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An Essay: Reflections On a Summer of Discontent August 27, 2009

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

As of this writing, we are little more than three weeks away from the first preseason game of the Capitals’ ’09-’10 season. And yet, for spiritual reasons, I have to wonder if the season is already over before it has even begun. It’s very difficult for me to write that, but please read me out on this. I know I won’t win any friends by writing any of this, but somebody has got to say this. And I cannot, and will not, remain silent while the spiritual foundation of our season is in danger.

Now, what does all that mean in English? To explain, I need to go over some events of the summer, as best I’ve been able to piece them together. Some of the history is admittedly sketchy, as there are parts of this which I either did not see at the time, or which I currently have no idea where to find.

The Summer of Discontent began even before the final game was over. Being on the wrong end of a 6-2 clunker, at home, in Game 7, against the Pittsburgh Penguins–they of zero PIMs fame–was too much, and a lot of fans, myself included, took that loss hard. Worse, we watched the Penguins go on to win the whole kit-caboodle. If that’s not enough to wreck a summer in Washington, nothing is. So there were a lot of raw emotions among the fans, and some of the discussions on the Caps Message Boards were getting very, very testy.

Even worse, the boards were getting trolled by Penguins fans, who were needling the regulars with seeming impunity. At the same time, some of the regular Caps fans were being disciplined–sometimes with very little explanation of why they were in trouble. The perception, real or imagined, took hold that Penguins trolls were being given the run of the place while regular Caps fans were getting in trouble. Chaos ensued, and it got so out of hand that the off-topic side of the forums was shut down. That set off a near revolt, with several off-topic threads being posted on the main forum. Threads were being deleted, users were being banned, and the entire system was shut down over the 4th of July weekend. The public message may very well have been, Enjoy the holiday weekend, but the subtext seemed plain enough: the entire forum was, essentially, being placed in time-out. Around this time, an unofficial board was created, and members began migrating.

Now, here’s where it admittedly gets a little sketchy, because the only information I have on the unofficial boards right now is secondhand via a source I trust. I don’t know where the unofficial boards are right now, and frankly, I’ve no interest in going there at this time. But my source has offered to give me the URL if I so request. And I may yet take them up on that.

Now, from what I understand, relations between Caps management and a couple of long-time fans got a bit strained. Apparently, one person was told by team management that their employer would be alerted about their abuse of the Caps Message Boards on company time, while another was contacted on their cell phone after posting something that evidently didn’t sit well with team management. That apparently has gotten a lot of keys clacking on the unofficial boards–deservedly so, if that’s true, but more on that further down.

As for the members there, one of the rites of passage on those boards, evidently, is to get yourself banned from the official message boards, although some have not burned that particular bridge just yet. Apparently, those of us who aren’t in the club seem to be viewed with extreme contempt. I’m also told by my source that there’s even some gossip and backbiting going on, although I admittedly have no names on either side at this time: that information has not yet been given to me.

On the ice, everything seems fine: Knuble and B-Mo have been brought in to take the places of Feds and Kozlov; Milan Jurcina’s arbitration was evidently cordial all around, and his new contract isn’t a cap-buster; and most of the returning players from last year’s squad are itching to prove something to the hockey world.

But will any of it matter if the spiritual dimensions of the team are being ignored? I have said before that thoughts, words, and actions affect the greater reality. If that is indeed true, then a discordant fan base can be part of the reason a team does not succeed.

Now, if what I’ve heard of management’s actions are indeed true, that cannot help the team, spiritually, in the long run. Given the raging emotions of a summer of discontent, it would have been ill-advised to alienate long-time fans. Even the appearance of heavy-handedness should have been avoided, if only to avoid staving off a potential fan revolt. If what I’ve been told is true, I must respectfully submit that management has, at best, misread the mood of the fans, and at worst, has overplayed its hand.

This is arguably not the right way to build a united fan base to provide the team with moral and spiritual support. Factionalizing the fan base, I must respectfully submit, is spiritually self-defeating. Last summer, my reading on the fan base spoke of fans who are ready to believe the worst. Given that the Caps’ season ended in the most nightmarish way possible, those fears may have been well-founded. And now, with the season nigh upon us, some fans are in open revolt. That may very well add spiritual obstacles to the Caps’ Stanley Cup dreams. Now, while I don’t think it entirely impossible for the Caps to win the Stanley Cup with a fractured fan base, I must wonder in print if that’s true, or merely wishful thinking on my part. I shudder to consider the latter.

But less than optimal fan management by the team does not, in any way, excuse the behavior of some fans. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice, and I’m going to say it a third time: Caps fans, we will not be much help for our team if we’re too busy tearing each other apart. It’s just not possible. We cannot unite for our team’s common good if all we’re in it for is a personal high score on internet debating points. And if we allow ourselves to be rent asunder by our egos and individual pride, then we will have nothing of worth to contribute to our team.

Again, I do not believe it impossible for the Caps to win the Stanley Cup if we fans keep on expecting the worst; doubting management’s intentions; denigrating our players beyond reason; and being so uncivilized amongst ourselves. But it cannot make the going any easier. When an entire forum is scrapped on the official boards, that does not speak at all well of our interpersonal interactions.

