The Rumour Mill

This week Paul Balm takes a look at the rumour mill.

Here’s a bit of a warning – I’m not writing about ice hockey again this week. If I’m honest I’m not sure what it’s about really, mainly human nature and things like that, but if that’s not your thing or you don’t want to find out if I ever find out what I’m talking about then look away now.
Are they gone?
Yes? Good. OK I’ll make a start.

I don’t really want to get into the reasons behind why Theo Peckham isn’t joining the Panthers. Mainly because we went over it all during last week’s Cats Whiskers Podcast (still available for your listening pleasure) but as we so ably proved during that discussion we don’t really know all the information to actually talk about it authoritatively.
One thing’s for sure though. If nothing else Peckham’s non-arrival has done three things:

1) Freed up a (unknown) chunk of Panthers’ player budget

2) Left a t-shirt shaped hole in Jono Bullard’s wardrobe

3) Set the rumour mill grinding again.

I love a rumour. I’ve even been known to start a few myself. Remember the Doucet to Braehead rumour doing the rounds at last season’s playoffs? That was my fault. I started that purely as an experiment to see how quickly it would get back to me as something approaching a fact. It didn’t take long, under an hour in fact. I know one or two people got a bit upset a) about the rumour) and b) about the fact that it was started deliberately as an experiment and I’m sorry if you were one of them but if it makes you feel any better I don’t see it as a rumour I see it as a visionary prediction completely accurate in all but one regard – I can’t spell Cardiff properly.

All the guessing and counter-guessing in the wake of Theo’s no show have got me wondering where the rumours come from and how some can gain so much credence so quickly.
I think there’s probably a couple of ways that rumours start. There’s the classic I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who is “in the know” and they’ve told them that such and such a player is signing. I’m not entirely sure which is worse – the “in the know” person or the person that is quite happy to pass off third or fourth hand information as fact. In the know people tend to fall into two categories: those who can’t wait to spill the beans about any and everything they’re told and those who hide their “knowledge” behind a smug smile and a few cryptic hints.

Irritating as the smug faced look at me types can be I’ve personally got more of a problem the bean spillers. In fact, if I told someone something in confidence and then it was plastered over every forum and social media site I’d start feeding them mis-information. Let’s face it I’ve already got a reputation for making things up so I’d make sure I lived up to it just to see where the leaks were coming from.

The other sort of rumour is becoming increasingly prevalent and that’s the concept of the rumour as wish fulfilment. Time and time again you see comment that player X (not Weapon X though please) is coming which the person spreading the rumour thinks would be great. Now that seems to me to be little more than that they want this person to sign for the Panthers so they’ll start it as a rumour. Either that or someone has said that a particular player is available which somehow gets changed into a rumour because someone wants it to be true.

I think the end of that sentence is the really crucial part of rumours. There’s either got to be something you want to believe in it or something you really don’t want to believe in it. Take the Ling to Panthers rumour flying round the arena on Saturday night. Was there anyone there that didn’t hear it. Why did that spread so quickly? Because people wanted it to be true. Now, Panthers currently have a habit of proving me wrong so if there’s been any sort of announcement in the last couple of hours welcoming David back to the team then you can ignore the rest of this.
Things can become true because we want things to be true. That’s what is probably happening here. It also works in the opposite direction. I think the Doucet to Braehead rumour spread so far so fast because people didn’t want it to be true and there’s nothing some people like more than to believe the worst is going to happen and given that they say that misery loves company it’s no surprise how it spreads.

These things are nothing without a little credibility though. If people want David Ling to re-sign (or Lee Jinman for the older fans amongst us) then surely a rumour that Sidney Crosby was coming would spread even quicker wouldn’t it? No, it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t spread because everyone knows it isn’t likely to happen. With David Ling it’s possible it could so that makes it believable which in turn makes people feel that they can believe it and when that happens they’re going to tell other people.

What does this prove? Nothing much really. Or if it does I can’t really see what it is. I think people like rumours though no matter how unlikely because it gives them something to look forward to or appeals to their sense of dread and foreboding. Unless of course you’re the person who started it all in the first place as a joke, in which case you’re just cruel, nasty and vindictive raising people’s hopes on false promises.. Oh, I’ve just remembered what I said about Doucet…

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