Just Wanna Be A Big Rockstar

Our 3rd brand new contributor of the week, Mike Lee, gives his take on Neil Black’s BBC Nottingham Sport appearance along with thoughts on Panthers current plight.

There are millions of rock bands the world over, but what makes for the success of a Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath or a Mötley Crüe? I don’t necessarily mean urinating in pools, snorting ants or partying like a ‘Steel Panther’. I mean, why do they succeed in writing(generally) brilliant and popular songs and enjoy performing amazing sets to millions of adoring fans?

I’ll come back to this point later…
I listened to Neil Black yesterday afternoon, and fair play to him, he answered most questions put to him (although I would have liked to have heard his response to the old chimp head vs chimp body scenario!).

From today, and possibly without today, we can deduce the following:
1. We have a decent budget, which is set proportionally, based on our revenue.
2. The budget is the same as last year (and last year, the impression is that we spent big), but we don’t know what’s left in the pot (aside from what’s available to replace the recent departures).
3. We don’t know if the budget is directly proportional to Sheffield’s, and we all make assumptions based on the calibre of player according to Elite Prospects. But the feeling is that Sheffield ‘have spent big’ this year.
4. You don’t necessarily have to spend big money to be successful. Clan are obviously a case in point here. Although I’m personally not sure their ‘purple patch’ will be sustainable.

I don’t want to jump on Gui Doucet here either, as he has recruited a roster which he felt was balanced, would complement each other and would work in the systems that he and Tim had planned. Whether he’s at fault for not recruiting replacements for Jakobs, Loiseau and injured Deutsch quickly enough, is a plausible enough criticism, especially as our biggest rivals appear to have achieved this transition with relative ease. But none of us truly know the intricacies of player scouting, finer details of contractual agreements and negotiations (although you can apparently buy a copy of the next match magazine to find out more on this from Gui). Also, as an addendum here, I do think the way our nearest and dearest handle player announcements deserves some credit, and there could be some lessons to learn. But enough about them.

So, the question that everyone is asking, and that even Neil, as owner (and as we
established once again today, a fervent fan), can’t fathom, is ‘why is it not working for us?’ I have a theory. And, given my relativeness newness to the sport (3 years), I expect to be shot down on social media for my ignorance and inexperience. But I hope not, because as a fan, I’m entitled to a view. I recently saw a statement loosely attributed to Morgan Freeman, which to paraphrase, said ‘You may not agree with my opinion, but you don’t have to hate me for it.’ I write this, because over the last two weeks there seems to have been an increase in irritable exchanges, which have leached on to social media from various sources. It’s something I’m disappointed to see from Panthers fans, especially from some particular sources, but we’re frustrated, it’s human nature, and I get it.

Anyway, back to my theory and my, possibly, contrived comparison to a successful rock band.

There are millions of rock bands the world over, but only a handful truly achieve stardom. Why is that do you think? They typically start as garage bands, or sometimes recruit into a more established, experienced line-up – but only a fraction ever make it. And here’s the contentious bit. I think it’s due to a huge slice of luck. The chances of recruiting or forming a band which comprises of a hugely skilled drummer, amazing lead guitarist, cool bass player and off-the-scale, brilliant singer, all from an ad in a paper, are remote. A band who can gel and make fantastic hit songs together, and that can live together and work with creative tension, is a formula that’s obviously massively allusive (or
everyone would be a rock star). Bands have even tried to ‘make the magic happen’ by recruiting a huge name, in hope of revitalising their dreams (see what I did there).

The fact is, when you’re forming a band or a team, especially when it’s more or less from scratch, the luck involved is staggering. The chances of getting it right, straight off the bat, must be minimal, regardless of the strategies, expertise and research. Yes, the odds will be improved if you have a budget and know-how, and the right music company, but it’s still an inexact science. It’s also why so many sporting teams, with the apparent tools at their disposal, can’t make it work. You can insert your own football analogies here too.

My personal opinion is this. We will sign a couple of forwards. They will be pretty good. We’ll start to win a few games and the confidence will return, but this will ebb and flow throughout the season. I think we’ll finish mid-table. Then next season, some guys will stay, and some will go, but overall the core team will improve and with a bit of luck, we’ll get the right mix and the magic will start to happen.

Now I accept that there’s other subtleties involved here too. Like ‘Culture’. Culture is born from ideal behaviours and not just created. Indeed, you don’t shout at a plant to grow! And whether these behaviours are truly embedded yet, whether the tensions within the team are truly ironed out, and if things are gelling, still remain to be seen (or largely unseen, because we, as fans, won’t be privy to this).

So, we’re left with essentially three choices:
1. Don’t support the Panthers Ice Hockey team any more. Go watch another Band play.
2. Make your displeasure felt by boycotting games until something (insert *owner, venue, club, whatever), changes. The irony is that a diminishing fan-base could impact our percentage revenue left over for player recruitment, and that really might pinch.
3. Continue supporting them, however painful it might be at times, and based on the hope and fact that we have tried something different this year with the new appointments in Gui (and the mysterious ‘overseas’ stats guy!).

What I think we need above all, after many years of frustration, is a bit of luck. It’s overdue, it’s cyclical and with what we have in place, could start to happen, because sometimes you have to make your own luck as well.

The problem we all face, is a further period of playing the ‘support act’ to our biggest rivals, and that hurts at the moment. Really hurts.

But hey, at least we can take some solace from that fact that we’re not, and will never be, the northern Nickelbacks!

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