Okay, schism is way too strong of a word. Hockey fans aren't exactly Catholics and Protestants, but the divisions that exist seem to be so pronounced on social media. Should it be as easy as it is to divide fans of the same team into so many categories? Should't we all have some type of bond over the highs and lows of being a sports fan over the course of the season?
I used to use this blog to share post game reactions. It was never meant to be like most of the hockey blogs out there. Now, I'm just using it to express my thoughts in more than 140 characters.
Most of the discussion lately has been about "new" fans versus old fans. Of course this has been largely exacerbated by the Tampa Bay Times printing the list of rules in the newspaper. The immediate reaction that I saw on twitter was to mock the people of Florida....Florida, a place that is warm most of the year and perhaps doesn't have as many residents who are passionate about a sport on ice as a city like New York or Chicago. Their team made it to the Stanley Cup Final. As of the time I am writing this, they are three wins away from the second Stanley Cup in their franchise history. What's wrong with wanting to bring more people into the fun?
I know that I have been guilty of making jokes about bandwagon fans. Even though it is enemy territory, I have been to a lot of Islanders games at Nassau Coliseum over the last few years. When the Islanders were hanging out in the basement of the standings, that building was pretty empty. The people who were present were all passionate fans. They were used to the losing and excited about the future they knew was coming. Things changed this year. The building was packed every night with people who didn't know the rules or even the players on their teams. I heard conversations about how Kevin Okposo shouldn't be on the top line or how Michael Grabner being scratched was a reason for a loss. The sideline refs wanted penalties every time someone tripped over the blue line but chanted against the refs on textbook calls. I would spend time with some season ticket holders wishing that these people weren't getting in the way of the experience at the arena. This actually makes me commend Tampa, at least they recognize that new fans come when you are winning and these people need to learn many of the rules.
People all become fans at different times. Maybe they choose a team based on who is winning at the time or maybe they choose the closes team geographically. They're still fans. If they want to learn, help them learn. If they don't want to learn, I guess we need to accept this and not tell them that they aren't real fans.
Anyone who supports a team is a real fan.
Even passionate fans who know the rules are told on twitter that they aren't good enough fans. I know that I bring a lot of things back to the fancy stats community, but here I go anyway.
I am constantly seeing tweets about fancy stats that don't even just imply, but explicitly say that if you don't care about fancy stats then you don't care about the sport. Of course, you can't just know the rules and get enjoyment out of watching in order to be a fan. You have to analyze what goes on the ice using numbers.
Real fans have to analyze players by the numbers and then make general manager decisions based on that. Liking a player because of his heart is not acceptable. Finding a player fun to watch and exciting doesn't matter at all. All that matters is that more shots are generated by their team than against their team when they're on the ice (of course adjusted based on the score, time in the game, and what zone the shift started in). If this isn't the main statistic you use to want a player on your team, then you're not a real fan. Doesn't this make so much sense?
Seriously - it doesn't matter what made you a fan, why you're a fan, or how long you've been a fan. If you want to learn more, then ask questions and do some research. If someone else wants to learn the sport, then help them out.
Anyone can be a fan. There are no rules to fandom and no one is a better fan than anyone else.