On venom, change and attitude

For years, it’s been fairly easy to ignore the frequent moronic work of certain media types, some specifically, at an area publication.

While some prove time and time again to be quality reporters or writers or personalities in the Buffalo sports market, some have done the opposite. Today would’ve been another Bucky Gleason column that would be ignored by many tired of his antics over the years. But there’s a certain line in the piece about Ted Black preaching patience that was brought to my attention via twitter:

Black found the people around him to be different than the irate talk-show callers he hears and venomous bloggers he reads who want the roster blown up and everybody fired.

Using that outlet to paint the blogging community with that brush is insulting to the entire group that helps extend discourse on our teams. It’s a completely ignorant potshot that in itself is venomous.

Does the basis of intent for this slam come from the constant distaste for Bucky’s work that we as bloggers have shown over the years? I’m sure it has something to do with it. But this piece isn’t about Gleason being a moron. There’s something else to this.

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The message attempted to be conveyed in the column seems to be along the lines of “everything is fine, don’t worry about it.” It points to talk-show callers and bloggers as being negative, and indirectly, wrong.

Mentioned in the column is growing discontent amongst the fanbase about the roster and staff. Personally, I think the number of people who think Lindy Ruff needs to be fired isn’t very large. Personally, I don’t think he’s the problem or the only problem right now.

In response to the unrest, Ted Black had this to say:

“Is there any thought of getting rid of Darcy or Lindy right now? No. None.”

I find that answer incredibly disheartening.

When I say that’s disheartening, I don’t mean that I don’t like it because I think Ruff should be fired. I absolutely hate the idea that a coaching change isn’t an option at all. To me, when you say that there’s no thought to it, you’re not considering every possible route to get where we all want the team to go.

Decisions like Ruff made Saturday night, starting Ryan Miller against a team he’s routinely struggled against after he had a rough night the night before, need to be able to be questioned. While there’s no certainty that, by default, Jhonas Enroth would’ve got them a win if he would’ve started, that’s no reason to disqualify the possibility that the likelihood of Enroth giving them a better chance to win under those conditions than Miller. It’s the butterfly effect.

That isn’t being negative. That’s being willing and intelligent enough to look at other options or perspectives.

There’s a great quote from Aristotle, maybe one of my favorite quotes ever, that says, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

It’s totally okay if they want to stick with Ruff and Darcy Regier because they believe in them. There’s nothing wrong with liking who they have, saying when they’re not performing “We believe in these guys,” but at some point, aren’t the results going to need to follow? I’m not talking about winning games right now, under the circumstances of the team’s health, but overall. When will enough be enough if they’re saying they’re not even willing to consider it?

Change doesn’t have to be the answer. But there needs to be an indication that they’re willing to. If they’re not entertaining the thought, the philosophy behind that needs to be questioned by the fans. That’s on us.

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The other night I had an exchange with another blogger on twitter who claimed I was “whining” for having concerns on the effect of game presentation on the atmosphere at First Niagara Center. I’m not offended whatsoever when someone disagrees with me if they can defend it with reasoning. I take pride in making educated points, no matter philosophically or specifically.

In sports, in the big picture, there’s so much about it that is out of your hands. As an organization, you’re at the mercy of the nature of the game when it comes to wins or losses. That puck is gonna bounce a different way every time, and the people in the office aren’t on the ice to get involved.

The whole point is that you need to control what you can, and put yourself in the best possible position as an organization. If you put yourself in the best possible position, the success happens on its own.

To me, that philosophy underscores something that’s been percolating in the local sports world. It’s not about just trying hard, sticking to your guns and hoping for the best, which is what many in Buffalo seem to have had ingrained in their minds. There’s a good percentage of the fans who are completely content with everything the franchise has done, and believe that everyone else should be.

As a region, our culture and our mentality has brought us to where we are. It’s not just all bad luck. Sometimes things don’t work out for you, but it’s about putting yourself in the position to be successful. You need to control what you can and let the rest work itself out. It’s having the confidence in yourself to take risks. The desire to be better. Not to defend what you have and be content with it. Joffrey Lupul’s tweet and the backlash that came with it proves that.

Whether that’s making changes behind the bench or in the offices, if your goal is to be better, change always has to be an option. Whether it’s the way you do game presentation or the uniforms you wear, if you’re not considering how everything impacts what you’re doing, you’re not putting yourself in the best possible position to win.

Even stuff like game presentation, while viewed as insignificant by some (mainly by those who don’t frequently attend games), has an impact. If it doesn’t, why would athletes be seen listening to their iPod before a game getting psyched up? Are they listening to just anything? When you’re out at a bar or at some party, if you’re stuck listening to some awful music, you aren’t in as good of a mood as you would be if you were running the jukebox? Something so simple to some needs to be accepted as something that should be considered relatively important.

My vocal pleas for change aren’t about creating a better environment for me personally. It’s about creating the optimal environment for every person in that building. It’s about the desire to find that perfect point between what is going to keep the crowd active for the players to feed off of them, what is going to motivate them on the ice, and what is going to maximize entertainment value for the paying customers despite the result on the ice.

