They’re The Lucky Ones…

This week Paul Balm wishes he was an enthusiatic new fan once again

You’ve got to love Braehead fans. If I’d travelled almost 300 miles to watch my team lose 6-0 in a game they really could have done with winning I don’t think I’d be on my feet clapping them in the last couple of minutes. I might have been on my feet, I might have been shouting but none of it would have been particularly positive.

I think that’s where newer (and I’m choosing my words carefully here) fans have the advantage over the likes of me who’ve been coming to Lower Parliament Street since the early 80s. Obviously anything I put below is purely my personal opinion and I don’t think I speak for everyone, I know I don’t.

If I’m honest I don’t get excited about games very often anymore. I look around on Twitter and see all these “It’s Gameday!!!!” and whilst I’ve got nothing against them I don’t share their enthusiasm. Maybe it’s the generally downbeat nature of the last two seasons or the fact that I’ve been there and done that so many times before (or it’s just that I’m getting old) I don’t know but waking up and thinking “ooh, we’re playing Braehead (other ice hockey team names are available) tonight” doesn’t make me want to leap out of bed and bounce round the room like Tigger on speed.

Maybe this is part of some sort of cycle of watching sport. You start as a new fan without any idea of what is going on which makes it more exciting. (Before anyone says anything I am NOT saying Braehead fans don’t know what’s going on). Let me explain, I went to watch Nottingham Rugby Club play Worcester I think it was a couple of years ago at Meadow Lane (lured mainly by the free ticket and the chance to sit & drink a pint whilst watching the game). Now, I’ve watched a few rugby games but I don’t know the rules and as a result I really didn’t have any real idea what was going on and that’s what made it so much better. I wasn’t weighed down by knowledge of the rules and who was playing well and who wasn’t, who was following the game plan and who was trying to make it up as I went along.

Obviously over time you get to learn more about what’s going on and I think that can reduce some of the enthusiasm and excitement. You look at a penalty and you can admit that your own player did it rather than immediately leaping to your feet and their defence to blame the referee, the opposition player or even the changes to the hot dogs in the arena.

The worst part is probably being able to admit that a game is boring. Ice hockey at its best is a fast all action sport and that plays a big part in what draws new fans in, or at least what makes them stay. As an old (and again I’m being careful here) fan you know there are times when, win or lose there are games that are just dull. Anyone remember the 1-0 game against Cardiff about this time last year? Don’t worry if you can’t it was possibly one of the dullest games I’ve ever had the misfortune to see but if you’d never seen a game before you might well have thought it was exciting end to end stuff.

And that’s why I sort of envy the new fans. They don’t know any better. If they start going to games and enjoying them they’re not cluttered by the years of disappointment and unfulfilled expectations that the rest of us carry around with them. They’re the lucky ones.

Congratulations to the Cardiff Devils on the Challenge Cup win. I’m not going to go into the whole turnaround that has happened since last season (mainly because I don’t know enough about it to try and describe it) but they’re certainly doing something right and well done to them. I do have one word of warning to those fans that were laughing at Sheffield’s inability to make home advantage work in their favour – there are still two trophies up for grabs and they’re in the hunt for both. What was it the proverb says about he who laughs last?

I’ll end on a positive note for once or at least a question (mainly because I’m not that bothered about finding out the exact dates). When was the last time Panthers won a game and didn’t lose a player to injury? (This is correct at the time of writing – I hold no responsibility or liability for any announcements from the Panthers that may follow the publishing of this article).

1 Response to “They’re The Lucky Ones…”

  1. 1 Arron_S_S March 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Nice blog, Paul. I’m a relatively ‘new’ fan in that I’ve been following the Panthers for about 5-6 seasons now. It started out as a few corporate freebies (my employer had a hospitality box) but before long I was downstairs for almost every game – I got completely sucked in by all that end-to-end action!
    To an extent, I’m still as enthusiastic as ever. I DO wake up on a gameday morning and instantly look forward to it (I have even tweeted “IT’S GAMEDAY!!” at some point this season) but your point around the sparkle wearing off the more you understand is a good one. Whereas once, I’d just enjoy the thrills, spills, hits, goals and, more often than not, wins I now spend the game hunched forward, quietly cursing the player who drifted offside or the ref who missed that blatant holding call.

    I’ll check back in another 25 years and see how my enthusiasm levels are looking. One thing I know absolutely though is that I’ll still be cheering them on in 25 years. I guess if you can say the same, you’re still a young fan at heart.

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