Win or Entertain?

As I get older, I’m finding it harder to be a sports fan. When I was a kid, it was all about the wins and losses. I didn’t really care how my favorite teams played. I just wanted them to win. Now, with the cost of tickets and everything else associated with going to a game, it better be worth my time. That means more than just winning. Case in point, my favorite NHL team, the New York Islanders.

Back in 2002, I decided to rekindle my relationship with the Islanders. I was a big fan during the early and glory years of the Islanders. I went to college (in the MD/DC area) during the great playoff battles (and series wins) against the Caps. Life took me away from the NHL for a couple of years until we decided to drop some disposable cash on a 7 game Islander ticket package in 2002. That turned into full season ticket packages for the 03/04 and 04/05 seasons. The Isles had scraped it together and eeked into the playoffs both of those seasons but were shown a quick door by the Sens and Bolts in the first round. The 4 home playoff games featured a complete lack of scoring by the Isles. Losing is one thing. Shut out is another.

After the lockout, I declined to resubscribe.  Customer service was non-existent. Traffic, gas and bridge tolls escalated. The facility was obsolete 10 years ago. As an aside, one year, I went to a game at or whatever the heck it’s called in Glendale, AZ. Everything was first class. What a great experience. The next week, it was back to NVMC with the impassable concourse, crowded restrooms and inedible concessions. Ugh.

I’ll get to my point. During the 04/05 season, it became more important to me for the team to play attractive and exciting hockey rather than winning. There were very few teams who made the NHL playoffs in three consecutive seasons but the Isles were one of them. Successful? Sure. Fun to watch? Not for me. Perhaps winning and playing attractive hockey is mutually exclusive in the NHL these days. If so, don’t ask me to drop $200 for a December match up against the Blue Jackets.

The Isles are somehow keeping their nose above water this year. A testament to Ted Nolan, to be sure. I’m not sold on Garth Snow’s ability to put together a team but making the playoffs last year and staying alive this season may be an indicator of success to some. It’s not to me.

The players muck and work and grind (most) every night. It’s brutal on the eyes. They’ve been dead dull for 3 seasons now but if they can scrape together 2 goals each night which has been a herculean effort so far this year, they’ll be in the game. Do I want them to win? Absolutely! Do I watch every single game? Yes, I do. Have there been more than a handful of games which were fun to watch. No. But when you’re addicted and can’t kick the habit, you have to watch. Pray for me.

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