Everyone’s Got An Opinion

This week Paul Balm wonders if having masses of hockey watching experience can be a burden

Whenever you put your thoughts out on the internet you leave yourself open to replies. Some will agree with you, some won’t. That’s all good stuff, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a different opinion to someone else as long as you can argue why you have it. OK, you get the people who aren’t interested in debate and just want to be abusive (am I the only one who thinks being referred to as “this person” when my name is all over something is a bit rude?) but you learn, over time, to ignore them. To be honest, I’d be more worried if these articles didn’t cause debate because that would mean that people were either ignoring me or agreeing with me and I’m not sure which is worse. It’s not that I’m trying to be controversial for its own sake you understand, just that I’ve got an opinion about something that I want to share to try and get a conversation started.

Everyone’s got an opinion and everyone’s opinion is normally based on experience and for me, when it comes to ice hockey and the Panthers it’s based on 35 years of watching games home and away. When you think about it 35 years is quite a long time, someone born on the same day as I started watching has been able to drink alcohol for almost as long as they weren’t allowed to and could be a grandparent.

Can I just point out that I’m really not bragging about this. There are times when those 35 years feel more like a burden than anything else. Take Saturday night (please). I saw that as a microcosm of our season – in the first part we held our own and were up there with one of the front runners for the title, as we approached the half way stage they started to make their greater quality tell and powered toward the victory as we lapsed into mediocrity. There were some new fans behind us and I have to say that I felt a bit envious of them. Judging by how they were talking about the game (constantly and in excited tones) they didn’t see the game like me, they saw an exciting game rather than the continuation of a lamentable fall from grace. They might not know the player’s names (but they definitely liked 14 and 55) but they were having a good time.

Can you see what I’m trying to say? I was enjoying the game less because I saw it through those 35 years of experience and that was influencing my opinion on what I saw. They didn’t have that so they just enjoyed it purely as a sporting spectacle. Do you see why I envy them? They will have walked away thinking they got far more value for the entrance fee than I did. It must be great to not sit there thinking we’re missing a sniper or why we haven’t replaced any of the injured players. To be, in essence, free of all the things that make someone a fan of a team (not a real fan, I’m not getting into that remember?)

I’ve had plenty to say in the past about the so called “happy clappers” and how their positivity can actually have a negative effect on a team in the long term but maybe they’re right. Sure they’ll have been disappointed on Saturday night but they bounce back quicker and higher than those with a more negative point of view. They’ll have thought we were going to win last night. I didn’t, not after Saturday’s performance. I might be being very simplistic here I know but I’m sure that kind of positive attitude must be better for my health than pessimism.

The thing is, even though I know it’s probably better for me I don’t think I can make the change. I’m still going to get fed up with our performances, the attitude of the club towards the fans is still going to wind me up and I’m still going to have to avoid post-game interviews so the same old excuses don’t put my blood pressure through the roof.

It’s a bit like dancing. Unlike certain members of the Cats Whiskers team I’m not up and dancing at the drop of a hat. In fact, if I had my way, I’d never have to dance at all. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with people dancing in fact I sort of wish I was one of them but I’m not, there is not enough alcohol in the world to make me reach the point where I lose enough of my inhibitions to actually enjoy dancing public.

Feeling positive all the time about the team is the same thing. There might be some people out there who enjoy moaning but I don’t. I don’t want to have to say the things I do, I wish I didn’t have to highlight the number of “import games” we’ve lost this season and I can’t help thinking that there’s some connection between how we’ve essentially played short all season and the number of games we’ve only just lost. But these things weigh heavy on my mind.

I know it’s not good for me in the long run particularly when it comes to my relationship with the team. I know that every time that one of the things I mentioned above happens it chips away a little bit of what I feel for this club and that saddens me. I’ve no idea how much is left to be chipped away in the same way that I don’t know how big it was in the first place. I just know it’s smaller. OK, you can put some of that down to the fact that I’m getting older. I’d be slightly worried if I felt the same about the game now as I did when I was an eleven year old boy (giving my age away now). But having said all that I don’t think it’s just about my age. What’s happened in the past must have had an effect by the fact that I can’t greet every game day with feelings of delight or that I read every signing announcement with a certain amount of cynicism.

I said earlier that all this saddens me. It probably doesn’t sadden you and nor should it, why would you give a stuff what I think? This seems to have become a bit of an emotional outburst (it wasn’t supposed to be but not many of the articles finish the way I think they’re going to) but I can only say what I feel. It should probably worry the club though but it won’t. They’ve got a seemingly endless supply of new fans coming through the doors without expectations or history with the club who’ll drink the beer and make loads of noise and never raise their voice in dissent. What happens if that endless supply runs dry? There’s no sign it’s happening yet and maybe it won’t but like every company that wants to improve they need feedback and bad feedback tells you far more than good does. We know they’re going to get plenty of good feedback but who’s going to be there to provide the bad?

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