Mr. Smith's Neighborhood

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The Rangers, Fantasy Hockey and Loving Hockey Again December 4, 2007

Rangers’ Discussion Board is for the Birds

Before we begin, my thanks go to my sister-in-law Patricia for pointing me to The Enneagram Institute, a web site that offers both free and fully validated personality assessments. Under the guise of classifying me as a Reformer (well, it could happen), it proved what people have been telling me for years: I am a pain-in-the-butt, anal-retentive type-1 personality.

For now, my destiny as an idealistic reformer steps forward.

The last 10 weeks haven’t been especially pleasant ones for me, an endless monotony between doctors, hospitals and my little cavern in the basement of my home. I won’t bore you with the details but my functionality has been severely limited. As of yet, I haven’t found a plausible explanation as to why I could work on a computer in limited stretches but, when watching TV, I fell asleep in a heartbeat.

During my recovery, I listened to the Rangers’ games on television despite the brutally painful results of the first ten games. You have to understand that the worst part was reading the pathetic discussion board on the New York Rangers web site. You’d think that the world was coming to an end and people were jumping off every bridge in NYC.

To break up my daily monotony, I joined a fantasy hockey league. I never played fantasy sports before this because I just didn’t have the time. At a previous job, I watched employees spend three hours a day on an in-house league … and the department’s productivity was an illusion because the manager and two supervisors spent more time than anyone else chatting and trading players.

The best part was that the Director of MIS and his staff actually helped to set up the league and conceal it from management. As you might imagine, it left a bad taste in my mouth for fantasy sports.

Being a devout Ranger fan, I have tried to be a good hockey fan and not a typical Ranger butthead fan. I realized earlier this year that my perspective, sanity and logic were between twisted by visiting the official New York Rangers discussion forum. I now understand why the Rangers and Ranger fans are so hated throughout the NHL.

First of all, the discussion forum is unsupervised and there are no moderators … two major sins for any public discussion forum. Secondly, the average age of the users is about 13 years … and you have a bunch of cranky, old adults (probably shut-ins) who are trying to correspond with teenagers. Everybody is a friggin’ expert … especially the guys who play roller hockey, high school hockey, recreation league hockey and broom hockey. They all know more about the NHL than professional coaches and general managers who have spent a lifetime in professional hockey.

I’ve also come to realize that Ranger fans are the biggest whiners and crybabies in any sport. I realized it after I wrote my article about Chris Neil’s hit on Sean Avery. I spent too much time reading the trash on the Ranger discussion board, and I let it influence me. I’m still not happy with Neil’s hit or any other hit that leads to a severe injury; however, a dismal fact of the NHL is that players get injuries that sometimes end or ruin careers.

Another funny thing about the Ranger discussion board is the webmaster, affectionately called “Webby” by users, an enigma who apparently isn’t tuned into popular culture. Webby shows his dominance from time to time by booting users for using terminology that he doesn’t understand. Booting new users is a way of honoring long time users who have achieved 10,000, 20,000 and even over 50,000 postings. The “in-crowd” can basically say whatever they want, but newer users get booted on the whim these hallowed hockey pundits (or Webby when he is having a bad day … you’d think he has PMS every single day).

One has to wonder … what kind of person averages 12,000 to 15,000 discussion board postings a year. For hockey?

In any event, many of the more mature and intelligent users have abandoned the Rangers’ discussion forum. I am proud to say I am one of them (maturity and intelligence questions aside). And I won’t go back.

My disillusionment with hockey and the NHL had been growing since 2006. One reason was the constant negativity of the Ranger discussion board. My opinion of the game that I loved so much had become myopic and my depth of knowledge was growing shallow. How intelligent are fans who still chant “Potvin Sucks” almost 20 years after the guy played his last game in the NHL? But, fortunately, fantasy hockey came along to save the day.

My first reality check (imagine that … from fantasy hockey) came when I had to draft a team from players all over the NHL. It was then I realized that I was dealing with lots of unfamiliar names. However, using a broad variety of player ranking tools and information sites, I was able to select the best available players.

Then came a conundrum that is common among fantasy sports players. What happens when you pick players from a rival team? I had drafted a New Jersey Devil … Zach Parise (whose father played for the Islanders). My goalie? OMG! Rick DiPietro of the NY Islanders? Holy Moses! Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Cryers? Is there no hope for me?

I also drafted some other great players like Jarome Iginla, Sergei Gonchar, Brian Campbell and Cory Stillman. As the season started, I found myself wanting to see these players against teams other than my beloved Rangers. That was when I made my next great decision … getting NHL Center Ice.

It was amazing to see teams from other cities where the fans were positive and supportive, regardless of the team’s record. This was a revelation after listening to the idiots in the hallowed blue seats of Madison Square Garden boo everybody from Jaromir Jagr to the hot dog vendors. I have always been disgusted by the booing in MSG. Booing the entire team after a bad period may be somewhat understandable (God forbid that the Rangers get outplayed once in a while), but I reached my limit when fans booed a player during the introductions at the beginning of the season. Many “fans” also cheered when this same player was hit and injured during another game.

Some Ranger fans explain their logic for booing the team with the supposition that it will insult the players’ pride and make them play harder. I have two disagreements with this irrational, infantile logic. First, the booing is much more of a motivation for the visiting team (“Hey, their fans are booing them!”). Secondly, if that logic were true, every teacher should be booing and insulting their students who don’t do well. Every employer should be humiliating poor performers often and loudly. I wonder how these chumps would survive if somebody stood over them all day long, booing them every time they make a mistake?

Another brainstorm from the Ranger discussion board was that the purchase of a ticket gives a fan the right to yell and say whatever he wants. {insert HUGE SIGH here} Alright, this kind of logic usually comes from somebody whose brain is swimming in a vat of cheap beer. Such self-indulgent fans were obviously raised without class, respect and ethics. They can’t be bothered to consider the other fans sitting around them who may not be impressed with their bold display of stupidity. All that matters is that they can belch, fart and speak whatever passes through the vacancy in their minds.

My favorite moment this year was in-between periods when two teams of kids (age 6) played a short game. One of the kids may a great move, the goalie fell down (leaving an open net) but the shot rang off the post. Some drunken slob in a suit sitting in the row behind me yelled out, “You suck!” and started to boo. Classy, huh?

Having risen above the mediocrity of Rangerland (I hope), I’ve really started to love hockey again. I enjoy watching Zach Parise play (I just can’t bring myself to watch DiPietro), I am amazed by Jarome Iginla. I love watching the Red Wings … Zetterberg and Datsyuk are pretty awesome. I’ve learned about many of the players in the league and I am holding my own in fantasy hockey.

Yes, believe it or not, there is hockey beyond the confines of Madison Square Garden. I love the Rangers … but I can’t handle some of the fans. I also avoid anything written in the New York press about hockey (especially the tripe served up by John DellaPina) and that stupid Ranger discussion forum.

Thank God for Center Ice and fantasy hockey! I’ve started a second team in a simulation league. A typical fantasy league uses the actual results of the performances by real players pitted against the actual performances of real players on the other team. Scores are compiled in categories like goals, assists points, shots on goal, goalie stats and more. In a simulation league, a computer program uses the ratings of individual aspects of every player’s performance for your team against the ratings of the other team’s players to determine the outcome of a game.

Here’s to hockey! It’s still alive and well in my house!


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