I really thought it was going to take longer than one week and what, two games before I’d tweak out and put fingers to keyboard about the NHL lockout. I mean, between the play-calling from the head coach, the defensive schemes of the mustachioed DC, the inability of the quarterback to throw anything aside from a screen pass, and the general douchebaggery of the CEO and ownership, the Bills certainly give us plenty to talk about, though substantively little to cheer about. There are our fantasy football teams, the baseball playoffs- which should certainly keep the soulless parasites that cheer for the Yankees and Cardinals fairly entertained, and a wildly engaging college football season which I have attempted to encapsulate to fill our hockey void. As for the frozen game itself, we got a team an hour down the Thruway stacked with Foligno, Girgensons, and McNabb, as well as numerous college hockey options both inside the area and- thanks to increased television exposure- outside the area.
In most conversations during the summer I anticipated I wouldn’t really give a shit until November and that my personal prediction (a season that starts with the Winter Classic) wouldn’t be too irritating anyways. After all, under such a scenario, you have numerous young players who have taken their licks in basically the AHL on steroids, and veterans who have played against each other in quality European leagues. So what’s the problem?
The problem is that this is just fucking stupid. There’s so much goddamned white noise being spewed at us from every direction; it’s enough to wear down even the most diligently informed fans, mostly because NO ONE is talking to the diligently informed fans. I’m not talking about those of us with law degrees or experience in contract negotiations, I’m simply talking about the many of us who like to stay informed on the negotiations, the developments. No one is talking to us. In that way it really parallels the non-stop squawking that so many tire of during the never-ending Presidential election cycle (yours truly not included, as any of my poor twitter followers are acutely aware). The candidates and their surrogates aren’t speaking to those who scour the internet for news or who have solid opinions on what the social safety net should look like, they’re going after the meathead in Massilion, Ohio whose brother got laid off in 2008 and needs someone to get angry at. It’s why juries never want too many educated people; just one or two who can be swayed and then sway their ignorant and apathetic colleagues.
The PR game is the worst. Between the patronizing tone, the target fan being located somewhere between Raleigh, Nashville and Tampa and the media’s interest to push what is being said instead of the veracity of it (we’re going to get there, I swear), I’m ready to lose it. For fuck’s sake, I’m illegally streaming Amerks games and actively following a damn simulation of the season on Trending Buffalo.
I miss the 2004-2005 lockout. See, I was a junior in college and between the Red Sox World Series run, buying cases of Keystone Light with my fake id and falling in love with numerous inhabitants of the second and fourth floors of St. Bonaventure’s Deveraux Hall, I simply didn’t have time to really give a shit about there not being any hockey. I mean, the Sabres had been shitty since I was in eleventh grade, the games had record lows in attendance and for as much as I immersed myself in them as a child and teenager, I simply didn’t know the talent we were marooning in Rochester that winter outside of Ryan Miller. There wasn’t hockey but thanks to where I was in life’s journey it didn’t really feel like I was missing anything. I just warned people I met that year that once hockey returned they might see a degree of fandom that they wouldn’t have predicted from me, and the following season proved me blissfully, exhilaratingly right.
There are no such distractions this time around. As a member of the working world I have the same routine many of you have and when something that serves as a blissful distraction from that routine is taken away, it sucks. For those who were in this situation in 2004-2005 as well, I have even more empathy for you to have to deal with this bullshit twice in eight years. And I know 1,200 words to say that this is bullshit is a bit much but whatever, that’s my story. Now on to the other issue at hand.
I’m four years removed from my sports law class, three years removed from bar preparation and know far less law than I did back then- which, while enough to obtain a JD, isn’t enough to even begin to dive into the lockout beyond the fact that the owner’s are railroading the players because they’re no longer happy with what they negotiated seven years ago in light of record profits for all to get a piece of (And if for no other reason than the fact it has nowhere else to go, I will mention now that the player’s wanted to start the season and continue negotiations in the meantime- it was the owner’s who nixed that). The thing is, I’m fairly confident that I have a better grasp on which party here has its head farther up their ass than Jeremy White and I know Barrister most certainly does. I will also say that while there are parties with the same education that may feel it is the owners’ right to squeeze everything they can out of the players, knowledge about the intricacies at play here are not something to be ignored nor are they something to be feared. To say that issues of “right” and “wrong” have no place in the discussion of a labor dispute is ignorant at best and nothing but journalistic malpractice from one who claims to occupy such a role.
Then again perhaps Mr. White simply aspires to step into the Shopp role, the stubborn contrarian who professes to have a greater understanding of today’s sports landscape, an understanding that cannot be muddled by the troublesome additions of “education” and “facts.” If this is the case, than what a waste of a voice his will turn out to be, one who will make his career by bullying the poor saps who call in and ignoring those who do not. Maybe we’ll soon see him blocking anyone who holds a different opinion on twitter, taunting them about their follower accounts while he does like some other jackasses have shown they are wont to do, but I digress.
The thing is, with today’s technology there is very little separating the fan and the commentator. The fan can now watch the All-22 film after Bills games (to their credit WGR is doing this as well, while the Buffalo News seems content to regurgitate Chan Gailey quotes about phantom double-teams on Mario Williams), can follow Sabres prospects from their junior teams forward, and read articles that break down what is being discussed between the NHL and the NHLPA and why we got this far without a deal. That’s not to say there isn’t more than one valid opinion of these issues, but it is to say that the ability to dismiss those opposing views has largely diminished (unanimity on Fitz’s abilities as a quarterback notwithstanding), and there may be times where the fan has more relevant information than the commentator. I believe Tuesday’s twitter exchange was one of those times.
After my post following the Sabres developmental camp there were multiple commenters who complained because it seemed to disrespect the access journalists receive and those who receive it. Some mistakenly believed we were angling to compete with these journalists; others were aspiring journalists themselves who took issue with our tone. I guess what I would say to them now is- why are you aspiring to this here, in Buffalo? So you can be the next guy shouting at the wind and ignoring those who bring an educated, yet opposing opinion? Because if your goal is to engage in informed dialogue meant to advance the discussion in this town, you might be better off looking in another media market. As for us, the fans, luckily we long ago stopped needing the voices of a few to formulate a knowledgeable, steaming hot take on our own. It’s just unfortunate we’re going to end up leaving the media behind.