. I moved to DC about 6 years ago and picked up a pair of season tickets so I saw the rise of the Caps from the basement to President’s trophy winners etc.

    When the crowds came back to the Verizon Center it was LOUD. Unbelievably loud no matter where you sat. My seats were in the 100 level but I saw the matching hat tricks in the playoffs by Crosby and Ovechkin 1 row from the top behind the goal and it was equally as loud.

    But how to compare to the FNC? So in the fall of 2009 my wife was pregnant with our son. We went to 3 games that fall…2 at HSBC and a few weeks later 1 at Verizon Center. The games in Buffalo were great..Tyler Myers 1st goal. Good wins at home. Awesome atmosphere. But we kept saying…it is so quiet!!

    2 weeks later the Sabres played in DC. We went to the game but the first goal that was scored by the Caps was so loud, we immediately got up and left for fear of the safety and hearing of the baby.

    It was a blow to my hometown pride (esp since my wife is from Philly and a huge Flyers fan and we all know about how raucous a Philly crowd is). I thought about it quite a bit and came up with 2 answers:

    1. As you said the pathology of losing hurts a fanbase. But it is the kind of fans that make a huge difference. Sabres fans know the game…they get as tense and nervous over a bad icing at a critical moment as they do over the opposition scoring. Caps fans are mostly bandwagon fans (although the old-school Caps Center fans are hardcore…imagine sitting though losing like that for 20 years…oh yeah…the Bills). They are driven not by intellectual knowledge and appreciation of hockey but raw, primal emotion. So when Ovechkin goes coast to coast and pots one…people go nuts. Sabres fans know the game to well. The FNC feels nervous and tense…not the great highs and lows you get at Verizon Center.

    2. The architecture of the building. In Verizon Center, when you sit in the top rows, you can nearly reach up and touch the flat corrugated metal ceiling. In FNC, the ceiling rises far above the last row of seats and continues up into the domed ceiling. This is why FNC is way better for concerts but is why it is so damned quiet. The ceiling sucks up all the noise. If Terry Pegula wants to invest in something (like a home ice advantage), flatten that roof and bring it down. You feel so far removed from the ice at FNC compared to Verizon where even in the top rows you are in the middle of the action and noise.

    This has been long, but I will just close by saying that I hope the Sabres can figure out a way to make FNC a tough place to play.

  4. 4 Mikey B March 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I’m not a regular attendee of Sabres games, and I’m an ex-Buffalonian, and I love the Sabres, and I like to think I’m not a jerk. (Mostly.)

    I’ve tried to stay out of the whole FNC quietness arguement. I’ve noticed it on TV and at the game I went to this year, but I don’t think it’s really fair to call someone a bad fan for not cheering their hearts out. Hockey games are expensive, and to make someone pay that much money for a seat AND then tell them what to do while they’re IN that seat not only silly, it’s hurtful and awfully presumptuous.

    I don’t think anyone will deny that the FNC *is* quieter than other arenas, and even than it used to be. My girlfriend has been to exactly two hockey games in her life: we saw the Sabres beat Tampa in early 2011, and then we watched the Philly game where Miller got tossed after giving up 3 goals in 7 minutes. (I had bought my first ever Sabres sweater not 30 minutes before the game. Good ol’ number 30. How’s THAT for a bad omen? WOO MILLER…oh, goal. Well he’s still good so he’ll…oh, goal. Well it’s only two goals they can…oh, goal. Aaaaand here comes Enroth. Stupid sweater!) I digress.

    So, I had told her so many times about my first hockey game when I was a kid, and when the Sabres scored the first goal it was like a bomb went off. The crowd exploded, and I almost had a heart attack. I kept telling her, “This ain’t like Tampa, wait until you hear the home team score in a REAL hockey city!” When the Sabres scored their first goal it was…about the same as when the Sabres score in Tampa. (Tampa is almost like a home game for the Sabres. As many or more Sabres fans there than Lightning fans.) I chalked it up to the fact that the fans just watched their Sabres go into a 3 goal hole early in the first, and just couldn’t get that excited about getting one back. I think it’d have been a different story noisewise if they’d managed a game tying buzzer beater. The Sabres did put together some sustained pressure at the end and the crowd was definitely responding.

