[This article appeared in the Oct. 23 version of Game Time.]
During the non-home game weekend recently I spent my Saturday accomplishing the equivalent of trimming back my pubic hair with a can of hairspray and a lighter by going to Driver's Improvement Training at the behest of the state of Missouri. I was subjected to eight hours (minus an hour for lunch and an hour for our facilitator to make us all watch Dracula (on VHS no less) on the class TV) of straight torture cloaked as education. The only good part of the nightmare was when the guy in charge, who was adamant that no one use their cell, text or fall asleep, decided to make us go around the room and tell everyone what our infractions were.
The best story in the group was the younger girl who was late for a party at The Lake and was caught going 97 in 70 mph zone. When it was my turn and I explained that I was caught going 15 over, the administrator balked and asked, "You were 50 over?"
"No, no," I explained, "One-five. I wasn't going 97 or whatever."
And then something awesome happened. The 97-mph girl looked at me, threw up her hands and said, "Aw, why's everyone gotta be a Hater?"
I was so excited that I immediately broke one of the three rules of the class and texted the Answer Man, Brad Lee and my wife to let them know that I was, apparently, a Hater.
In the context of the worst Driver's Improvement Training I've ever been a part of (and, unfortunately, I've been involved in a few), being called a Hater for the first time in my life was... Totally, Fucking, Awesome.
I was reminded of all this again just last night as I sat in my usual seat up in the cheap seats of Sec. 307. Unfortunately for me, I was reminded for all the wrong reasons. It's weird, too, because I've been up in those cheap seats for as long as we've been putting out this rag of a hockey paper. In that time, we've all sat in cheap seats and watched some incredibly shitacular teams. There have been plenty of players to not be fans of and plenty of unfortunate play to hate on.
But now? I might argue that we're looking at the best collection of kinetic talent in the league every night we sit down in our cheap seats and watch the Blues. There are 10 Blues on the ice every night who were drafted in the first round of their class (Berglund, Oshie, Steen, Perron, Boyes, Brewer, Colaiacovo, Jackman, Johnson and Pietrangelo) and another four taken in the second round (McClement, Winchester, Crombeen and Backes). The team is way more talented and active and creative than any we've seen in a while, so I really don't understand why, to quote my classmate, "everyone gotta be a Hater."
I had to listen to some woman behind me diatribe about Eric Brewer all game, during a game that I thought Brewer played pretty well in. I understand frustrations with certain players, but with our robot captain it has gotten to the point that I think people complain about him because it's just the conventional wisdom that he sucks. So, of course, no matter what's happening on the ice, you just always say, "Oh, great, Brewer! You suck!" even when he's not doing anything sucky. No thought required, just be a Brewer Hater.
Even worse was the guy with his young kid who sat next to me. His son, who looked to be about five, was cheering for Barret Jackman, loudly and repeatedly. I thought it was cute. His dad, however, didn't agree with me. "Stop that," said Hater Dad, "We don't like Jackman. We hate him."
Jackman, too, I thought was playing well. The kid obviously had no idea if he was playing well, all he knew was that he liked him. I can't imagine being such a Hater that I'd tell my kid that he has to hate a hockey player that he thought he liked.
And while those are two specific examples, I heard plenty of other general complaining in the crowd even while the Blues were winning. There are some people who are going to these games who don't seem to even like this team. They aren't scoring enough or playing hard enough or shooting enough or just not being good enough. Again, this is happening while they're winning. I know this is happening in Chicago too, but the difference is those fans are looking at a team that they know is in decline compared to last season. Our team is better and hungrier and playing a more finesse game than in any of the previous five years.
I've seen this before, but I'll never understand it. This is my team, for better or worse. These days it's for the better. And yes there are times when I think there are problems or things could be better. There are times when certain players aren't playing to potential or the coaching staff isn't addressing some issue that seems glaring from up in Sec. 307. Sometimes I wish the management team would do something different to help the team on the ice. Complaining about those things and those times is my right as a fan, for sure, and it's a right that I love to exercise. But I never want to put myself in a position where I'm rooting against my team. I feel like that is the difference between being a fan and being one of these Haters. Which one are you? A fan or a Hater?
-Sean "not even Sammy Hagar was going 97" Gallagher