Friday, October 10, 2008

The Winter of My Discontent

*(A friend of mine, once an avid hockey fan, has found himself questioning his interest in the sport the last few years. Knowing I had this humble platform, he asked me to share some of his thoughts on the subject. So, here they are: maybe they'll strike a chord with some of the disillusioned out there.)

Hockey and I are at a crossroads. We’ve been drifting apart lately, and I must admit, I’ve kind of let it happen.

To blame, the entire constellation of The Game’s problems. Work stoppages, poor TV presence, retirement of the biggest stars, and poor performance by the local team since its long-ago zenith. I am a hockey fan to be sure, but I am also a sports fan in general. The NFL in particular has taken my sports viewing eye in the last couple of years, both by its ubiquity and the superior quality of its televised product. Not that the NFL competes head-to-head with NHL telecasts. Rather, as a married man who mostly watches sports with his wife; she’s only going to invest herself in a certain amount of viewing hours. And I’m not going to blow 3 of them on a 10-cent Sportsnet telecast of Edmonton v. Minnesota.

Inevitably, The Game and I drifted a little last year. While the NFL offered record-breaking excellence and a surprise ending, available three days a week on low-tier cable; The Game had me share a local cable media deal with a rival city in the same division. The Game, in effect, sentenced me to 2 and 3 game terms of intra-conference mediocrity. Phoenix, Columbus, Minnesota, multiple nights in a row. On the weekend, a national telecast anchored by one of the most mediocre teams in the league.

The Game has already addressed some of my beefs, but the insult of assuming I had nothing better to do has been noted.

So I’m approaching this season with wariness. Why should I still invest so much in The Game if it offers me so little in the games? Most of the burden for reconciliation lies with my local team. If I’m to rekindle my interest and actually watch, something has to be at stake. With a 16 game schedule the NFL offers a standings shuffle every weekend and playoff implications for the last ½ of the season. Last year, The Game offered me a race for 8th and a coronation for a championship.

My love for The Game is rooted in the same things as most: it has provided my cultural touchstones and my earliest heroes and the unifying thrill of being collectively invested in something. I even worked as an Saddledome usher for a couple years in university. But nostalgia is no basis for a lasting union.

Thus, as another winter descends I turn to The Game for perhaps the final time as a serious fan. I’ll give it the attention that a meaningful understanding entails. But, I’ll only stay if it pays me back.

You may want the Flames to do well for your own reasons, I need them to do well for their own sake.

The Dane