Today is the first post I will be writing as part of my ongoing interest in delving into both the traditional and analytical aspect of hockey; mostly with a focus on the Toronto Maple Leafs. I don’t know how long or how often I can commit to writing. I think a large part of wanting to write something is in part because I enjoy putting down my thoughts to follow up on down the road. This mindset is not to show how right I am, but to see how my viewing of hockey and its many idiosyncrasies have changed over time.
However, I want to get something out of the way first. I want to talk specifically about the troubling shift from fandom to the philosophizing of what’s right or wrong in a sport as subjective as hockey.
Hockey, for me, is a cathartic entertainment that allows me to escape the stresses of life. Hockey is my Canadian cultural identity as much as it is my natural human proclivity to emotionally invest into an activity that embodies so much of the human desire to be the dominant entity at the top of the food chain. It is a shared weakness to watch bloodletting, the ongoing defiant challenge of the human athletic limits, and the glorification of the alpha male – a gladiator sport on steel blades no more than an eighth of an inch thick.
The ongoing risks and rewards of hockey is why I turn on the television at night to watch. I idealize the toughness of John Tavares for pulling out his own teeth on the players’ bench, just as much as I admire the toughness of a player willing to drop the gloves to defend a teammate.
But over time, it got exhausting feeling like I had to take a side on the rights and wrongs. I feel my love for the sport has been perverted by a mob mentality to be right – no matter the areas of grey that exists in perpetuity of replays. Hockey is a naturally dangerous activity – players are flying at 25 miles an hour, risking their bodies to on a moving chessboard with millisecond windows of opportunity to make decisions, playing at the edge of emotional control, and suddenly people want to ban fighting.
Sometimes, I feel like I should have never joined in on the growth of social media. Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool to disseminate information in real time – but maybe at the cost of really understanding what is going on. The information and digital age has its many pitfalls – not putting in the time to understand the shifting arguments often makes some feel alienated.
I want to believe that my feelings are justified, but as I write this, I already feel like I need to take a side. I think it is okay to have an opinion, but when the innocent conveyance of an opinion is turned into a weaponized tool to attack others, what’s the point in being a fan if the opinion is conceptualized into black and white?
The article by DownGoesBrown the other day gave me a renewed perspective of that very division in the right and wrong of hockey.
For me, the division between the two sects of hockey analysis has been troubling on many personal fronts; especially in which any point made quickly becomes an afterthought in a flurry of insults – quite often personal. In addition, the baggage that comes with taking one side or another isn’t worth the stressful position of having to constantly defend it. We’re hockey fans first and foremost – unless your job is to develop systems to track and break down hockey games, there’s no real reward in fighting one way or the other.
There are times you need to take a stand, but I don’t think sports should be one of them. We watch hockey and sports in general because we believe that in the many events that repeats itself, there’s that one event out of a thousand that can change the complexion of a game completely.
In my eyes, the progress in analytics – whether via systems, possession time, or scouting – has essentially come to halt to see who’s more right. The fight is no longer about improving the state of hockey, but a blood lust to be right on the margins of averages.
And as some already know, I am very much guilty of having participated in this vicious cycle of condescension and personal attacks.
I hope to change that for my own sake.