It seems it’s been awhile. I wish I had a good excuse but I don’t. I got a new laptop, I have literally all hours of the day to write these days, and with a new GM, tank watch, a thrilling EPL season, the ridiculously overwrought freakout about Pettine’s departure and the my hatred for John Scott, there really isn’t a shortage of topics. What there has been is a shortage of interest. When one is unemployed, whether the Sabres get to 29th or 30th place really loses its status on the list of concerns. Of course, it’s times like this where sports serve one of their best roles, one of distraction. Really, if one is going to be unemployed, being so while your baseball team is in the playoffs and the Olympics are some eight time zones away are about as good of times as one could imagine. But first, some sports takes need to be voiced.
I don’t follow the twitter accounts of other NHL teams, for a couple reasons. First, I don’t watch other teams play hockey unless it relates to me as a Sabres fan. For many years this meant “hey, this team is on the bubble too,” or “this could be an ECF opponent,” or “let’s see how the west is doing JUST IN CASE.” So no, I don’t care what the Kings, or the Sharks, or Blue Jackets, or the Panthers twitter is saying. It’s irrelevant to me and occasionally annoying because it’s usually a subtle way of someone saying “I’m a better hockey fan than you because SEE!?!?” Maybe you are, but I’m a Sabres fan. Shut up and go away. However, there is a narrative I have learned from these people, many friends, who do follow some or even all the NHL teams on social media: we suck at it.
Well, we know why. The Sabres social media and fan outreach folks are doing what Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Huff Post since it got terrible, and most other outlets on television and the internet do. They reach out to the lowest common denominator, or as Richard Nixon called them, the Silent Majority. Of course the Silent Majority are comprised largely of a brainless clump of folks who just love Storage Wars and Springsteen and god and guns and think bullying is just a part of growing up and why can’t we have a white history month too!? They’re also TBN’s wheelhouse, whiner line callers, and the idiots on that “we love Steve Ott GO SABRES” commercial. They’re the ones who favorite Marcus Foligno pictures and buy “BIG JOHN” shirtsies. So what do the Sabres tweet about? John Scott practice goals and Marcus Foligno’s uncle. The nuanced fans, the fans who know the game best, who love the team for the team, not for some big doofus whose appeal is that HE’S SO BAD BUT HE’S BIG AND TRYING SO IT’S CUTE RIGHT, these are the fans forgotten in this whole thing.
Maybe if the team was able to give a wink to the sheer hilarity of their ineptitude, to the predicament we all as fans find ourselves in together, the online interaction could be a bright spot. But some people are just so desperate for positive reinforcement, they’ll cater it from whomever offers it, even if that so happens to be teenage girls and middle aged dads who only discovered the team through those very same teenage daughters. These are the same people that claim America’s health care is the best in the world, that we’re the shining light on a hill, that our military causes are always just and the casualties always necessary. The one’s who get bent out of shape about a commercial featuring different languages, that claim god must exist because golly-gee that sunset is so purdy. These people live in a world of denial, just as anyone who pushes John Scott to the fans is in denial about the state of him or of the team he plays for.
How to fix it? I don’t know, I’m an unemployed JD, not a fucking social media manager. I know it’s more than tailoring to a different audience, it’s changing your entire goddamn outlook. You shouldn’t be Kenneth on 30 Rock all the time. Some things suck, it happens, and regarding this team, almost everything regarding the current situation sucks more than anything has sucked before, to steal from the Beavis and Butthead movie. But I know the one thing that doesn’t suck- the prospects, the future- is never fucking discussed. This may be because the puck bunnies and grit-obsessed cementheads don’t know or care who JT Compher or Jake McCabe are, but when they play on national television, I shouldn’t be stumbling upon their game by fucking accident. The Amerks are hot, but I know that only through the Amerks social media and the feeds of my friends that have the opportunity to follow them closer than I. The Sabres are telling us to like the very things that are part of the reason the team is so shitty, not the reasons the team won’t be so shitty quite soon. I know that’s a strategy the intelligent minority doesn’t appreciate. Not discussing the prospects or the fact that the future lasts longer than "GOOD SEATS STILL AVAILABLE" simply creates dumber fans and the perpetual cycle of whiner line callers, TBN sheep, Cody McCormick truthers will continue on forever. Which is sad for anyone who enjoys watching and discussing this team, but is at least a boon for pushing merch RIGHT NOW. Not hard to see where the priorities lie.
Of course the nuanced fans aren’t free from the grips of being yammering tools now and again. Let me say this again: yes, the Sabres losses are good for the draft, I want to be at the top of the draft, I fucking get it, and you’re not wrong. What is stupid, what is really, extremely grating and off-putting, is anyone cheering losses. “Well, one step closer to Ekblad,” is another thing from “Gotta hope [Team X] comes back in the third!” when the Sabres are winning. Fuck you, no I don’t have to hope for that. The draft is the reward for being shitty, and in case you haven’t noticed, this team can’t win! What, you’re concerned for a five game win streak coming out of their ass? Have you SEEN them playing this season? How they have 15 wins is remarkable and half of them can be explained simply by “they scored a goal they had no business scoring.” I can root for them to win tonight because they probably won’t and they probably won’t tomorrow. Because can you imagine what this team is going to look like after Miller and Moulson are gone? Jesus, go back to being a fan for a couple months, it won’t hurt you or make you an idiot, I promise. And if it does make you an idiot, well at least the Sabres store has BIG JOHN shirts in stock.