The dilemma of a transplanted fan
For those who aren’t incredibly new to this blog (and if you are, I appreciate you coming by) you may have read a previous post mentioning how I relocated this January. I now reside in Predators country: Nashville, Tennessee.
If you would’ve told me five years ago I’d willingly leave Buffalo, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you. The Sabres have always been a huge part of my life. I’m sure if there was no team, if they would’ve left in bankruptcy or the lockout never ended, I may have been willing to go to college outside western New York. But there’s no way I was going to leave the area. There was no way I was going to leave my team.
I made that decision back in 2005, when I decided to get season tickets out of the lockout. Going to school in the city, I was finally going to have the chance to go to every game. Tickets were cheap. For a college student, I could easily handle $400 for 300 level season tickets. I mean, what hockey fan wouldn’t pay $10 to see an NHL game? For some, it wasn’t enough, as evidenced by all the empty seats. No decision for me. My team was coming back, I was going to be there every night. I bled black and red. And holy shit, that team was fun to watch.
But a funny thing started to happen. The empty seats disappeared. They changed the colors I bled. And the money I was paying for tickets wasn’t enough. It seemed like the organization was more interested in my wallet than my presence. Eventually, I felt like I was being pushed away.
Listen, I work in the industry. I know its a business. I know how things work. But as a fan, I became less emotionally invested in what was going on at HSBC Arena, and that hurt. Instead of doing anything I could to get to a game, I felt just as happy selling my tickets and making a few bucks and watching the game on television.
So, when an opportunity arose to move on with my career, I left. I gave away the rest of my tickets for the season, and left in January. I left a comfortable job I truly enjoyed in western New York to take less money and a new life elsewhere. Buffalo didn’t seem to be what I wanted it to be. That is sad, but I’d be lying if I said I hated it here in Nashville.
But the team I left back home, physically and emotionally is gone. It’s been replaced by an organization that is apparently a fan’s dream. Instead of speaking theoretically, saying “Wouldn’t it be cool if this was like this?” and being discouraged by reality, there’s a good chance that our team is willing to listen. Not even just listen, but change. It’s insane to see the polar differences people are talking about, from those who work at HSBC Arena or just visit on game nights.
It’s just interesting to watch this at further than arm’s length away. As a fan, it’s a new experience being a fan without being in the environment. I’m basically a spectator to what goes on in Buffalo, just watching and not getting any of the atmosphere.
Living so far away, I’m not surrounded by others in my position. No one around here asks about the Sabres. Yes, there are plenty of Predators fans here, but the Eastern Conference is irrelevant here. So, I need to make an effort to stay connected. I have to rush home from work to catch a 7:00 game, because it’s starting at 6:00 here. I need to get out my laptop, find a stream and watch each game, sitting by myself in my room. If I don’t do my part, I don’t see it. The game isn’t coming to me.
But for the people in Buffalo, the Sabres seem like they’re coming to them. They want the fans to care. They want them involved. When part of the reason I was alright with leaving is the fact that I didn’t think the team needed me around, it’s bittersweet for me to see. I wish I was around for all of this.
So, on Friday night, following a long day at work, I’m driving 700 miles to get back to Buffalo so I can see the changes. I’m going to the game Saturday night, and then as soon as I leave the arena Sunday night after a game against my new hometown’s team, the Predators, I’m driving the 11 hours back overnight to be back for work Monday morning.
Absolutely insane, I’ve been told. But it’s nothing for me. I feel insane for missing the last month of being a fan in Buffalo.
Knowing how much the fan experience at HSBC Arena has pushed me away in the past, I’m ready to buy back in. I want to experience it myself. For as much as we as fans care about the team, all we want out of sports is a team that cares about us. I think I need to see for myself that we have that in Pegulaville.
New President Ted Black said something about how people said it sounded too good to be true and “sometimes it’s too good and true.”
For me, it’s too good to miss.