Last night I was on a date in the Fells Point area of Baltimore, my favorite spot for food and drink nightlife in the city- well, definitely drink nightlife, Canton has some great food places to offer as well. Anyway, I was relieved about this not simply because the beer list at Max’s Taphouse is the most exquisite of anywhere I’ve ever been, but because I wouldn’t be sitting on my ass feeling obligated to watch the Sabres and Leafs. Perhaps I could have requested it be put on but I’m not a sick individual; no, I would just check the score periodically during the night. My first two checks had the Sabres down 2-1 and 3-2 respectively; all was in order, everyone could back the fuck off the ledge and suddenly the 2-4 stretch would be down to 2-3.
Next check they were suddenly ahead and then the game was over. It was disappointing and I was eminently thankful I was not subjected to watch that hand-wringing farce let alone the tire fire that was sure to be my twitter feed, which has devolved in some deranged game of whack-a-mole, where every completely unhinged formally sane individual I have to mute simply results in finding two more who have come down with some sort of space dementia like Buscemi’s character in Armageddon.
The question at the base of everything is one I find at the end of the day no one disagrees with. Having the opportunity to draft first or second in this draft will make the team better than not doing so will. The degree is something we can only speculate on but it certainly appears- and everyone with the intelligence to speak on such things seems to agree- that it will be a significant one. The drop off from McDavid/Eichel to say, Strome is noticeable to say the least. For a team that was putrid last year and is pitiful this year, it logically follows that that significant difference may ultimately mean the difference between the next relevant appearance for the team is the 2nd round in '16-'17 with McEichel or getting bounced in the first round in 17-18 with random third pick. It’s a reasonable assumption, just as people who point at the Red Wings or the Ducks as examples that there are more ways to do it are reasonable when they do so.
I think what bothers people the most at the prospect of losing a top-two pick is the McEichel way is almost certainly the most fun way to build a team. At the end of the day they are fun players, great players, and the insecurity under the very thin skin of the fans that have stuck around for every insufferable second of the eight-year elevator free-fall from Alfredsson’s wrister to cheering Phoenix’s winning goal aren’t wrong for wanting that. We’ve watched the other hometown team get its shot in the arm, get fun players, a fun coach, make following them exciting, interesting. We want something similar at First Niagara Center and I can’t blame anyone; it’s a lot easier to go through the slow climb back into daylight when whoever is leading it can make your jaw drop every single game.
So if we all can agree that we want the same thing, why is everything so awful? Well, as someone who has felt the heat wave of the hydrogen bomb takes emanating from Western New York all the way here between Baltimore and Washington, I have more than a few things to say. I really, REALLY wanted to let this season go by without a related post, so I could then pop up after 30th was clinched, giving the double middle fingers and we could all have a laugh. I’m also not one to tell people how to be a fan- outside of bandwagoning and/or carpetbagging- but this isn’t that; personally I think you can go to FNC and root your little hearts out for the opposing team, just as you can yell from the 300’s that Weber sucks in the non-bizarro world.
The good news is we’re evolved as fans and media consumers where The Buffalo News and their stable of crusty, mayonnaise-white slobs moonlighting as modern sprotswriters aren’t even to blame for any of this. Sure, their narrative which isn’t anti-tank so much as imagining some sports/morality utopia from back in the days when Ty Cobb was murdering folks in alleys and black players had to form their own fucking league and hockey players beat their brains night in and night out before sucking down Lucky Strikes and shots of Old Granddad at the local watering hole. The joke that all TBN wants to do is make you feel bad or tell you that you’re wrong is no longer a joke and frankly it’s jumped the shark. They’re the lunatic in Central Park screaming about repentance; you stop and watch for a moment in amusement before walking away, shaking your head, perhaps offering a comment to your significant other at the sadness of it all.
This season has largely been a fight between who can scream “fire” in a crowded movie theater and get the most people trampled to death in the ensuing panic. The seeds were sewn over a year ago when someone who sided with the fucking owners during the lockout started saying laughably false things like “who the GM is doesn’t matter,” and “all that matters is finish last.” For better or worse we live in a world where absolutes, where finite, irrefutable stances are the norm, or at least the easiest way to get attention. This is a world where people call the President of the United States the fucking antichrist and no one bats an eye; I’m not religious but I once was and do you know how fucking over the top the Antichrist is?! But nah, POTUS takes five minutes filling out a march madness bracket and suddenly he’s got seven heads and is about to cast us into a lake of fire.
So making the argument that all that mattered was finishing last- albeit simplistic- was understandable. At the end of the day it isn’t that- although the point of WGR staff (you know who we mean and don't mean under this umbrella), the shrill madness, the tiring cacophony of horror that went up not with every win but with every goal this season has been and is insufferable- it is that so many people, eager for nothing more than an online pat on the head and a “good boy,” have gone willfully blind with madness as well. It’s easy to call them stupid and certainly I do have some qualms about anyone that can’t wrap their arms around any concept that has numerous details to consider, but it’s more a problem of how these people convey their dedication to being “pro-tank,” by saying the most outlandish and ass backwards statement then proudly grabbing their genitals and saying “I’m a better fan than you!”
It’s not for an 82-game season. The General Manager moved two decent players for a guy who can’t even play this year. He traded away both starting goalies. They were never going to go 4-78 and it pains me that some people need to have explained to them that he can’t just have the goalie pulled or call up the entire Elmira Jackals roster for the rest of the season.
Nevermind the fact that the grasp of reasonable expectations for these people is completely unhinged as well; how many people do you interact with or find online expect that team to make a run at the playoffs next year? How many of your fellow fans do you think got so aroused from being Jeremy White’s hand puppet this year that they’ll be calling for losses so they can have the best chance at Auston Matthews? How many people are so senseless, so irresponsible, so utterly demented that they never, not once thought about the alternate route, the development and acquisitions that were always going to be necessary no matter who they draft in June? Too fucking many.
I have a not insignificant amount of Republican friends who, while I may disagree with, who are thoughtful and caring individuals. Then I turn on a Republican Presidential Primary debate and it’s nine fools straight off the Disney villain shelf fighting to have the most poor-person killingest, brown-person deportiness, gay-person sinnerest sound bite for the next day’s “Fox and Friends.” We don’t need that with our sports, not anymore, not after this season which has half the fanbase about to unravel into spouting drunken, blathering nonsense like Joe McCarthy.
Nine more days.
Go Sabres (you know what I mean).