The Blue Jackets have fallen to a record of 2-10-0 and the chorus of boos was raining down upon the team from the rafters of Nationwide Arena following their 3-2 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets. The preseason hype has long since faded and the team that finished last season on a 16 game tear has fallen from memory. The team’s struggles are as much a surprise to the fan base as I’m sure they are to the Blue Jackets organization. The Jackets have fired mild-mannered Todd Richards and replaced him with the fiery John Tortorella as head coach. The Jackets started the season 0-7-0 under Richards and are now 2-3-0 under Tortorella. Frustrated fans are at odds with each other as they look for ways to cope with the team’s 0-5-0 record at home.
Is it ok to boo the home team? As silly as the debate seems, why wouldn’t it be ok to boo the players? Personally, it is not something I would do – but I see no problem if someone chooses to display their grief by booing the team. What makes this topic of discussion interesting is while most members of the credentialed media avoid conflict with the team at all costs, the question was posed to players and coaches about how they felt about the fans booing the team at home. No one asks John Tortorella what he’s doing differently with Dzone coverage. No one asks the newly appointed team captain what this team needs to do to regain its focus. Nope. Instead we get an “Oh golly geez” interview from the captain of a 2-10-0 NHL team. Then the media asks 22-year-old Ryan Murray, who’s career thus far has been nothing short of frustrating, how he feels about the fans booing.
Being young an emotional, Murray gave the best answer he could. No he doesn’t like getting booed and he hopes for some loyalty as the teams does everything it can to right the course. I would have liked to hear the response if Dubinsky has been asked that question on the record. Better yet, there would have been some real sound bite gold if James Wisniewski were still a member of the CBJ and was asked that question. But no. The docile media gave us a couple of docile interviews. The question was posed to John Tortorella during his post-game interview and he answered it quickly. I could hear his eyes rolling over the radio as he answered the question.
But the debate has raged on in social media: is it ok to boo the team? I have no problem with a fan booing the team – but have an idea of why you’re booing. The Jackets play has been frustrating for sure, but this isn’t the “same old Jackets.” The team as it exists today does not have the same DNA as the fabled 2011-2012 team. It has Dubinsky, Jenner, and Hartnell – player’s whose success in this league hasn’t come from pure talent, but a work ethic that exceeds their abilities. For as critical as I can be of the media, if anything, they have done a good job displaying that the players do care about having a lousy record.
But feel free to boo the power play if the power play is inept. Just don’t yell “SHOOT IT” when the shooting lane is clogged. Gonna boo between periods? That’s ok. In my opinion, if you’re going to boo when a team is bad, don’t forget the stick tap when Curtis McElhinney throws a shutout in relief of struggling Sergei Bobrovsky. You’ve chosen to spend your disposable income on tickets to a team you're emotionally invested in and you’re allowed to vocalize your admiration as well as your displeasure. I’m not saying this team doesn’t deserve the boos. Know that there are some fans who don’t appreciate negativity and they will have a different opinion than you when you choose to boo. That person is no more or less right than you.
In all of this I have noticed something peculiar in the realm of social media. Those people who detest the casual fan for showing up only when “your” team is winning seem to be the same people who get mad at the team, take things personally, and threaten to not buy or sell their tickets when the team is losing. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m not sure how threatening to abandon a team when they continue to lose is any different than only showing up when the team is successful.
But in the end, the boos from the crowd and the emotional outbursts from social media does signify something. It means that right or wrong, this fan base still cares. As much as I don’t want to hear the team I follow get booed, the boos signify there are people who care. While I have no problem with a fan booing the home team after a lackluster performance, it’s the lack of boos after a cruddy game that scares me. I have a bigger problem with the fan base giving up on the team than I do with them booing at a home game. So as the debate rages on over whether or not it’s ok to boo your team, I am reluctantly thankful that this fan base still cares enough to even have the discussion.