Friday, May 11, 2012

I Love the Playoffs, I Hate the Playoffs. Rinse & Repeat.

As the title suggests, I'm of mixed mind when it comes to the playoffs.  I've also been run absolutely ragged, tracking the whole kit & kaboodle, which is why things have dropped off here temporarily.  Once the situation with the Capitals resolves (the Bears & Stingrays are both out already, though the Caps have shown they're not to be taken lightly this year), my life will slip into a blissful off-season lull.  Or something to that effect, at any rate.  I'm sure I'll be going nuts by the time the draft comes around.

This is the first time I've been quite so caught up in the bigger playoff picture, following teams at all 3 of the affiliation structure, and it's definitely had its pros & cons.

On the good side of things, it's always great to cheer on your team, presuming they made the cut.  And if you're entirely out of the running, there's generally a team with a former member of "your" team that you can get behind.

This was especially true for me in Hershey, where I caught upwards of 30 home games.  That's a lot of time getting to know a team, even at a distance, and there's the underlying knowledge that when the playoffs end the team scatters.  Some will be back, but many won't.  At the end of the run, that's what I found myself mourning more than anything.

On the less-positive side of things, people get downright nasty.  While twitter and the internet has exacerbated the problem - it's easy to forget the humanity on the other side of a playoff rivalry when you don't have to see the people you're insulting - it's an extension of the mob mentality that's one of the most appealing things in sports fandom, subconsciously or otherwise.  Put on a jersey, and you disappear into a crowd - it brings a sudden freedom from accountability, even before you add alcohol.  Some people take this to damaging extremes.

This year, two teams that I care about - and have strong geographical ties to - met in the first round of the NHL playoffs.  The ugliness that the 7-game series brought out of both sets of fans was appalling, and I'm not just talking about the racist tweets regarding the Capitals' Joel Ward.

I can understand, hypothetically, growing up in a region with a bitter and long-standing rivalry (PIT v. PHI comes to mind).  But it's not something I expect to be a part of, nor would I ever want to be.  Even in the last few years, players whose careers I have enjoyed following have been shuffling around the continent and leagues - should they suddenly become something to be loathed for being part of a business transaction which they may or may not have had any say in?  It boggles my mind.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating - I'm a fan of hockey first, and teams second.  There will only be on winner in any given year, and I wish those for whom 2012 is "the one" all the joy they can find in their success.

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