Thursday, October 11, 2007

Give Peace a Scoring Chance

We all know that hockey fans are extremely passionate, devoted people. Those of us who place hockey above all other sports in our hearts and minds are arguably among the most loyal fans of any league in the country. No matter what the team affiliation, there is something that bonds all of us together in a sort of secret club that only we have entrance to - we have our own language, our own heroes and villains, our own dress code and our own holy grail.

Because of our membership in this secret club one would think that we all are able to somehow coexist peacefully - but as so many of us have seen before and as a recent piece in the NY Post's NHL blog points out, this is increasingly not the case.

Says the author,

There is a profound lack of respect and decorum pervading areas far beyond arenas and blogs. The lack of intelligent discourse between fans of rival teams is disheartening. It underscores the devolution of interpersonal communication, which has declined to the point where monosyllabic epithets are the highest - or at least most preferred - form of expression.

It's one of those things that you read and just slowly nod your head because you know - you've seen - that this is true.

Ask any member of the Caps faithful who the worst fans in the league are and you can bet without even a second thought they will say one of four teams: Penguins, Flyers, Sabres or Rangers. There is a level of vitriol towards these groups that is unmatched for any other team in the NHL, and it's not just because of historic rivalries between their teams and ours. It's there because we have been subjected to too many years of invading hordes who quickly become the worst kind of fan, and it only seems to happen with those four teams.

There's something very wrong when fistfights are breaking out in the stands and trash-talking dissolves into personal attacks - that's not sports. That's not fun. That's being obnoxious for no other reason than to be obnoxious, and frankly I'm tired of it.

For that matter, true fans of each of these teams should also be tired of it. I know that the majority of fans who support Pittsburgh or Buffalo, Philly or New York are actually intelligent, sane people. They truly know and love the game of hockey and are capable of carrying on a civil conversation with someone who maybe disagrees with them. I've seen it with my own eyes. I've sat next to them at games. I've read their blogs. They really do exist.

Yet night after night a small but vocal minority is out there giving these true fans a bad name.

When you come into another team's building it's perfectly fine to stand up and cheer for your own team, to support them by wearing their colors, to celebrate when they score. But to buy a ticket with the soul purpose of getting as drunk and belligerent as possible, to come into our arena and boo our star, to rile up the locals and engage in violent activity over something as trivial as a game - that's not being a fan. That's being classless, tasteless and over the top, the exact opposite of what being a fan is supposed to be all about.

And so I'm putting out two general pleas, with the knowledge and understanding that they will in all likelihood fall on deaf ears.

The first is to the Caps fans who are traveling to Buffalo this weekend, either with the fan club or on their own. Remember that you are there not only to support our team but also to serve as an ambassador for Caps fans everywhere. Cheer for the Caps. Do it loudly and often. Let those of us at home hear you on TV, because our boys deserve nothing less. But more importantly, don't antagonize the locals or rise to the bait of a "fan" who calls you out. You are there to root the Caps on to victory - everything else is beneath you.

The second and more likely to be ignored plea is one to Penguins fans planning on coming out to the game on October 20th. I know you'll be there en masse as always and I'm happy to welcome you into my building. (Well, okay, maybe happy isn't the word but I won't block the door or anything...)

You have a good young team stacked with potential and promise; what you've accomplished and what you've built over the past few years is inspiring and you have every right to be proud of your club. Don't be a detriment to what you have there. Don't let your passion for the team be overthrown by the mob mentality that seems to permeate your numbers when you come to town. I can handle good-natured ribbing or a little trash-talking, but couch it in a smile that tells me you're a hockey fan, not a jackass.

We're all there for the same reason - to see our team come out victorious. So show us that you can be what you seem to be when in your own arena; passionate, loud, fun-loving fans. The Caps-Pens rivalry is going to be exciting for years to come and there's no reason why we can't enjoy that in a friendly, peaceful, blood-free environment.

I know you have it in you.


DCSportsChick said...

I think the Sabres fans have overtaken the Pens fans as the worst fans in a visiting arena. As bad as the Pens fans are (and they are awful), I've never seen so many fights break out in the stands than when the Sabres are in town. Why is that?

I don't think Caps fans on the road are bad at all. I saw a decent number of them at a game in Toronto last year, and not one did anything unseemly. (Then again, the Leafs fans were much better sports.)

Anonymous said...

Bravo! That was really inspiring and well said!!!

Anonymous said...

See, I'm one of those semi non obtrusive Pens fans who will really only yell at the other team when they do something blatant, and will still insult her own team when they do something REALLY STUPID.

I think there's also something to be said for the fact that I honestly don't know if I could walk into the Verizon center in a Pens jersey without feeling like I was going to get mauled. So there's some reciprocation, I'm sure. I was getting enough death glares from some of the Flyers fans for wearing a Bears sweatshirt when they played the Caps. (From the Flyers fans intelligent enough to figure out the Bears were connected to the Caps, that is.....)

CapsChick said...

dcsportschick: Totally agree. Or at the very least they've tied - it'll be interesting to see how they are this year since half of them have already given up on their team without the gruesome twosome. As for Caps fans I've never seen them be badly behaved either - let's consider my plea to be preemptive, just in I don't want to sound too biased ;)

anon: Thanks! Could you hear the orchestra swelling toward the end?

teka: See, I don't think you would have been mauled unless you had been one of the obnoxious, obtrusive fans. We don't deny your right to be a fan of the other team - if more Pens fans who came to games were like you we wouldn't even be having this discussion (although you did pick on my boys quite a bit at training camp :P)

As for the Flyers glaring at had the misfortune of wearing a shirt associated with both the Caps and an enemy of the Phantoms. That couldn't have been safe, you're very brave.

Victor said...

It's trickling down to other teams, too. My gf, her mom, and I were eating before the home opener--we happened to have a window seat, and I was in my Kono jersey. Suddenly, a canes fan starts waving her jersey in our face, thru the window. In the arena is one thing, but we're trying to have a nice dinner, you know?

Nice try, CC, but your plea will fall on deaf ears. I fear sooner, rather then later, one of these fights in the stands will result in *serious* injury, and all of leagues will no longer be able to ignore the behavior in the stands.

Elly said...

I am shocked! I couldn't possibly know what sort of fan would come into an arena, trash talk the other team's fans, be beligerent, loud, angry....well, other than Flyers/Rangers fans, that is. ;)

Honestly, I hope that it all works out. I would come down and support the Pens in a nice way (shouting and waving at the ref when he misses the obligatory Obvious Call), and help you prove that we do exist! Nice Pens fans exist! Really we do!

And as a random aside, are the Caps really 3-0? Really?

CapsChick said...

Elly, meeting you gave me hope that nice, normal Penguins fans really do exist. Because after 25 years of your fellow so-called "fans" invading I started to think it was an urban legend ;)

But no, seriously, I have no problem with just cheering and to be fair I've seen some Pens/Sabres/Rangers/Flyers fans who are real fans. They come, they cheer, they engage in some mild, good-natured trash talk and they leave. Them I have no problem with...but the others...grrrrr.

YES THEY ARE! Shhhh...don't tell the Caps - I don't think they are aware of it yet :D

Anonymous said...

Come on, some of your boys deserved the heckling at training camp. (I give you Semin... being Seminish...)

CapsChick said...

But it is his innate Seminishness that I love! He was just being himself. Plus we were REALLY loud. ;)

Anonymous said...

But, oh, the Seminitidue. (okay, I'm really just trying to conjugate Semin in all ways possible at this point. :-)