Why can’t we talk about faceoffs without ripping each other’s faces off?

featureWhat is wrong with us? We all like Buffalo, right? We like hockey. We (theoretically) like the Sabres and want them to succeed.

When they win the Cup, we’ll all be at the parade.

WE DID IT,” we’ll say.

Then why can’t we even have a conversation about the team without things turning ugly? Why can’t we talk about faceoffs without ripping each other’s faces off?

It’s common knowledge that, when polite conversation is the goal, religion and politics should be left undiscussed. Talk about common interests. Limit the potential for vitriolic discord.

We have the Sabres in common. So what gives?

Why are we in a race to be as dismissive as possible of each other’s opinions? Why does a negative statement about the team yield questions about whether a person is a “real fan” and positive comment elicit the label of “apologist”?

If you’re wondering why you can’t stand your friends lately, the answer lies in science.


This would be fine if we were all in the same stage at the same time. But we’re not– hence, discord.

(Note: We lifted and only slightly modified most of the following text from here. They won’t mind. We’re grieving.)


The first reaction to learning that your team may be horrible is to deny the reality of the situation. It’s a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.


As the masking effects of denial begin to wear, the reality of our horrible team and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready to handle this. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger.  Our anger may be directed at the team itself, it’s management, and even fellow fans. The anger may also be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. We feel guilty and weak for being angry, and this makes us more angry.


The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. If only a few things turned around, everything could be OK. Secretly, we may make a deal with god in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weak, last line of defense to protect us from the painful reality that our team is in fact, bad at hockey.

•If only Tyler Myers could find his game
•If only Drew Stafford decided to like hockey again
•If only the fans were louder in the arena
•If only Lindy Ruff was replaced with another (but different) Lindy Ruff


At this point, we know our team is horrible and we’re forced to consider the practical implications. We’re filled with sadness and regret. Another season of opportunity lost.  We call into question our own mortality and wonder if we will be alive to see a championship in Buffalo. Will our kids ever see a championship in Buffalo? Their kids?

We’re reduced to watching the remainder of a meaningless season in jest. We commiserate over folly and laugh at the plight of our team, ourselves, and even our city.


Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm when we reach a certain level of understanding about the long-term outlook for the team.

Visions of draft picks and prospects dance in our minds on trade deadline day. The dignity and grace shown by the managment of our wayward team may well be their last and most important gift to us.

Coping with loss is a ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.



  1. I definitely know the feeling here… I had to turn the game off last night after watching Ottawa score the first goal… I wish I had more faith in the Sabres right now.  I have to turn off WGR 550 now because all there seems to be on there is ‘let’s bitch to each other’ etc.
    I’m getting out of Stage 3 and probably will jump to Stage 5 shortly.  I don’t usually get depressed over a sports franchise. 😉

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