Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shut Your Yap : Lightning Bandwagon Fan Edition

Photo by Linda Hamilton

This Shut Your Yap goes out to all of the bandwagon fans who are starting to show up at the St. Pete Times Forum for games again. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy to have more people in attendance. Butts in the seats means more money being spent in the building means more money being spent to better the team and the facilities. A winning team doesn’t just bring in new fans, though. A winning team brings back the people who got into hockey for a brief period in 2004 when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup. After that came the lockout and an extensive period of sucking, so they moved on to some other team. Now they’re back. They wear their 2004 merchandise and it still looks to be in mint condition. Like it’s been sitting in a drawer for the last almost 7 years. Or they’re wearing brand new gear that just had the tags removed. These are the people who sit behind you and complain about the play of every single guy on the team… except their favorite. And can’t tell the difference between Pavel Kubina and Victor Hedman. Or thinks they can do so much better than the guys on the ice. These are the people who spent most of the third period of last night’s loss to the Islanders BOOING the Lightning.

There are some things that are guaranteed to get me riled up at sporting events. One is uber obnoxious visiting fans. Another is booing your own team. Yes, last night’s game was very frustrating. Yes, I yelled at the Lightning from my seat in the upper level and voiced that frustration. But I would NEVER think of booing them. You haven’t been to a game in 7 years? You have no right to boo. I voluntarily spent money and have been supporting the team when they have missed the playoffs during the last four years. I have been there when they have been the worst team in the league. I’ve been there when they have been the second worst team in the league. I knew it was futile most of the time, but I never stopped cheering. I never stopped hoping for victory. I never stopped wearing my team colors.

Sports are cyclical. Hockey exemplifies this because any team can win on any given night. Any team has the chance to make the post season and win the Stanley Cup. It has nothing to do with hockey, but one of my favorite books is “The Boys of Summer” by Roger Kahn. There is a quote that goes like this:

“You may glory in a team triumphant,… But you fall in love with a team in defeat.”

I love my team. I’ve been there for the highs and the more recent extreme lows. If you’re going to waltz in and out when the standings favor them, have more respect for the guys on the ice when you do make your cameo appearances.

Monday, March 21, 2011

When Should You Worry?

Photo by Me

Spring Training is the kind of thing where everyone can just sit back and relax. It's Florida in the spring time and the weather is fantastic. You can drink beer and eat hot dogs at 1 in the afternoon. The games don't matter. The closer we get to opening day, the harder it is to keep some nagging questions out of my head. Yes, it is nearly impossible for a Red Sox fan to just sit back and enjoy the silence. I'm pretty sure that when you're born a Sox fan or find your way into it, a certain part of your brain reserved specifically reserved for paranoia kicks into overdrive.

But seriously.. when do we worry about Papelbon? How many blown saves before it's time to really be concerned? Is Bard ready to assume the role of closer if he needed to? What about Bobby Jenks? What happened to the untouchable closer of just a few years ago? Will we ever see him again? What about Josh Beckett? Is Wake done? Can we be confident in the catching tandem behind the plate?

This is where Spring Training is terrible for RSN paranoia. It's basically a two month long science project. I can pretty much see opening day from here, though. In spite of all the paranoia and questioning, I can't wait. Baseball that counts. The Red Sox back on the field. That thought stops all of the questioning... at least for a little while.

Friday, March 18, 2011

We Can Rebuild Them. We Have The Technology.

Photo by Me

I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Linda yesterday. It was about the Lightning and the types of merchandise sold in the St. Pete Times Forum. On the terrace level, there is a small team store that mostly sells jerseys and things for the visiting teams that are coming into town. Linda found out that that store is going to be closed come next season and only Lightning merchandise will be sold in the building. I think it's a good idea. She thought that excluding the merchandise for other teams means losing a lot of money. A lot of visiting fans come to town, especially fans of the Canadian teams. While I see her point, I can't help but disagree.

An example was brought up was the Florida Panthers. I have never been to their arena in Sunrise, but Linda likes their team store in that it sells things for all of the other teams in the league. Now, I know there are Panthers fans out there and I don't want what I'm about to say to be insulting. HOWEVER. Visiting teams' fans seem to make up a larger portion of the attendance than Panthers fans. In that situation, it makes business sense to market to them. The Lightning still attract a lot of out of towners, probably because so many Floridians are from somewhere else. If the ownership is spending so much money to re-do the building and improve the product on the ice it makes sense that they want to establish themselves on their own.

A lot has been made about the new owners and management of the team using teams like the Detroit Red Wings as a template for how they want the Lightning to be viewed. Part of doing that is breaking away from the stigma that the Sun Belt expansion teams carry with them. It means establishing their own identity and creating a legacy and mystique of an older franchise. Visiting fans are more than welcome to come to Tampa and spend their money in the Lightning's arena. I see nothing wrong with them not being able to stock up on new gear while they're there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Than A Game

(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images. Used without permission)

We all love our sports. I know I have been called obsessed more than a few times. It's also been brought to my attention that sometimes it's silly to get so emotionally involved in silly games. And maybe it is. But I can't fault the Red Sox or the Lightning in using their higher profile to raise awareness and money to help those in need.

