Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Love of the Game

Success is a very relative term. As an Islanders fan, it's fair to characterize the "Charles Wang" era as successful. We've reached the playoffs 4 of 6 seasons (including this one) after failing to make the playoffs in, based on my latest calculations, the previous 47 years. Sure, each trip to the big dance has been one-and-done, but again we are stressing success as a relative ideal. It's not like this is a Devils or Red Wings blog.

As modest as our achievements have been, it's been fun to feel that we have a team that is at least capable of making some noise come April. And believe me, being a die-hard fan throughout the truly dark days of the late 1990s, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

But as with anything in life, there are trade-offs. For me, it has been my experience as a fan. With success comes expectations, and with expectations comes a whole new way to watch the game. Over the past few years, my personal fan experience has (d)evolved. Lately it's become more about strictly measuring wins-and-losses. It's about monitoring the standings with intense focus, and scoreboard watching to gauge the success of those teams within striking distance. It's about hoping that other intra-conference games don't go into OT, turning into 3-point games. It's about calculating playoff scenarios based on "games in hand" and remaining schedule.

What it's not about is enjoying the game for the love of it. And I have to say, that's exactly why I am enjoying this final stretch of games. It's the same feeling I experienced back in 2006 when we were playing "meaningless" games in late March / early April. I go to the Coliseum now and enjoy the game like I did when I was younger. Sure, wins always mattered, but I could still have a great time at a game regardless of the outcome. The pressure of wins, points, and standings all go out the window. It's all about having fun watching the sport I love.

This may all sound a little touchy-feely, but there really is a palpable difference for me now. Granted, I still need to see the team put forth a solid effort to be happy. And last night versus the Penguins, the team delivered. The fact that they won was a complete afterthought - to be honest, I was hoping for a loss. Yes, I'm one of those who is hoping we tank to maximize our chances for the #1 pick in this year's draft.

These are the same feelings that kept me watching and cheering throughout the late 90's, when we were typically mathematically eliminated from playoff contention before Christmas. As much as I'd love to still be in the playoff hunt, it's a nice consolation to be reminded of why I love this game in the first place.

3 comments:

Okposo Island said...

Right on the money.

This team just does the opposite of whatever I want.

When we needed performances like that (vs. Pit), they were nowhere to be found. Now, when I'm rooting for a high draft pick, they play superbly. Such is the life of an Isles fan.

The games are more enjoyable without pressure. But I think a lot of that has to do with hoping to see Kyle, Comeau, Bergy, etc. develop in front of us. For me that is the most fun part.

I always say people *will* come out to see a good, young team. I think we're getting there.

7th Woman said...

You're right. No pressure, just enjoyment before the reality of "no Islander Hockey" for six months sets in.

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