Sunday, September 9, 2012

Believe it or not, I'm a Columbus Blue Jackets Fan

I typically don’t use the phrase “Believe it or not” when writing because it ultimately leads to me having “The Greatest American Hero” theme song stuck in my head for hours.  However, believe it or not, I am a Columbus Blue Jackets Fan.  But not a fan in the sense that I see the players as celebrity, I blindly trust the management team, or that I would never say a cross word about the Blue Jackets.  The Blue Jackets are my window to pro hockey.  They are the team that I can pick up the local paper and read about or turn on the local sports radio show and hear about.  They are easy access into a sport I’ve loved as long as I can remember. No one wants to see the Blue Jackets become regularly competitive more than me and my expectations remain high – why shouldn’t they?

There are three shows from the 80's that are unwatchable to me now: Voltron, Thundercats, any guesses on the third?
Personally, being a Blue Jackets fan isn’t entirely different than growing up a hockey player transplanted to Canton, OH in grade school.  When my family moved to Ohio, there was no hockey coverage anywhere, let alone a rink with 25 miles.  Every once in a blue moon, the Canton Repository would list NHL standings on the back page if the Massillon Tigers or Canton McKinley Bulldogs were lean on headlines.  It was the 80’s, so there was only one cable provider in the neighborhood and they didn’t have Sports Channel – No hockey on TV. We got sports illustrated for a couple years.  In doing so, I became accustomed at a young age to reading each issue in reverse order, from the last page to the front page (the punch line being Sports Illustrated buries hockey in the back of each issue).  I was the weird kid in school that wore my Bantam Team jersey to school on spirit day instead of a football jersey.  Hockey was an obscure thing to most folks that didn’t live in the immediate Cleveland area.

I definately need 108" non-waxed laces for my size 8 3/4 Bauer Hockey skate that goes on my right foot.. Definately not 108" for the size 9 Bauer hockey skate that goes on my left foot.  Definately not. 
Fast forward to September 2012 and things haven’t changed too much.  I now live in an Ohio city of roughly 2 million people which happens to have an NHL franchise.  There are actually 2 or 3 kids in my son’s grade who play hockey besides him.  I still read SI from the back of the magazine forward, because I still have to. The only time people in the office talk about hockey is when the Blue Jackets fire someone, trade someone, or reach some miserable milestone.  Not a whole lot has changed in Ohio to truely weave hockey into the fabric of the state's culture, but it has seen modest growth.  However, other things are much more different now for all of sports.  There is twitter, 24 hour sports talk radio, blogs, and something called “Forums” which, if I understand correctly, are where trolls live and George Lucas breaks news.  Incidentally, these modernized forms of social media mean that I no longer have to live in relative hockey obscurity alone.  Definately not.

I’m not going to lie, it is tough being a Blue Jackets fan.  Thanks to social media, any knob with a smart phone can jump on the bashing bandwagon and tease, ridicule and insult the #cbj team and its fans.  It’s easy for them to do, the team is miserable and we fans can open ourselves up to criticism sometimes.  But that doesn’t mean Blue Jackets fans have to take that ridicule lying down.  Don’t think for a minute that it has always been fun times for those other fans who would mock the CBJ.  There isn’t a team in the NHL that hasn’t had its fair share of hard times.  Twitter, blogs, and forums is a place where fans can heap gallons of haterade onto the Blue Jackets just so they can feel better about their own team.  If it were around, I can’t imagine a worse hash tag than #Pens from 1967 to 1987.  I’m still curious what happens if I search #DeadThings, but I digress.

It wasn't always like the "Grind Line" and "The Russian Five" was it?
But you know what?  I remember not too long ago when the Blue Jackets were the darling of Columbus and the arena was alive and electric each game.  No Cannons, No Boomer, No Twitter, No Trolls.  It was a palpable atmosphere that was created by a great mix of hard-working players who inspired a growing fan base eager to see a blue collar group of guys play hard every night.  Nationwide Arena was a tough place to play, not because of a twitter campaign, but because the team inspired the crowd and the crowd made a difference.  Those were the halcyon days and they might be back sooner than you think.

I don’t look at this year’s roster and see playoffs or superstars.  However, I look at the players and I believe this group of guys is capable of bringing back that electric magic to the fans.  That feeling that you knew that every shift all game the guys were going to bring it, and bring it hard.  I see much of that in this year’s Blue Jackets roster.  And you know what, from someone who remembers the pre-lock Blue Jackets, there was no better sporting event than watching the Blue Jackets play a home game at Nationwide Arena.  So, while other fans and media put down the Blue Jackets to feel better about their team’s misery, I’m encouraged as a #CBJ fan that we’re going to have fun watching Blue Jackets Hockey again this season.  I believe that energy is coming back, not from a battle cry, but from the effort we’ll see from the team each game.  I’m looking forward to seeing CBJ Players banging in the corners and mucking one out in front of the net.  I’m encouraged about a better fan experience this season.  But don’t worry, I will continue to bemoan the shortcomings of Blue Jackets in the NHL– but I’ll have a little more fun doing it this coming season, even if I still have to read magazines backwards out of habit…

1 comment:

  1. Great post. But, beware. You will probably have to justify or defend EVERY comment you make. There are some out there who would complain if they got hung with new rope. Go Jackets.