The constant pursuit of sports fandom happiness can be exhausting. It is an everliving battle, a persistent and undying opportunity to become so turned inside-out within your own thoughts and ideas that it can become an independent exercise to try and believe that you know exactly how things should play out if the transactions, the hirings, the moves that you want to make, were made.
Whether it can be seen as just an innocent game or a puzzle that wants to be solved, or something deeper and more meaningful that you pull up charts, statistics, and lists of numbers from various sources to try to defend your point – more work put into it than some doctorate candidates put into their theses – it is just simply an exercise where you have no say on the final real-life result. Not to be a downer or killjoy, but there is a different and easier exercise that I have found, relieving and just as satisfying as trying to yell at a computer screen until my favorite team’s manager trades for Underrated Restricted Free Agent No. 3.
It is simply giving up, but in a good way.
If there is anything that I have personally learned about my sports fandom when it specifically comes to this sport of hockey, it is that I want to enjoy it without any expectations. That is the word of death for me – the destroyer of all worlds and the monster that lives beneath the crust of the earth that is stalking just about every team in the league, waiting for its time to strike and kill all hope and dreams with one swift knockout. It makes every fan wish for something more and despise the self-reflective journey that they were taken on. Sometimes it’s just more fun to begin that journey with a clean slate of zero. Not thinking about what should happen, or what even can happen, but just coming and going with the ebbs and flows of a regular hockey season.
John Tortorella brings that balance to the Philadelphia Flyers. A large portion of this fanbase desperately wants nothing but future assets, trades, transactions, drafts, sales, the teardown of all teardowns from the very top of this Pennsylvanian pyramid. It would, in theory, give them more opportunity to draft better players down the road, and get in all that funky gunk of management strategy that every nerd that goes to a Sports Management program knows and loves. The process, if you will, is something that I never want to think about or even have those two words next together leave my mouth like a dry lippy whisper.
With this new coach, it does feel like a perfect moment to just accept that this team might just be a meddling, middle, mountainous and messy monopoly of mediocrity. And that’s alright! Without going through the motions of process and all those pains and wasted months, it is possible to continue to truck on with zero expectations for what this team can do on the ice. Could some younger players suddenly break out and will this team to being a gritty seventh seed? Hell yeah. Could this team be completely dogshit and find themselves even worse off? You know it. It is the journey to the result, with no feelings of what they should do or be or become or exist as, that makes it more enjoyable – for me.
Because what would be more enjoyable? Going through the typical competition cycle that we have all become too familiar with, the tank-then-playoffs-then-disappointment train that only few teams find alien; or just being a team that is hovering around the playoffs, dipping and diving through the season, and just being consistently there? I tend to go for the latter, but that’s just me and this is my blog, damnit.
Tortorella being in Philadelphia, along with the existing talent of a team that is enough of the same dudes from when they were competitive not that long ago – except one very good French-Canadian – should be enough to at least make it interesting and I say go for it. Let us bask in the idea of fighting with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Wild Card spot. Let us conjure up the possibility of one dude coming out of nowhere to make things interesting. Let us think about some games being actually worth it and not go through any wasted time. I want to care about games and not just think about draft rankings several months from now. Bringing in this coach and eyeing to still improve the current roster, are at least signs that this is possible and I welcome it.