Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are You Cheering for the Comeback or Collapse?

ryan kesler canucks fight
What is it about seeing someone else’s failure that delights us? Heading into tonight’s game seven between the Blackhawks and the Canucks there is a large contingent excited to see the Canucks blow their 3-0 series lead. There are those who hope the Canucks get throttled in the first few minutes and have the game essentially over by the end of the first. I’m not sure I’m one of them.

Sure, I wrote that I enjoy seeing the San Jose Sharks consistently fail in the playoffs, but failing in such a horrific manner isn’t something I actively root for, or enjoy seeing. During some of the depths of my Leafs depression I’ve actually written that I enjoy seeing other fans miserable about their teams, but I don’t know if I believed that then and I certainly don’t support that thinking now.

Of course, this is coming from someone who isn’t invested in the Hawks-Canucks series. It’s much different when you’re an actual fan of one of the two teams. For example, I certainly enjoyed Joe Nieuwendyk flying down the wing and beating Patrick Lalime – effectively killing both the Ottawa Senators and Lalime’s career as a starting goaltender. But never once during that game was I actually cheering for the Senators and Lalime's psychological and emotional destruction. I was cheering for a Toronto Maple Leafs victory. My memories of Niewendyk scoring remind me of a Leafs’ series victory – not a broken career.

Last season, the Bruins became only the third team in NHL history to lose a series after leading three games to none. Not only did they let a 3-0 series lead evaporate, but they gave up a 3-0 first period lead to lose the Eastern Conference Semi-Final. I don’t like the Bruins, but I took no pleasure in any of this.

I enjoyed when the Boston Red Sox overcame a 3-0 series lead to defeat the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, but I was not cheering for a New York defeat – no matter how much I hate the Yankees. I was cheering for the Red Sox after all the years of misery their fan base endured. I was cheering for something good to happen; I wasn’t cheering for something bad to happen. The difference is critical.

Why do people feel the need to actively cheer for the Canucks’ demise in such a horrific fashion? Is it the same instinct that drives people to slow down for a car crash to survey the damage? Or is it the same reason someone asks how many people died in an accident? I’m not sure I fully understand our lust for blood.

Of course, sports isn’t really serious and it isn’t a matter of life and death (provided you aren’t playing against Matt Cooke), but there’s still the train-wreck mentality that drives a lot of people’s interest.

Maybe some of the animosity towards the Canucks comes from their status as the league’s best regular season team. There’s something about the top team that makes people want to see them knocked down a peg. Is there some contempt for excellence?

Are Canuck fans to blame for the collective hatred? Over the past few seasons Canuck fans have developed an inferiority complex where they don’t feel their team is given enough attention or accolades. This has led them to become insufferable at times, but it’s hard to find good things to say about any fan base. I’m sure the list of reasons to hate Leafs Nation is lengthy.

The worst aspect of the Canucks Train Wreck Fan Crew is Roberto Luongo’s treatment. He’s receiving an undue amount of derision from the public. This man was in tears after last season’s playoff loss to the Hawks and there is some who wish to see a full public breakdown. Tonight’s game is the most important moment of Luongo’s NHL career and possibly his career as an athlete (I guess the Olympics was pretty important). If the Hawks totally shell Luongo it isn’t unfathomable to think that he will never be the same goalie. The amount of pressure the man is under is incredible. If you’re cheering for the collapse the thought that just crossed your mind was, “well, he wanted to play in a hockey market.” That’s just sad.

This world is a bad enough place most of the time. Sports should be fun. Taking pleasure in another’s failures isn’t something I will be a part of anymore.

Tonight you can cheer for the Blackhawks to pull of the improbable comeback, but if you’re cheering for the Vancouver Canucks to complete their historic collapse all I can do is shake my head.


Anonymous said...

Or maybe we just don't like how all the high-brow Vancouver fans were looking down their noses at the rest of the league? Maybe we are so pumped to watch them eat crow after talking trash for 82 games? At least that's my take. I would love to watch the top dog crash and burn and I relish calling my co-workers and friends who have been making fun of my Caps collapse last year. They won't even answer my texts right now. I'm going to savor this series for as long as possible and if they lose that's just the cherry on top.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly it, Canucks fans this season have been unbearable and those of us who are stuck dealing with them all season long really want to see them to eat their words.

Anonymous said...

The word you're looking for is schadenfreude - pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

I think you're having a bit of a hard time with the Canucks situation because you have no history of hate with them. If it was the Habs or Sens, you would have friends to hold this over or at least the historical context to enjoy their failure.

I think the majority of people going against the Canucks are like the commenters above, sick of the sense of entitlement of a fan-base with a great team that talks shit but will turn on the team when they don't win the ultimate prize.

On the other hand, Chicago is barely likeable with Patty "Mo Mullet Mo Problems" Kane, and a lack of Byfuglien, who was a killer last playoffs... so I'm still pulling for the Swedish twins and the Olympic hero.

Matt Horner said...

Ah, schadenfreude. I've heard the word, but I thought it referred to a German sex move. Good to know what the actual definition is.

Also, I think Mo Mullet Mo Problems is one of the best nicknames I've ever heard.

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