Ever since the loss of Drury and Briere began the long death march into obscurity for the franchise, I have come across many Buffalo fans who take pride in saying to me some variation of "I don't give a shit about the Sabres until the BIlls season ends." This can mean its literal end around New Year's, or its figurative end which typically comes sometime between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. Regardless, this has always struck me as strange, like people who say things like "I don't follow the news," that prideful ignorance that they believe conveys honor and a hip aloofness when really it just repels others as if they'd spent the last hour rolling around in raw sewage at the Ralph. Obviously, I am not one of those people, notably because I can concentrate on more than one sporting event in a given week and unlike the ignorant boobs you'll encounter above, I can understand a piece of writing longer and more complex than a fantasy football injury report.
I scrolled through my twitter before sitting down to write this, in an attempt to ascertain what was being said about the captain selections as well as any general predictions for the season considering it officially starts tonight. I was able to scroll back eight minutes before I exited out in frustration. Between the government shutdown and the start of the Sabres season, I highly recommend sealing your phone in a heavy duty freezer bag and burying it in your backyard for at least a few weeks because the terrible jokes about the fomer and the crippling negativity about the latter (yes, from TBN and WGR MUCH more than any of us lowly bloggers or simple minded fans) could totally ruin October.
The Bills have shown how far a little change can go as far as goodwill with the fan base and the media. Sure, you have Sullivan's personal vendetta against Mario and the professional animosity between the WGR afternoon show and Stevie Johnson, but the fans for the most part can see these conflicts as what they are, not as anything respectable to take into a debate you may have with friends, family or coworkers. The caricature of the combative, crotchety reporter with a smartphone instead of a pencil and pad is simply too spot on to be missed. Meanwhile twitter during Bills games is generally enjoyable because after so many years we're all on the same page. There's jokes, there's the ebb and flow of hate and despair that comes from watching four one-possession games come down to the final drive or two. It's jovial. There's less nonsense.
For example, a little story for you... My mother likes to clip certain articles from magazines or newspapers on occasion, things she thinks I'd find interesting or enjoyable. The other day, she dropped off the NHL preview section from TBN. After reading Vogl's piece on Ron Rolston (solid), I decided to give Gleason's column a read simply because I knew beforehand that it would prove my above point. He summarizes the youthful talent and depth that is now practically organization-wide in a throwaway sentence "I suppose the kiddie corps could come together and turn things around this season, but there's a greater chance for failure."
YOU DON'T SAY. But why is there a greater chance for failure?
"Regier braced fans for suffering."
Oh. I see that Darcy's comment describing rebuilding is now being used as a springboard for the hot take "the kids suck because the GM said so" point. Gleason spends a paragraph rehashing the 2001 fax machine incident, spends two paragraphs alluding to the fact that the Sabres could have acquired noted winner and definitely-wouldn't-have-been-buried-here guy Ilya Kovalchuk but that's all just window dressing.
Listen, I'm not happy with Regier either but I'm not going to ignore the reasons for optimism just to twist myself into a pretzel and lay out the same tedious arguments Bucky has managed to make his albatross. I actually encourage you to read it to prove the above point: What should you be angry about? You should be angry that they're going to suck this year. Why? Because I don't know, Miller and Vanek weren't traded, they weren't good last year?
As a post from the summer explained, we've seen a blueprint in another sport for what the best case scenario for this team is. The Boston Red Sox were predicted by many - pundits, bloggers and fans alike - to be at the bottom of the AL East and near the bottom of the American League in general. The team was too young, too unproven. The stars too old, too disgruntled. The manager too over his head, the free agent acquisitions too lackluster. The Sabres are in no way going to pull the equivalent by taking the President's Trophy; and the division seems just as bleak thanks to NHL's inability to consider 16 > 14 makes qualifying for the playoffs even more difficult than it has been. But there is reason for optimism. No, the general manager isn't new but the coaches and most of the entire fucking lineup is, at least from only two or three years ago. I'll choose to watch the men on the ice before making my judgement as to whether I'm suffering, rather than listen only to the suits upstairs.
