I have never been as frustrated at a Tampa Bay Lightning game as I was the other night when they played The Toronto Maple Leafs at The St. Pete Times Forum. However, it wasn’t the team that I was upset with. It was the so-called “fans” that had me down right angry.
I have been a fan of hockey, and more importantly, The Lightning since I was 14 years old, when the puck dropped on day one. Does that make me any more of a fan than someone who jumped on the fan boat during last year’s play-off run? Absolutely not. Not if the late bloomers are REAL fans. Not all new fans are bandwagoners. There are people who cheered for the team in 1992 when the team first formed, in 2004 for when they won the cup, and again last year who are not real fans at all in my opinion. What is the difference between the two? I’ll tell you. A REAL fan is someone who will stay with the team loss or win, thick or thin. Regardless of WHEN they started liking the team. A bandwagoner is one who simply gets caught up in th ehype and cheers when they team is in a winning position, yet boos them or ignores them all together when they aren’t These people expect the Bolts to do good always and never fall. They expect them to be inhuman. Super-heroes with the puck. And that’s just not reality. It’s unfair, to any team, to expect that of them. I believe that part of the problem this season is the stress that they are under from everybody’s expectations put upon them because of last year. Well, here’s a news flash for you: THIS IS NOT LAST YEAR ANYMORE PEOPLE. Changes have been made. They have some new players, and some key players from last year are in a different uniform. I’m not saying that they are not as good. I’m not saying that at all. As a matter of fact, I think that they are better in many ways. They are still working with the lines, learning to play and ‘gel’ together. Sooner or later it will click. The chemistry will be there. And when it does, there will be twice as many ‘fans’ cheering them on.
My husband-to-be and I are season ticket members. (Again, that doesn’t make me any more of a fan than those who are not. This is the first year that I’ve been able to be one.) I see the same people in the same seats every game. When they played Chicago at home, several of the season ticket members wore a Chicago jersey. This one guy also wore a Toronto jersey when they played them. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure that Mr. Vinik did not give every single ticket member a brand new jersey so they can show up in the opposing team’s colors in our home arena. That is an insult to the team. Even bigger of an insult were the fans who were booing the Lightning at home during the Toronto game. A whole group in the next section kept chanting that a certain player sucks. Over and over. Ok, so this player was not performing up to their standards. I get that. But every single player in the league has spurts of good games and bad games. Again, I stress the fact that they are normal human beings. You don’t see a hockey player coming into your home or work place when you’re having a bad day and telling you how bad you suck. (I apologize if that word offends you. I’m just stating it as the people at the forum said it.) Then when that certain player was pulled from the game, they cheered loudly, along with a lot of other people. You don’t do that. There’s no call for that level of rudeness.
What had me upset the most was the people who left early. It was obvious after the first period of the game that the Lightning’s momentum was not there. The boos and the streams of people getting up and walking out in the middle of the game didn’t help. If you think that they guys don’t notice what’s going on around them, you’re wrong. They do. When they let a few goals in and they are trying to refocus and find the spirit to keep going, how are they supposed to move forward when the boos grow louder, then suddenly get quieter, they look up to see their so-called “fans” leaving? The very people who cheer when they are winning are supposed to support them in times of trial too, right? So their focus and their momentum got u and walked out of that building with the people. The people who got up and left are not true fans to me. They are bandwagoners and just like the feel good aspect of winning. To get up and leave in the middle of a game just because your team is losing is absolutely ridiculous. There’s no call for that. I took a picture where you can see a certain section in the first period. It was almost full. In the second it was half empty. In the beginning of the third that same section was almost empty. RIDICULOUS!!!
At Saturday’s game against The Florida Panthers the arena was packed. During the second period the seats were still filled. Nearing the end of the third, the fans were still there. If the score would have been reversed and Tampa had 0 and Florida 4, it’s a sure bet that only the faithful would have remained. I’ll close with this. The team doesn’t need any more bandwagoners. They need FANS.
On a side note, the media’s not helping them either. Just like fans, there are different types of sports journalists. As an example, Tampa has two newspapers. (not naming names) The main reporter for one always writes positive. Even when in the worst of times, he will bring out the good points. The criticism he does do, he does so constructively and with taste. The main reporter for the other paper, however, is quite the opposite. He will take a small detail and run with it. At a practice one time a certain player got knocked into the ice face first and got a small cut on his forehead. He was going to continue to skate until he was called off of the ice so they could fix it. He was frustrated that he had to go to the locker room to get patched up, not overly upset or anything. The next day in the paper there was an article about how this player in a collision got his face smashed into the ice, how he left for the locker room bloodied and angry, and shoved the locker room door open in a huff. It SO didn’t happen that way. I know because I was sitting right next to the locker room door an saw the cut and drop of blood myself. I even talked to him before he went in. This guy should create his own blog called Sports Tab. That is about how serious I take his articles, about as serious as I take a tabloid. (The journalist for the first paper I trust completely and I look only to him for information about the team when I need it. He doesn’t print rumors. He prints facts and what he knows to be true.) The reporter who exaggerated the bloodied, slamming door story, will point out the negative of even the best games. He thinks nothing of running the team or any of it’s members into the ground if it gets him a story. Doesn’t he think that anyone from the organization reads his articles? Or does he even care?