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The Post That Cuts Our Audience in Half. Which sounds more painful than it is. | February
I have to come clean. If everyone around me is human, than I might not be. Because if they were human and I was also human I think we would behave similarly, or have relatively similar wants. We do not. For instance, the first time I saw the new Giants Stadium, which is big news up here in NYC, my honest-to-God first thought was 'Thank God I'll never have to go in there.' Millions of people probably wondered how long it would be before they could get tickets to an event in the new building. Not this guy.

Whenever the stadium comes up in discussion I find myself contributing the same information every time - 'Did you know they have a NJ Transit station in the stadium? It must be so easy to get out of there.' Maybe more veiled than I realize, but an example of where my mind is none the less.

Last week I almost went to a concert. I began wondering what I would do there. Would I stand? Were there seats? Would I be forced into jumping around? What would I do with my arms in any of those situations? What if everyone thought I wasn't concerting well enough?

I didn't go.

So going into last night's Flyers-Devils game, where tickets in the 10th row were $5, I knew I was going to have a great time. It's not the crowds, if that's what you're thinking, although I do enjoy my space. I think it's the pack mentality that put's me off. I've never liked the office comedians that emerge when we have to go to a fire drill, I despise when the electricity turns off in a public space and all of a sudden the tie that now binds us is used as conversation material between strangers. There's something about a group of people doing the same thing together…

So back to last night, I had looked at, and pointed out to various people for my own benefit, how empty all the hockey arenas on the NHL Network have been for preseason games this past week. Knowing that the Devils have a Thrasher-esque (sparse, not black) fanbase to start with, I knew that although 99% of people in the arena would be Devils fans they'd be so spread out and the atmosphere so casual that it'd be more like being at a hockey game than watching hockey with 20,000 people making their personal memories around a hockey game - the distinction is important.

As you may have noticed from the concert comments, I'm a bit awkward. I don't think I wear on my sleeve like some people, but inside I'm over-analyzing everything. Ask Fran, he'll tell you. So last night started off great (with a beer in an empty arena) but when it came time to go down to grab some pictures for the site during warm-ups, while I moved with the confident gait of the only guy in the arena who was not working there but wearing a suit anyway, in my head I might as well have been planning to break into The Tower of London. The usher looked at me like I had a dickfor when I asked permission to go down into an area of the arena I've never been to before.

So obstacle one overcome, and I'm snapping these pics that you see littered throughout this post, but I'm feeling weird about that now. I'm basically missing seeing anything by taking all these pictures. People come and stand right in front of me. Other people keep screaming 'Hey Scott!' form right behind us. Keep in mind it was not crowded. I'm talking maybe 20 people in the entire section I'm in. And I'd like to just check out warm ups, maybe explain some things to my wife about the differences in guys' routines or equipment, but I'm paparazzing and I'm not even sure why. What the hell am I doing? To make things even worse, Scott Hartnell comes over and just starts looking at us. I'm there taking pictures of him, he's there being a year younger than me and preparing to make $4M over the next 8 months, and the whole situation is making me very uncomfortable.

Finally the conundrum that is the pre-game skate ends. More beer, some chicken fingers, and a chicken sandwich later, and we're in our seats. The arena is as empty as I dreamed it would be and the puck's about to drop - this is great. Except that part about being in our seats? Yeah, that's not true. The truth is that we moved down into the 9th row because there were some serious leaners sitting right behind us. We took in the anthem from row 15 because it started as we were on the stairs, and by the time it ended and the lights came on I could see 5 people dominating all the space around them in row 11, so alarms starting going off in my head and evasive maneuvers were underway before my wife could ask we where I was going (she's become very accustomed to changing on the fly (hockey pun!)).

So now we're in the 9th row. There is literally no one around us and we're right over the tunnel, so no one even in front of us. But from the second the puck drops the party of 5, now two rows behind us, are yelling non stop. They're calling all the players by their first names, they're begging for hits and shots on net. And they're Flyers fans! Which you would think would be a good thing. But that doesn't matter to me. More than a fan of hockey, more than a Flyers fan, I'm a fan of people not yelling near me. And I'm not even going to try and go on a power trip about people knowing the game or not. If you want your defenseman to leave his position on the PK and 'HIT EM!' that's your prerogative. And as a fan who paid money to see the game I suppose you should be able to yell about it. Through the transitive property, then, I'm the problem in the situation - I shouldn't be there. I've been on the other side of it too though. I've been yelling hilarious quips in the direction of the ice but for the people around me's enjoyment. But I've also been drunk.

After a period of hockey, after the bathrooms and beers, we returned to see our seats were now inhabited by, well, a bar mitzvah might give you the best mental picture. So that jig is up. Because there are so few people at the arena, however, we now end up in the 8th row - still with not many people around us. Except that this seating change is the main reason that this post is even being written. We're now 3 rows behind faux gangsters. These kids might be 22 or so and the brims of there hats are fresh off the machine at the New Era factory - obviously sticker and all. They looks like such pussies too. Tatted up, shirts only on one arm, smooth-skin babyfaces. They weren't particularly obnoxious, but just distracting enough to make me want to calmly tell them to shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down. But where do you take it from there? End up on Deadspin? They're annoying you indirectly and you really have no means to erase them from the picture, because the second you engage them your night of hockey is over. So they're protected by the laws that govern frivolity at sporting events and you're limited by the laws of good conduct, when all you want to do earn your five minutes in the box. After two periods of lame ass jokes, watching these idiots ogle the ice crew, and, seriously, watching them dance between stoppages, time is winding down. The Flyers pull their goalie and it's announced by my new friends that 'oh shit, they're playing no goalie hockey!' The next minute or so was the most intense of the game by far, and it was all right in front of us. Well, right in front of a guy standing on his seat with Old English writing on his back, waving his shirt in the air. I guess I'm getting old.

Which brings me to my point. I loved seeing a game from closer than I've seen it in a long time. My wife could see the trailers on what looked like a 2-on-2. We could see why it made sense to zig instead of zag. We could see clappers from the tape to the glass and didn't have to take the linesman's word for it that a pass from the goal line to the red line was tipped in, because we could see the obvious deflection that's always hidden by the boards on tv. But I don't know if it was worth it. I mean, it was worth the money, for sure, this time. But for me, personally, and every time at away arenas especially, something's going to go wrong. The variability of such a usually expensive night just doesn't seem worth it. You could have be having a perfect evening at the arena and then the ref makes a bad call and your daughter is now asking you what an asshole is. I think I yearn for the days when people used to go to games, buzzed on whisky, and the ladies would keep their furs on and the men their hats. If someone cursed around your wife or kids you'd call them a wise guy and you'd knock them out with one punch. And then security would come and carry him out because hey, no room for wise guys.

I know I'm in the minority on this one. I look at the arenas and stadiums jammed with wildcards every night with awe. People love it. My sister, who is most assuredly human, went to like 30 Phillies games this year despite living in Ocean City. For me the traffic, the crowds, the prices, and the inevitable turkeys I'm going to see make it really difficult to convince myself that I wouldn't just be better off watching the game at my leisure on a giant flat screen in HD, while wearing my Buzz Lightyear pajamas and writing strongly worded letters to all those kids that were mean to me in grade school.