Last year around this time I was at a Bruins versus Ottawa game when I was hit with a moment of clarity. The Bruins were on the power play. Their first unit was set up in the offensive zone with great puck movement along the perimeter. Ottawa’s PK unit was matching the quick puck movement with their own speed, blocking passing lanes and pressuring the puck. I recall being very impressed with both units. The Bruins were clearly waiting to exploit a weakness in the Ottawa PK unit that was doing a fantastic job denying any opportunity. Meanwhile, after one D-to-D pass, the entire Garden erupted, “SHOOT!!!!!!!!!” This went on for two minutes with the intensity rising with every second that passed. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I could, but I really couldn’t. And then it hit me:
The majority of fans don’t actually know shit about the sports they watch, especially hockey.
Let me just say, I am mainly talking about hockey here, but I think the same can be applied to other sports. Boxing comes to mind. Fans screaming for murder every second of the fight without giving any consideration to strategy, technique, etc.
Boston ended up scoring on the PP with about 15 seconds left. Great puck movement, one shot the whole PP, deflection and goal. The place erupted. One guy in the box turned to me and said, “See what I said?! All they had to do was shoot!”………..sick.
Its actually amazing how wide the disconnect is between the fans and the sports they so publicly love. For fans, the game is simple entertainment. It is a place they go to feel a sense of belonging to something higher than their normal associations. For the players and the organizations they belong to, the game is a business. It is a means to earning a living. These guys are out there on the ice, or in the ring, busting their asses to make sure every shift, every round, is perfect so their team can be victorious. While owners, coaches and players are working under extremely stressful conditions as their livlihood, the entire arena is getting shitfaced.
My job in a hockey organization over the years helped me come to this realization. This year specifically, our head coach is always talking about making the right plays, not making plays that “Joe Fan” is going to want your autograph for after the game. It speaks to the idea that there are so many little things that go unrecognized throughout the course of a hockey game.
Its kind of depressing to think about. But hey, organizations depend on these fans for their “support” just as much as fans depend on the players for their entertainment. If there are no fans, there is no hockey. So get sipped and go nuts.