Outside of the fact that John Scott is going to play WAY too many games for this team and Drew Stafford is going to miss ALL the wide open tap-ins, Grigorenko, Girgensons, Larrsson, Ristolainen, Pysyk and Zadorov have all looked more comfortable in the preseason than I had anticipated. I've noticed that multiple media members are racing to be the first to call Grigorenko a bust as if they're Peary and Cook racing to the North Pole, failing to consider that in the end neither actually GOT to the North Pole. Skating is important in this sport but for fuck's sake this isn't Olympic Ice Dancing; his hockey instincts appear to be off the charts, the ability to get to the right spot, to find the open guy, to know where to be are impressive, and this all before we even get into his hands. Nevermind the fact that he's fucking nineteen years old and if his name was Michael Gregory everyone would be doing goddamn backflips. I like this team, I like the players (except you John Scott, go away) and after watching the team go 2-8-2 against the Southeast and then 5-3 against Pittsburgh and Boston, I can only admit that I haven't the slightest clue what's going to happen with the schedule and facing every NHL team, many of whom the majority of the roster has never faced before. I like the dual captains and we all loved the last time the idea was put on the ice. I know there are plenty who have grown tired of Ott's antics, who had no interest in retaining him let alone making him a captain, who hate the occasional untimely penalty, the baiting, who believe a man who behaves that way shouldn't be leading anything. But come on, he's leading a team of HOCKEY PLAYERS, not a team of engineers trying to build the fucking Saturn V. The team presumably likes his play, the coach who's been around them for quite a bit at this point likes it, and that's good enough for me. I also know this:
The Sabres are back, and I'm excited.
So last night I headed up to the First Niagara Center for this year's Blogger Summit, the first time the Deeg has attended one of these events. As I mused last night - I'm not sure if we can thank our Trending Buffalo award or the fact that Yachtsman only berates people from his slightly less conspicuous post as social media manager now. Either way, thanks to the Sabres and Craig Kanalley for the hospitality and discourse. It was nice to put faces to some cool people that we've interacted with on twitter for some time and discuss that which we like and don't like. Without getting into specifics- it was off the record, a fact which I will address later- I can be fairly certain that any problem you may have outside of the on-ice product was discussed, whether I agreed or disagreed with either the team or fellow basement brigaders. Beer was provided and no one called me or the Deeg vulgar degenerates so either we're slipping or everyone is just good people. Of course, one poor journalism student arrived with a copy of TBN's Sabres preview unironically, and I will admit I was surprised one of the participants didn't come with horns but instead had a genial disposition and some good points.
Of course, I was drinking.
Anyways, along with yesterday's tete a tete, I received an email last month, along with I assume all active bloggers, detailing the process of obtaining credentials to cover games throughout the season. Credentials could be requested in a game-by-game manner or through full-season access, which would go to five blogs. The only difference, so far as I can tell, is that "full-access" blogs have access to the Sabres and visiting locker rooms after the game. Before even getting to the last, most hilarious portion of the email, I determined it was unlikely that we'd apply for full access for several reasons, two of which are pretty obvious: first, it's a long season, and I'm a fan first. I have no qualms about putting a post together when all I've done is watch the game on my couch while sipping a nice port or at a crowded bar holding a pitcher of Blue Light for just myself. I know from my school years that the cold gives me plenty of motivation to skip responsibilities, be they classes, meetings, or spending a Tuesday night in the FNC press box. Second, I've been watching the games in the same manner for decades, as have most of you, and I don't think our opinion on who's having a rough night, week or month matters much changes depending on where we're watching it from. That said, game-by-game works because there'll probably be a Saturday night game my friends are attending and I can do my blog thing before meeting them at Liberty Hound for beers after. It'd be something new and I do love new things.
For fun, I will outline these guidelines verbatim for our faithful readers and offer my commentary below.
1) Applicant must provide proof of a considerable and consistent readership.
-This is fair. What's the point of letting someone come in and write about the team/game when he/she has a readership that doesn't expand beyond his/her family and friends? Not to mention this can easily be quantified through page views and other measurements such as twitter or facebook followers.
DEEG Applicability: Good. Come on, haven't you heard of the motherfucking Trendies?
2) Blog must feature regular and relevant original Buffalo Sabres content.
