I am not one to call out a fan base. In fact, while I love to discuss, argue, celebrate, and dwell over the game of hockey, I rarely chime in on discussions about the fans. For Columbus, it seems to have become commonplace to discuss and usually speak negatively about the fan base (or lack there of), causing many jaded, success hungry individuals to take a rather dark line on responding to the analysts around the league.
My first concern, of course, is the misdirected hatred. Certainly we have seen plenty of negative commentary flood the #CBJ feed on twitter, and the annual pessimism towards team success leaves many fans ready to jump at any biased or unfair comment they see, but we as a fan base would probably do well to stop. Admittedly I have been at fault in this scenario, but I have changed my strategy a bit and it seems to be working quite well. Rather than throwing names or generating negativity towards someone, I have begun demanding accountability towards silly accusations. I cannot help but think that many in the hockey world find the Blue Jackets community to be lacking in hockey knowledge, and if we can represent our team through logic and fact, I believe it will do well to reduce the amount of un-researched negativity.
My second concern is a need (as a whole) for this fan base to get more people educated about the game of hockey. While the franchise is still relatively new in comparison to other teams in the league, it is high time to remove the awful stigma that Columbus is ‘hockey stupid’ or ‘fair weather’ in any sort of way. I believe the roots of hockey in Ohio are quite strong, stemming back to a number of Ohio native NHLers, strong hockey colleges, and as far back as the Barons in Cleveland. I am going to take it upon myself to get more people involved in the game of hockey and try to educate them on the rules and concept of the game, and I truly hope the rest of the fan base who have stuck through during the last decade of Blue Jackets history will do the same. New fans deserve to know how and why this franchise was made possible. They deserve to know why Rick Nash and Jeff Carter on the ice together is something this team has never seen talent-wise, and they deserve to know why hockey belongs in Columbus.
Finally, I am very concerned with the representation at hockey games. While I can appreciate the disdain towards a losing record, or a faltered play, booing the on ice product will never benefit anyone. A long time ago I tried to define what it means to be a fan. The best I could come up with, was “someone who loves, lives, and CHEERS a team, through the great times and the bad times.” If people are booing the Blue Jackets, they are not acting like a fan in my books. Rather than kick our boys while they are down, I believe the Columbus fan base needs to make a concentrated effort to avoid making things worse than they already are.
This was brought about thanks to an awesome conversation this weekend between myself and a few other fantastic Blue Jackets fans. When we thought back to the game, it was noted that there was quite a bit of booing as the Jackets struggled to gain the zone during the powerplay, and frankly, I understand. I was sitting in my seat huffing and puffing, sighing and “oh my god’ing” as much as anyone, but I never booed. By the time the Jackets scored their second goal, I was already personally defeated and while I went through the goal claps and chants, I really did not have it in me to get crazy excited about the game.
I will give the fans credit where they deserve it, as they rallied big time in the last few minutes of the game trying to generate solid energy for the guys working to tie the game, but I wonder if it was too little too late. They needed this momentum to get out of their funk in the second period, which was notably miserable in terms of fan response. I am going to jump on board the band wagon whether the on-ice product deserves it or not. I may not be a season ticket holder, nor is it all that likely that I will attend more than 25 games this year, but when I do I will make sure to be as much of a positive influence as possible, and I truly hope other Jackets fans do the same.
It’s time to take back this arena and make it the experience we know it can be. Cut the booing. This team can do better, but so can we. Carry the Flag!