Monday, May 24, 2010

Requiem for a...Requiem?

I really don’t like writing end of year columns. In fact I will go as far as to say that I dislike them, which is why the past two years, when the Sharks have been bounced from the playoffs having fallen short of expectations, I wrote columns that dealt with the rest of the playoffs rather than eulogizing the Sharks. While the temptation to do just that, if for no other reason than to title a column ‘Requiem for a Team,’ (the easiest awesome column title ever), is strong, this year, I am actually taking a step in the other direction, and breaking down why I don’t like to write end of year columns.

I’m still mad. I don’t want to talk about it.

To say that I have never written an end of the year column is actually patently false. I did. Two Years ago. It was for the 2007 Boston Red Sox. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. Then again, the 2007 Sox won the World Series. 9 times out of 10 (more specifically, 9.66 times out of 10, or 29 times out of 30), seasons end in less glorious fashion. Usually, they end in a cloud of bitterness, regret and anger. Whatever. That is the life of a sports fan. Really, I’m not complaining. It is what makes winning so great. Usually, though, it isn’t something you are eager to re-live, and by the time you are, the story is dated.

Ranting is great, but no one wants to read pure bitterness.

This might sound funny, coming in a sports column, because approximately 99.96% of sports columns are used to complain. Refs, underachievers, overachievers, favorites, other sports writers, fans, rules, commissioners, coaches, owners, you name it, sportswriters can bitch about it. A lot of the time, this can be productive. No one ever bought a paper with the headline ‘EVERYTHING FINE: PEOPLE GOING ABOUT THEIR STANDARD DAYS.’ The nature of writing is to look for something that is wrong. The kind of complaining that would come from a gut reaction to a team you had been rooting for getting bounced, especially earlier than you were expecting (and if you are a true fan, anytime will be earlier than you were expected), won’t be the productive kind. Resoned resentment can make for insightful writing, and angry rants can be made funny, but after a tough loss, neither of those things (humor or reason) are likely to be available.

Resentment can be funny. It can be insightful. But it needs to be reasoned to be those things, and when your team is eliminated, there is no room for reason.

Writing about sports should be fun. Dwelling on what went wrong isn’t fun.

The obvious counter to this is that you can, theoretically, write about the positives. You don’t necessarily have to dwell on the way that the season ended. This sounds nice and all, but really it isn’t true. The bad taste left in your mouth from the loss isn’t one you can get around, and it isn’t one you can just ignore. Funerals are sad, not because people think that their friends didn’t accomplish anything, or that their lives were disappointing, but because the last thing that you are going to remember is the death. On a much less serious basis, the end of a sports season is the same way. The death of a person or a team is the most recent and often starkest memory, and it is going to be the first thing you think of when remembering, at least for a while.

As for the fun angle, I mean it when I say that it this should be enjoyable. I don’t get paid to post columns, and I don’t even owe anyone the work that I put into them. I enjoy writing about sports, so I do it. Even if I were getting paid to do this, it is a job that should be enjoyable, and one that you will do better, the more you enjoy. During the season, dwelling on problems with a team, or even just complaining about them is enjoyable. That’s because there is a next game to look forward to, when you can see if they will be fixed. You have an idea what can change and what will change, so it can be satisfying, even cathartic, to throw out hat you think should happen. When the season is over, there is no next game. There is a next year, but the uncerainity with any team is too much to make any sort of meaningful suggestions. Complaining about a team that has hit the golf course for the spring isn’t fun. It just leads to an empty feeling.

I like the Sharks (/Red Sox/Boise State) because I like hockey (/baseball/football). I would rather talk about what is still out there, since that means I can think about more hockey (/baseball/football).

Whether I check out emotionally, like I claimed I would two years ago, or pick up another team (like I tried and failed to do last year), I will still watch and enjoy the rest of the playoffs. There is still good left in the NHL after the Sharks have been sent home. Simply put, it is more interesting to talk about what is still going on than dwelling on what could have been. Why the Sharks couldn’t get secondary scoring has no implication for the rest of the playoffs. The fallacy of the hot goaltender still does. I’d rather talk about the latter.

On top of that, if you aren’t a Sharks fan and you’re reading this, your interest in hearing about how I feel about the Sharks run is probably somewhere between 0 and well, it is 0. The point of writing a sports column is about 90% to entertain (at least), and bitching about a team that has stopped playing doesn’t do that.

Any sort of prediction for next year would be a combination of guessing and hoping, at this point.

I have no idea if Doug Wilson will shop Thornton, if he will sign Nabokov and Marleau, if he is going to try to bring in Frolov or Plecanec, or if he will even keep his job (although for the record I know he shouldn’t, shouldn’t, should, should shouldn’t and should, respectively). If I wrote about why he will, it would be disingenuous, and if I wrote about why he should, it would be colored by emotion. That isn’t to say that these columns, looking at the offseason, throwing out opinions and making predictions are worthless. In fact I think that I will probably write one, at some point. Immediately after the team is eliminated though, with the playoffs still going on is not the time.

In fact, there is a way that a eulogy could work for your own team. The problem is, that way is by waiting a couple of months before you write it. Unfortunately, by that time, things will have come out, and more importantly 500 columns will have been written, and it will be almost impossible to get an original take.

So this is my Sharks eulogy for 2010. It is just an excuse for why I’m not doing one, but it will have to do. It is probably for the best.

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