-Um, okay. This is our first vague and arbitrary guideline. "Regular" content makes sense, you don't want someone churning out two posts a season or course, that pretty much ties in with the first guideline. But "relevant" and "original?" What one reader judges as relevant may not be relevant to another. By way of example, some bloggers and fans feel that the Sabres twitter account, or the team's inability to air preseason games is extremely relevant to the respect of the organization as a whole. Others are concerned far more with the noise in the FNC, others with line selection, player assignments, and so on and so forth. Maybe I may feel it's relevant to point out that John Scott is getting more minutes than Grigorenko, but whoever is evaluating our content under the Sabres blogger rubric may feel that as a coach's decision, it is irrelevant. I mean, everyone who is applying for this is a Sabres blogger... shouldn't it ALL be relevant? I'm not ranking my winter beers here.
DEEG Applicability: Regular? Probably. Relevant? NO clue. Original? I'd like to think our voices are quite original in the way that the wobbling guy pissing in the corner of the bar is being original. WE GOOD.
3) Blog content must follow ethical guidelines.
DEEG Applicability: Here at the Deeg we identify stupidity and incompetence on and off the field/ice. We do so in colorful adult language and make wild generalizations at appropriate and inappropriate times. We're a stubborn bunch who, when it comes down to it, simply want our favorite hockeypucks team to do well. We're also, as I've found out, allowed in the building with our own name tag and everything, and didn't pee on anything while we were there. While there may be respect from the organization for a Blogger Summit, I have to imagine we wouldn't get approved on this criteria alone.
But wait! There's more!
4) Applicant must maintain a professional demeanor at all times if granted access, this includes appropriate dress and a professional attitude in the press box.
-Okay we're back to being clear and reasonable. Although "appropriate dress" is not explained, I have to assume this means no Sabres jersey's and no "Breathalyzer Here" shirts with the arrow pointing down to your shaft. I assume between that spectrum things are pretty relaxed.
DEEG Applicability: Not saying it wouldn't be difficult to avoid dropping a "Jesus fucking Christ McCormick you cock" on occasion, but I could restrain myself. If one of us were to ever show up intoxicated, I think we'd make it three minutes into the first before being hauled away. Fair enough.
5) Applicant must create content based on access (will be used to determine access to future games)
-THERE IT IS! In my early days here at the Deeg I ridiculed blogger summits not only to have a "it's probably lame and I didn't wanna go anyway" rant, but because I speculated that access would be used a mechanism to neuter what could otherwise be independent and critical blogs into docile megaphones for the franchise, condemned to churn out press releases and tedious quotes full of coach-speak. When it comes to quotes from the coach and players, or how the power play did, or who played the most minutes, that information can be found during the post game show on MSG or WGR, the internet, that night's local news or the next day's newspaper. Does discussing the game generally, who looked good or bad count as "based on access?" Moreover, at first glance this seems to conflict directly with the "original" requirement of guideline #2. You're giving everyone the same access and requiring content based directly on that access. How original can it really be? Here it finally dawned on me why so many blogs end up recapping the game as if it was blacked out. The best pieces, in my opinion, are those that take a trend, extrapolate that into a larger statement about the direction of the team, a player, the coach, etc. THAT is the original content that has allowed so many talented guys and gals at several sites to reach a large audience discussing one team in an allegedly "small market."
DEEG Applicability: Speaking for myself here, when discussing the Sabres with our readership I assume they've been watching the games just like me and reading the same discourse whether from the blogs or the mainstream media. As I said, you can go anywhere to find out who scored at what time and what Rolston thought of the performance. Sure, the ten times a year Miller, Ott or someone else says something abrasive or critical, those in the room are the first ones to put it out there, and that's something that we do very little of here, obviously. But that's not why I'm here. I'm here for fun and to hopefully discuss the games to make our readers imagine they're standing next to us as we're screaming at the bar about whatever our post encapsulates - whether it's TBN, the power play or whatever. I think we've done well enough with that and I know giving you a summary of a game just played would make half our readers lean back and yawn while flipping of the screen.
Critiques about the vague and arbitrary corporate nonsense the Sabres have put out with these guidelines, I still intend, if they'd agree to have me as a guest, to get credentials for a game or two because I'm interested to see how we'd post about it and because it is encouraging that our niche, as small and weird as it may be, is at least being acknowledged at the beginning of the season. Like the squad itself, there are things you can shake your head at with the Sabres' policy, but there's still plenty to be optimistic about.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go root against a three point game between Toronto and Montreal. It's never too early to worry about points.
Everybody back in the pile.