Saturday, March 19, 2011

Relax. Chill out.

The stuff most people call “real life”? For two minutes, a hockey player gets to skate it all away. You can’t drop gloves on life, kid - but in The Game? They’ll cheer you if you do. Because they all know what a struggle… what a fight life can be. And when they see you take a swing - with your stick or a good right hook - they feel like you’re taking a swing for
them. And lots of people will tell you that ain’t right. But brother?
There ain’t nothin’ righter.
- from a scene released from the script of Kevin Smith's upcoming hockey movie, Hit Somebody

 Being a hockey fan is a strange little thing. It gives you something in life to cheer for, something to watch on Tuesday nights, and something to drive you a little crazy. Unfortunately, unlike the athletes who skate a little harder or hit a few more guys when they've got some stress to let out, fans have to find other outlets for their frustrations. And it can get a little complicated when those frustrations come from the very same game we watch to distract ourselves from all this.

Everybody's angry. And we live in a society where anger gets attention, and the voice of reason is often ignored because it's not sensational enough to make the news. So everybody continues to be angry at each other, if another team's player fishes a penalty, or if a small fraction of a fanbase makes everyone look bad, or if people have the slightest difference of opinion. People are angry Max Pacioretty got hit and Zdeno Chara was sent on his merry way to play the rest of the season. People are angry at those people. And these days that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I know that I'm no exception, having given quite a bit of thought recently to just how many NHL fanbases are just as bad as Habs fans. When Brad Marchand was suspended for two games after hitting RJ Umberger, my first thought was that maybe, finally, we'd see a change in the way violence was handled in this game. After that, things went downhill: Maybe the Bruins are indirectly getting the punishment they deserve. Maybe Marchand will think twice before lighting another match in the rookie respect debate. Maybe now Umberger will think twice before doing something as nasty as that hit he delivered on Drew Doughty last week.
Or I get a little tired of my role as a Habs apologist and I start pointing fingers. I'm no better than any other hater.
Yup. I generally try to pride myself on my level-headedness and optimism, but on some occasions I'm no better than anyone else: the fans who boo everything, the fans who verbally attack each other, the people who make Twitter less fun, the athletes who say things to get attention and the people who give it to them.

So that's it. I'm hoping that it stops here.

I'm not supposed to get this stressed out about a sport. No one is. So from here to the end of the season (which isn't very much time at all, I know), I'm going to do my best to not engage in any of this stuff. I might get upset about things, but I'll keep myself in check. I won't respond to the Jack Todd and Don Cherry types who say ridiculous things to get attention, whether in the media or online. (It's much easier when you don't even watch or read those people.) I will keep my player-hating in check. This doesn't mean I've turned the other cheek and forgotten what Zdeno Chara has done or how I feel about the Bruins, Leafs, Rangers, and Flyers. It just means I'll keep most of my anger to myself, and will refrain from hoping that one of my guys kicks his ass, because that won't solve anything.

I may not do a complete 180, but I'll try. I'll do my part to stop responding to extremes, and maybe some other people will do the same. Maybe this will trickle up and the people we watch and read will tone down the sensationalism. Maybe. But even if they don't, at least I know I'll feel better.

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