December 23, 2010
I wasn't always a big fan of the New York Islanders, despite my affiliation to the team. Something about it seemed ... weird.
For one, I had pro aspirations. To fawn over any group of players seemed odd, given that at some point, I hoped to be slashing their ankles behind the play. There's something more than a touch off about wearing the jersey of a guy whose job you're trying to take (Okay true, nobody makes a Jon Sim(notes) jersey, but you get the point).
But when I stopped playing a couple years ago, I was able to throw myself into full-on fandom a little better. And thanks to that newfound commitment, I've discovered the best part about being a fan of a bad team that I'm sure many of you have known for years: self-deprecation.
Admit it -- you love ragging on your stupid crappy hockey team (and if your team is actually good, well let me tell you, sir, you're missing out).
The Islanders are so bad Clark Gillies apologized when he told us he was taking us to the game last night. When the laughter died down he slid in a "...no seriously, I apologize in advance."
And that's the delicious coping mechanism that provides endless joy and entertainment for the fraternity of people who willingly subject themselves to rooting for something destined to fail.
I figure cheering for a good team must be stressful. Playing poker makes me nervous because the outcome of each hand matters. I need the money I play with, so I rarely get to just enjoy the game. By the same token, rooting for a Cup contender has to be far more stressful, given that you have something to lose.
Not with the Isles, boy. We've been eliminated from playoffs since pre-season (no seriously, that's when Streit and Okposo got hurt). I can enjoy their games, because, as Jim Mora put it, " ... playoffs? We're talking about playoffs?"
Still, I don't need to hear it from other wise-ass fans. Someone trashing my team has become something similar to a white guy trying to casually use "what's up my *N-word*?" with an African-American gent. You're just not invited to use it, where that same guy might chuck it around with a friend.
Along the same vein, when you root for a bad team, there's a kinship between your fellow suffering fans that allows you to verbally destroy your favourite franchise, and nobody gets offended. In fact, there's something relieving about it. It shows people you're not stupid (the Isles could still make the playoffs!), you're just loyal.
At Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum last night, fans wearing jerseys and hats proudly dragged their team through the mud.
Actual conversation between myself and an Isles fan last night:
Me: "I see DiPietro's on the IR again, eh?"
Isles fan: "Yeah, what a shame, now we won't be able to play the worst goalie in the league anymore, I hope the team doesn't start struggling."
We were a step away from re-enacting Tommy Boy's "Well you should, because I'm laying it on pretty thick" conversation.
I'm loving the bitterness and sarcasm I get to deploy on the daily with this team (it suits New Yorkers nicely too). The billion-game losing streak was damn near the highlight of my sports fan career. If Jack Capuano would just start using a power-play unit of Sim/Gillies/Joensuu, I'd be poop-my-pants level excited for the conversations I'd get to have with other self-loathers.
Maybe it'd be harder to revel in the failure if your
team had a chance to succeed when the year began, and they just
Devil'd underachieved, but for me, the season been cooked since about game
eight. That's a long time to work in some solid self-deprecation.
Fans of bad teams are blue collar workers, a proud bunch that shows up every day and puts in the necessary work to build something great, generally while cursing out the very thing they're putting their effort into.
And like blue collar workers, we cling to laughter and booze.
So Isles fans, Senators fans, Panthers fans and beyond, remember: We'll get ‘em next year, right?