Environment effects attitude. If you try to deny that, you’re a complete moron.

I also don’t think you can deny that it impacts how the team performs at home. There’s no crowd energy to feed off of. The job of whoever is running game presentation isn’t just to do it during a game. Their job is to manufacture crowd energy, regardless of what’s happening on the ice. Their job is to find a way to create the best conditions possible.

Having experience and knowledge into what goes into making a script, involving sponsored spots during the course of the night, and seeing other places do things other ways is what makes the disappointing game presentation so frustrating for me. It’s extremely easy to make changes to this, and it has a direct effect on fan experience for me, a paying customer, and an indirect effect on team performance, which is something everyone cares about as a fan.

Not every fan is going to understand the inner-workings of a professional sports organization. Not every fan cares that much. That’s fine. If they comprehended what actually goes into the event they throw down money for a ticket to, maybe more people would look at this type of thing. If they threw down more money to go to games there, they might care more. (Note: The majority of season ticket holders and media I talk to about this are extremely more passionate as a whole than those that don’t go to many games, which makes complete sense) If they’ve been to other arenas and can objectively analyze things from an outside perspective, I’m sure they’d understand where I’m coming from when I point out flaws. But to them it looks like I’m just whining and miserable.

It can be better. So why shouldn’t it be?

Being passionate about wanting to see change, or at least see improvement shouldn’t be looked at as “venomous” because it’s not. There’s no malice towards the organization. There no ill will towards the people making decisions. We all want the same thing: a parade in June and the belief that they’re making a constant progression to that point.

Always expecting more isn’t whining or complaining or being negative. It’s about always wanting to be better. It’s about always trying to be better. It’s having a winning attitude.

Black, in the column, pleads for patience from the fans while the team struggles. The team has shown patience in itself, from the coach (which hasn’t changed) to the general manager (which hasn’t changed) or the core of the roster (which hasn’t changed) or the front office staff (which hasn’t changed) that hasn’t produced the Stanley Cup they aspire for to date. There does need to be patience right now with the injury situation, because really, there isn’t much they can do between the cap situation and who’s on the shelf. But what will his answer be when they’re healthy?

A truly great sports organization must give fans the perception that they’re always trying to be better. When Ted Black says they aren’t even considering something, that doesn’t do that. When the things game presentation does continually fail to engage the crowd at First Niagara Center and they don’t make changes, that doesn’t do that.

We as fans, as customers, don’t need you to change everything.

Just show us you’re willing to consider it.

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Posted on December 19, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think you’re absolutely right on with regards to Lupul, the City of Buffalo, and how the way Buffalonians approach things has in part led to the downward spiral the city is on.
    I don’t think much should be read into Black’s comments, however. If he had said something to the effect of “We will explore any options to improve the team.” then the headline becomes “DARCY AND LINDY ON THE HOTSEAT” everywhere in Buffalo and the NHL. It would be everywhere and it would be all anyone would talk about concerning the team. It would certainly degrade team morale. As long as Ted and Terry are considering those options without telling us, I’d be completely okay with it. I think Terry’s comments after the Pittsburgh game were more telling that he’s not happy.

  2. Tell me if this sounds familiar. “Buffalo desperately needs a championship but get that championship allow me to get the moral high ground and make a point.” It’s the moral high ground. Sometimes it’s over college coaches. Sometimes bloggers. Sometimes ESPN. Sometimes immature athletes. Can’t anyone just make an argument anymore? Why is it necessary to put some individual or some group down in order to make a point? Bloggers are an easy target because the perception is petulant and lousy journalistic standards.

    I actually agree with Mike’s point too. Ted Black is feeding a preconceived message to guys like Bucky. It’s not in the best interest of the team for players to have to wonder about Lindy future and be asked questions about Lindy. So Black just dismisses that possibility. Internally who knows what’s happening. Bucky fell for it. You’re falling for it too, Eric. You’re taking Black’s words at face value. It’s actually nothing. It’s what Black wanted us to hear. He might be lying. He might be protecting the team. Something to think about at least.

    Love what you said about Lupul and Buffalo.

  3. I think fans in general don’t want to believe that game presentation matters much to the in arena experience. They – in their minds are there to see the game first and foremost. So the idea that the video clips or songs that are played during the event is of an importance anywhere near to what goes on on the field of play might put them off a bit.

    Not saying game presentation doesn’t matter, but that it may be difficult to get across to fans that it may, and then find examples to back it up. Especially when the response from many fans would be something along the lines of ” I barely pay attention to that stuff when I’m at the game….”.

    On Ted Black: said what he had to say at this point. Anything even remotely inferring a coach/GM change would have blown up in the press, especially since it’s been so long since there has been one here. Not certain that’s what the organization wants right now.

  4. The funny thing is that Bucky is playing the game too. I think he is trying to spark any sort of public outrage he can so that pressure is brought to bear on the Sabres brass. If they cave in to this manufactured “public pressure” and make any sort of statement that they are dissatisfied with Darcy and Lindy, he can sell more papers and make his bosses very happy. Personally, I think Ted Black laughs in the general direction of lightweights like Bucky.

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