Florida Panthers - Weekly Beak - What Is A Fan?

Photo Credit: Lynette Diehl Scott via Facebook (still the best post ever)

Good afternoon, or evening depending on when your read this. I am a little late on the Weekly Beak and for that I apologize. There has been quite a lot of hockey to digest since my last installment. A little good. A little more bad. I have been incredibly salty about the performances on the ice of late and I admit I was employing an old adage from my parents: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your trap shut”. But you know what, this is a Weekly Beak, and it’s somewhat expected. So here goes.

Like many of you, I like to read anything and everything hockey especially related to my Panthers. We have our private chat amongst the Panther Parkway staff and I follow the FaceBook Group Florida Panthers Official Fan Group. There has been an overwhelming amount of rhetoric centering on the fact that the Florida Panther hockey team appears to be headed for another let down year. There has been a differing of opinions about what actually is wrong. The “Defense Sucks”,  I hear consistently. And “What about Bob”, with a harangue concerning the ratio of capital outlay to shots blocked. Another big area of pontification is the apparent deficit of structural stiffness or rigidity: “We’re S-O-F-T”. But there is one special category of maleficence that really catches my eye or ear. This is the fanbase turning their vitriolic hyperbole on the fanbase.

Social Media provides an efficient platform for the creation of digital coercion.  There seems to be a duality or a dichotomy here. We have the Positive Pollies and the Negative Ninny Muggins (some of you will get this one). On the positive side, “There are 24 games left, so there’s time” and “we are only four points behind Toronto, so calm down or be patient”. The negative side tends to be more vehement, “Bob sucks, the defense sucks, the team is trash” all the way up to “the organization sucks, fire Tallon, trade the core and move the team”. But all along both sides of the aisle, each side provides ample lecturing about how to be a “Real” fan.

So, it prompted me to ascertain What Is A Fan? Merriam-Webster places the origin of Fan as most likely a shortened version of Fanatic, or one who is filled with excessive and single-minded zeal especially for an extreme cause. And just like everything else in life there are always several degrees of the zeal. I think the word common to the levels of zeal is “care”. The team means something to us, we care what happens on the ice, we want to see the team prevail and win, but most of all we want to give that Islanders or Habs fan a LOT of grief after we’ve beaten them especially on their home ice. I care about the Panthers. I care, and sometimes it is to my detriment. It gets to the point that my mood is altered by what I have seen or not seen from 18 skaters and 2 goalies. I care, and I want to see the same level of care from the players. I care when other teams come to the BBT and out-skate and out-grind the Panthers. I care when Pierre McGuire does color for our one and only nationally televised game and says, “It’s just not good enough”. I care when opposing teams take runs at our goalies and cheap shots at our stars. And I REALLY care when our players just sit back and watch.

On the positive side, I care that we have great talent on the team and for the first half of the season they led the league in goal production. And I care when Jonathan Huberdeau makes the All Star Team and becomes the all time Panther points leader. I cared when Pavel Bure was scoring 50 goals a year and looked untouchable. I cared when my favorite Panther of all time, Paul Laus, used to stand up for his team and pummel fools. I cared when a rag tag bunch of castaways and newbie draft picks hustled and efforted themselves to a chance to hoist the holy grail of hockey. I cared when they finally succumbed in the third overtime period and were swept by Colorado. And just about every year after I cared right up to the point that they either didn’t care anymore or just didn’t have anything left in the tank.

I think we all care in our specific ways but we have a tendency to want to control how others care. It’s just human nature. But for me I think I said it best on a post from Matt Fagan on the Florida Panthers Official Fan Group who was speaking to fans booing the Panthers during the Flyers game:

The beauty of being a fan is that it is an individual personal choice. Therefore a fan can express his pleasure or displeasure however he wants. We should not be parenting or controlling how the other ‘good’ or ‘bad’ fans behave. There is no right or wrong when it comes to fans. I appreciate everyone’s input positive or negative. I am just happy you are all here. I say be angry, be sad, be happy, be indifferent, be pissed off, boo, clap, cheer, piss, moan, smile, but whatever, just be here.

I will try not to belabor the point. If you’ve ever met me there was a good chance I was wearing a Panther jersey type tee shirt. I have several, old and new logo, Jagr, Jagr, Jagr, Gudbranson, Huberdeau, and Barkov. I wear them everywhere except at work, where I wear a clima-cool Panther golf shirt. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Every game of beer league hockey. To the grocery store. To the hardware store. To car shows driving my old Mustang. To eat. I wear them with my Panther old logo flex fit hat to pitch batting practice to my son and his friends. I wear them to the local rec center to play pick up basketball with that same son and his friends. I wear them to coach basketball (you guessed it, same son). I wear them to mow the lawn. I even wear them to sleep. Everywhere. It’s because I care. It did not matter if they won or lost, I wear the colors. I provide advertising for a team that nobody over here in Fort Myers, Florida knows about in the hopes that maybe one or two people will ask about them or look them up on the internet or watch a game. Maybe just one of them will like what they see. But it pains me to admit that after this string of pathetic games after All-Star break I stopped wearing the t-shirts. For my Thursday night and Sunday am games I felt naked without that ever present red t-shirt. I am embarrassed. And it all boils down to care, or the lack thereof. I have said it before, I don’t care if they win or lose, but to go out on the ice with a complete lack of care and not compete is absolutely unacceptable to me. It kills me to say that if they don’t care why should I?  But I do care and I just want them to give a hoot (you know what I am thinking here, just can’t say it). So please, pretty please, with sugar on top, players, if you are out there and might stumble across this article, please increase your effort and show up ready to battle each night. It doesn’t matter if you are older or shorter or slower or not as skilled as your opponents, you can always regulate how much care and effort you put out. I can guarantee your fans care and bring their enthusiasm every where they go.

Sorry for the lack of pictures or video clips breaking down mistakes. There is no video or picture that can adequately show care. It’s internal and is up to them. That’s my beak for the weak. Chirp, Chirp peeps.

Thanks for reading.

You can follow along with Panther Parkway @pantherparkway on Twitter! You can also follow our writers: @FrankRekas, @Josh_LOPanthers, @JacobWinans8, @prudentia0, @Spencer_hoag, @Mister_Joester! Make sure to follow and listen to our [email protected]. All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of @KimSmithImages

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