    What this says to me is if they want a louder crowd, they need a more exciting game. When the Sabres scored, the crowd cheered. When they had sustained pressure, the crowd cheered. I think crowd noise is cumulative, and you just can’t expect people to cheer for the sake of cheering. Calling people’s fandom into question is ridiculous. If someone is willing to plunk down a chunk of their hard earned in this economy to go see a game, they’re a fan. I think part of it, to compare with the Bills, is even though the Bills suck more than a black hole, people are resigned to it and so they don’t care, they just want to have a good time. I think they’re also so excited when the Bills do something good, they can’t HELP but cheer! The Sabres have been almost good and almost bad for so long that it might be MORE frustrating than being outright bad. The Sabres do something bad, and people get mad. The Sabres do something good and people subconciously think, “Well I’m not cheering, that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do, stupid highest payroll in the league jerks!” One thing I know, is it is NOT the fans’ fault.

    One last thing: not all Buffalo ex-pats are “back in my day!” chanting buttholes. I hope there aren’t too many people out there of the opinion that a person is not a true fan if they don’t live in Buffalo. That’s just dumb. My career dictates my living situation. I’m not going to move back to Buffalo and hurt my well being just so I can be a “real fan” or whatever. I’ve lived outside of Buffalo more of my life now than I lived in it, but when people ask me where I’m from, I always say Buffalo. Buffalo IS where I’m from. I think I’ve replied here with this before, but I think that’s part of the reason I’m such a heart-first fan. Being a fan keeps me connected to the city I came from. If someone thinks that’s not the right way to be a fan, I don’t care. Maybe they ought to make a little more noise at the arena before they judge me for living in Orlando. (Kidding! That’s a joke!)

    Anyway, I don’t care if I live in Central Florida, the Lightning and Panthers can both suck it. I bleed blue and gold! (I should really see a doctor about that. I don’t think that’s natural…)

    • 5 Katebits March 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      Aw, Mikey. I hope this post wasn’t too hard on ex-pats. I certainly don’t think that ex-pats are all buttholes, and I totally agree, living away from Buffalo doesn’t make anyone less of a Buffalo fan. Let’s all hug and never worry about this again!

  5. 6 Alissa (@aristeia) March 13, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I don’t say jack about this topic on twitter after what happened last time. Upsetting people I really like is not my bag. I would like to say that I do enjoy some schädenfreude for those fans that leave early due to not believing that the team can come back and then missing out on an awesome comeback. But that’s for any sport, any team. “Sabres down a goal and 5 minutes to go? Screw these lametards, I’m out like trout!” *goal horn sounds while they’re in the lobby* Oopsie. I guess I just can’t understand leaving early when you’ve paid your hard-earned money to watch the game. (Families w/ children are different, of course.) I feel the same way about people leaving concerts early. Buh? Traffic is that upsetting to you that you need to leave this Springsteen concert before the encore?

    As for crowd noise, it’s really hard to tell while watching on tv. The 2 times I watched a game there, I had a great time. It was so special to me to be able to watch a Sabres game w/ other Sabres fans instead of alone in my living room or at a bar (again, watching alone). I like to concentrate on the game though and like Tom said above, I think that has a tendency to make people quiet. Also, this structural theory makes a ton of sense. And the fact that Sabres fans in other arenas tend to be pretty rowdy is probably b/c they don’t get to see their team live all that often– just like me, they’re super duper excited.

    I hope anything I’ve said doesn’t get me in Bits hot water. If you are a leave-concerts-early person, I apologize. Although… you perform in them, so I’m thinking you’re a proponent of staying until the end.

  6. 7 Mikey B March 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Naw Katebits, I didn’t think it was directed at all of us, I was just pointing out that not all of us are buttholes. Plus, you can take the boy out of Buffalo, but you can’t take the Buffalo out of the boy. ;)

    And yeah, Alissa…why leave a game early? I have a rule that I stop watching a game on TV if the Sabres go down by 5, but that’s on TV. I don’t get to see games that often so in person I stick it out to the bitter end! Granted, I can see leaving a game with 5 minutes to go because your team is getting shellacked but I’d definitely stick around if it’s a one goal game. Buzzer beaters are super exciting!

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