Last year, Lightning Captain Vincent Lecavalier and several of his teammates participated in the first ever Tampa Bay's Cut for a Cure. Local business owners, professional athletes, and high profile members of the community were sponsored via donations. They then had their heads shaved to raise awareness and funds for The Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital. This year seven current players and one Lightning alumni from the Stanley Cup winning team are participating: Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, Victor Hedman, Ryan Malone, Mike Smith, Stan Neckar, & Nate Thompson. As great as my grief will be at seeing Nate Thompson's gorgeous hair vanish, I can't argue with the cause. Good for you, boys.

The Red Sox have also stepped up this week to raise money for the Red Cross' efforts to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami ravaged nation of Japan. Japan and America are linked, especially when it comes to our love of the game of baseball. There have been many great players from Japan who have shaped what our past time is. I can't even imagine what the Japanese players who are here for Spring Training have gone through when it comes to seeing what is happening to their homeland and to their family and friends. Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, Junichi Tazawa, and Itsuki Shoda were all outside of City of Palms park before last night's game against the Yankees collecting donations from the fans. All of the money donated there and through the Red Sox Foundation will be directed to the Red Cross' relief efforts. If that isn't a worthy cause, I don't know what is.

I don't make a lot of money. But there is no way I can sit back and do nothing. Every dollar helps. If I can give, so can you.

To sponsor a Lightning player visit: Tampa Bay's Cut For a Cure

To help the Red Sox Foundation & Red Cross help Japan visit: Red Sox Foundation

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Training Adventures

Photo by Me

A weather report was announced during today's Red Sox vs. Pirates game at McKechnie Field. It was 32 and rainy in Pittsburgh. 36 and rainy in Boston. There in Bradenton? It was 74 degrees, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. That pretty much sums up the whole day. I ended up talking to dozens of fellow Sox fans about the gorgeous weather in the stands, on the concourse, in line for the ladies room. Everyone had smiles on their faces, SPH 50 in one hand, and large cheap beers in the other. Everyone kept smiling even after the Pirates scored 6 runs in one inning and Sox ended up with the loss.

Everyone seems to wait impatiently for pitchers and catchers to report. After that, it's an impatient wait for opening day. I know the Spring Training games don't matter in the standings, but it was nice to sit still for an afternoon and enjoy it for what it is. Baseball. Sunshine. Cold beer, hot dogs, and peanuts from the concession stand. Blue skies, green grass, and a red clay diamond. The crack of the bat and the thump of baseballs in leather gloves. The boys of summer taking the field once again. I didn't want the day to end.

I want to try and make it when the Red Sox are back in Bradenton next Saturday. I hadn't been to a live baseball game since last July and I desperately want more. Play ball, indeed.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Photo by Me

Tomorrow. Real, live Red Sox baseball for the first time in 2011.

Now I have to quell my excitement long enough to get to sleep. Damn Daylight Savings Time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images. Used without Permission.

A lot has been written about Zdeno Chara's hit on Max Pacioretty on Tuesday. Most of it by wiser and more articulate people than I. More thoughts sprang into my head today with the news that the Lightning's Pavel Kubina was suspended for three games for an elbow to Dave Bolland's head in last night's game against the Blackhawks. Chara's hit gave Pacioretty a grade 3 concussion and broke his fourth vertebrate. Chara was not suspended. Chara was not even fined.

I'm not suggesting that Chara is a dirty player, not by any means. I'm also not saying that he went after Pacioretty with the intent to injure. But the 7th anniversary of Todd Bertuzzi sucker punching Steve Moore in the back of the head and breaking his neck in a fall to the ice is upon us. One of the ugliest moments for the NHL in recent memory and another horrific injury is putting the sport of hockey on the front page for all of the wrong reasons again. Luckily, Pacioretty was released from the hospital today. Luckily, he isn't paralyzed. Unluckily, we don't know if he will ever be able to play hockey again. A 22 year old kid might have had his livelihood taken away from him. At this point, I think intent has to be thrown out the window. No matter who was the one on the giving end of that hit, the league should do something. To show that actions like that, routine hockey play that it may be, cannot and will not be tolerated. Instead, the only message that comes across is that it will take someone dying on the ice before their disciplinary system achieves any sort of consistency.

Just to recap: Sean Avery was suspended 6 games for lewd comments to the press. Pavel Kubina was suspended 3 games for an elbow to the head. Zdeno Chara is not punished when a colleague has a broken neck and Matt Cooke is still at large with no repercussions. It's a joke, but I don't feel much like laughing.