Out of mind
It’s now mid-August.
In a few weeks, the Sabres’ prospects will be hitting the ice in Traverse City, Michigan. In about a month, they’ll be hitting the First Niagara Center ice for training camp. Hockey is just around the corner, and to be honest, it’s the furthest thing from my mind.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had one hell of a summer.
Over the last few years, with the local hockey team willing itself to new levels of my personal apathy through everything from on-ice performance to professional incompetence, I’ve fallen in love again. Not with the Sabres, my grade school soulmate, the burden I’ve carried. But with American soccer.
(Don’t worry this isn’t really a soccer post, so you can keep reading. Or don’t. Like I really give a fuck, you already clicked the link.)
I’ve always loved traveling for games. I started going to Sabres road games as soon as I could. I’ve been fortunate enough to hit almost half of the league’s buildings for games where my team is the home’s opponent. It’s something that keeps the fan’s soul fresh, experiencing something new, developing that bond with the team. Going to home games is great, and many are blessed with the ability to attend them regularly, but there’s diminishing value in being in FNC these days. But every time you wear your jersey in another team’s building, you get that rush that just maybe you’re going farther for your team. It’s a badge of honor.
That brings me to soccer.
When I first went to a game, I was hooked. I joined American Outlaws. I started going to home games, but the thing is, with US Soccer, the home games are everywhere. Travel is part of the gig. So that rush for going to a new city, going farther for the team… that’s there every single time.
But the thing that differs is that with US Soccer, with being an American Outlaw, it’s not just showing up. Being there is cool… for you… but there’s a greater good. You go not to watch, but to support. You’re there to scream your ass off, make the opponent uncomfortable and create a home field advantage. There’s tangible work you’re doing. The players need you, the coaches need you, the game needs you. It’s not just entertainment. It’s a community of people trying to help their team win, to help people embrace the game, to grow it to the point where one day it’s big enough that winning the biggest prize is realistic.
I’m lucky enough to have new friends, people who are like brothers and sisters, in places from coast to coast because they share the same passion. It’s exhilarating.
This summer I went to Brazil for the World Cup. I saw the United States beat Ghana. I’ve been to literally over a thousand sporting events in my life, and that’s no contest number one on the list. The biggest sporting event on the face of the planet. I was there. I went to another country in another hemisphere to see one game. The fact that the game was incredible helped (it did win an ESPY, after all), but all in all, the entire experience was nothing but positive emotions. It was the happiest week of my life, and I do alright, so that’s saying something.
To incite an effort like that, to make a trip like that without extraordinary wealth, it takes a lot of goodwill. We saw one game. We went to Brazil for that. One game. And that was a worthwhile venture because I had consistently good experiences in every trip I’ve ever made for our national team. I had confidence in the value of the trip.
That expected or intrinsic value is something that the Sabres haven’t been providing.
It probably isn’t fair to compare the Buffalo Sabres to international soccer, and I don’t know if I’m really comparing them anyways. But when the schedule came out this summer, I wasn’t jumping around trying to decide which road games to go to.
I don’t know if it’s me, or if it’s them. I mean, it’s not like I’m convinced that everyone at 1 SHK III Plaza has a clue… I think that’s obvious right now. And it’s a kick in the dick now that I’m getting a payment debited from my bank account each month for the two of 19,070 that I’ve had my name on for going on a decade. But for the first time since I’ve had my own seats, I’m really questioning if it’s all worth it.
The on-ice issues are well on their way to being resolved. It’s hard not to be excited about the future, with the massive influx of young talent in the pipeline over the past few years. I still watch the games.
But, by now, I should be counting the days until the season starts. By now, I should be able to put together a roster, or know off the top of my head who’s on the last year of their contracts. By now, I should want to talk about the team. And it’s just not there.
You see a giant five month gap in blog posts and unless you follow me on twitter or know me personally, I could be dead for all you know. I’m not physically dead. It’s just hard to put into words something that you haven’t been putting any thought into.
Maybe that’ll change when the air gets a little brisk. When the kids go back to school. When football season is in full swing. When you just instinctively know it’s about time to head to the rink. Maybe then, there will be a spark.
I hope so. I have tickets.