Last night my girlfriend told me she had something to confess. She wasn’t proud of it, but she finally admitted that she was excited for the NHL hockey season to start.
During last year’s playoffs she was rooting against the L.A. Kings. “They win too much.” She said. I have to admit she is a little clairvoyant but I don’t think she was predicting a second cup victory. She was cheering for the Minnesota Wild.
Passing seasons mean changes, but a popular sentiment pervading sports is sticking around.
Fans have always passionately cheered for their teams. That’s what makes professional sports: the fans. Fans are an active part of sports. All the time you hear athletes say, “Thanks to the fans,” or “It’s all about these great fans we have here.” Almost every NFL team has a 12th man tribute; the Seattle Seahawks even designed their stadium to encapsulate and magnify crowd noise for the impact fans have.
Lately there’s another aspect in the world of fandom – cheering against great teams because they win too often. Certain teams have become despised not because of a rivalry, dirty or poor play, but just because they win too much.
The New England Patriots dynasty at the turn of the millennium (winning Super Bowls in 2002, 2004, and 2005) became the bane of many fans, polarizing the team and breakout-star quarterback Tom Brady. The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have won four of the last five Stanley cups dating back to 2010. They’ve picked up some fans along the way, but encouraged the enlistment of just as many antagonists.
Many fans jump on the bandwagon to join in the glory. But increasingly, another wagon is making the rounds: the anti-bandwagon movement, like Monty Python’s bubonic plague cart. Instead of “Won’t you die yet?” it’s “Won’t they lose yet?” The motivation for such behavior is candid spite directed at successful teams thrust into the spotlight.
I don’t know too many San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues fans that were happy to see the Kings lift the cup again, but why the hatred? Are we so used to rooting for underdogs that no one appreciates the talent and hardwork that goes into building champions and dynasties?
How many fans joined the ranks of the New York Yankees because of their winning tradition? People who love the sport of hockey, but didn’t particularly care for Detroit, had to appreciate the talent of Red Wings clubs that suited up between 1997-2002.
The anti-bandwagon camp is a curious one. It’s about being a staunch fan of your team as opposed to the sport in general: appreciating the way the game is played.
Kings fans should love the hatred; it’s a symptom of jealousy. Ducks and Sharks fans wouldn’t care about the Kings if they weren’t losing to them all the time. Other fans around the league will promulgate animosity, staying hungry for a new winner, but if they want to see unmistakable talent playing an old-school brand of dominating hockey they can stop by the Staples Center. There they’ll get to see wins.
It’s rare and special to see a dynasty. Especially in today’s era: one defined by elite competition, and teams that must abide by salary cap rules, which certainly would have disqualified a few of the Red Wings cup victories in the late 1990’s.
As the saying goes, ‘Haters gonna hate’. Kings fans know a team that has repeatedly demonstrated criticism is nothing, outside noise is an opportunity to rise and what doesn’t kill you teaches you how to overcome any situation.
This is why we hail to the Kings.