I’m no saint in this regard. Fine. You all have me dead to rights on that one. But I’d sooner aim for the stars, and miss, than aim for the gutter, and hit.

We all–me included–must do a better job loving our team, loving our players, and loving our fellow Caps fans. We have to get behind our team as one.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other, but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”–Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NRSV

We can’t keep doing this, Caps fans. We cannot keep complaining, second-guessing, and infighting. That’s not how fans of a championship team act. Yes, it is proper to point out mistakes, but we all–me included–do it too much, too often. We have to be able to look past our own interests, and to the greater good of our team, and our community.

We have to be the threefold cord that helps pull our team to victory. We can’t continue to be just a bunch of loose strings tied all over the place, pulling in all different directions. As a threefold cord, I believe we could, spiritually, help our team win it all. But if we continue to be just a bunch of loose strings…frayed knot.

The train is about to leave the station for the ’09-’10 season. I hope we all can get on board, as one, and enjoy the ride. And yet, I doubt it will happen. I’m sure some will choose to stand on the platform and get left behind, and there may be others who try to jump in front and get themselves run over.

But let me put it this way. What, exactly, would it cost us to be full-throated supporters, win or lose, of our team? What, exactly, would we have to sacrifice to get on board this train? Would it be anything other than pride and ego? And, really…how’s that whole incessant negativity thing working out for us so far, anyway?

We can do better, we must do better, and this is the third time I’m having to say it with a four-figure word count. Frankly, I expect this to be about as effective as the other two times. But I cannot, in good conscience, see our fan base breaking apart, and say nothing.




1. Mike - August 27, 2009

Hey Spirit,

I NEVER go to the fan message boards for the Caps or any other team, and I rarely even read the comments people leave on blogs I read. All too often I read comments by “fans” that scream at me from a computer screen. We all have our opinions, and far too often our fan bases feel the need to express them way to vocally, feeling that they are immune from any repercussions. Honestly, if their opinions are so dead on accurate all of the time, why aren’t they in the business?

As for myself, I am smart enough (I hope) that I know I don’t know all the things I need to know about hockey and the business of it, even though I’ve been following the Caps since 1974.

However, as for your post, you are right in that we have to support the team. As for the message boards debacle, I think the brouhaha was probably the work of the bad apples, not the loyal fans.

As for the evidence you mentioned, I haven’t a clue. My personal opinion, though, is that the management wouldn’t rat out a forum member to their boss — too much like Big Brother. They might monitor their own employees web usage, but not other companies.

Take care, and I look forward to the season!

2. jcb - September 2, 2009

To put it simply, the message board fiasco is nothing but immaturity on the part of a few fans who feel the need to spoil it for everyone else. Most of the folks that moved over are disgruntled and expect you to hate the team (management) as much as you do.

It’s not really a fun place to be.

jcb - September 2, 2009

Err, hate as much as *they* do.. typo. πŸ™‚

3. CapitalSpirit - September 2, 2009

Thanks for the input, you two, and Mike, my apologies for saying nothing for so long.

I have to admit that I wrote that post in no small amount of despair. If my premise is true–that is, that fan involvement influences the team on a spiritual level–then the conclusion that the fans may be a net spiritual minus is hard to avoid. And if that does indeed follow, what then are our prospects for the season ahead? Could our entire season be DOA before rookie camp even starts?

It’s a very uncomfortable question, and I wish I could offer a definitive, resounding No. But as of now, I can’t.

I will, nonetheless, continue to prepare for the coming season. I just pray it’s not in vain.–CS

4. Bill - September 16, 2009

It wasn’t company time and threats weren’t limited to the employer. Threats were made to essentially attempt to ruin every aspect of the individuals personal life to include: place of employment, place of education, participation in rec league hockey at Kettler, and revocation of Capitals season tickets ( with a snide remark about only having one lower bowl ticket). Management is not the problem, ownership is

CapitalSpirit - September 16, 2009

Okay…but what, exactly, was said or done that raised that much ill will? That’s not a course of action one takes for a minor slight, and it takes two to tango. I missed this whole thing–what, exactly, are the facts here?

JWJr - September 16, 2009

Truly, do the specifics matter? Is there anything short of a _death threat_ that would justify that level of intrusiveness by an owner? And can’t we all assume that, absent police (and press) activity, that such threats were _not_ made?

Someone uppage said this was all just a matter of immaturity. I’d agree, as long as both the fan base and the owner share the blame. So far, the owner can’t handle that. -JW

5. Bill - September 17, 2009

And what exactly would excuse such behavior? Obviously that’s what you’re looking for…

6. CapitalSpirit - September 17, 2009

I can think of several things which, if threatened, I myself would defend in strongest terms, to wit: my person; my family; my friends; my home; my property; my livelihood; my liberty; and my country. I’d add my honor to that list, too, except it’s not like I really have any. Specifics DO matter. And before I–of all people!!–accuse anyone of overreacting, I have to know what they were reacting to. I’ve got absolutely no room to talk when it comes to overreactions. None.

As an aside: Remind me, again, what album Billy Joel released back in 1980?

Bill, I’m not looking to excuse anything. Absent a dispassionate accounting of the facts, I have nothing to base an informed opinion on.

Neither of you answered the question. Certainly a reaction of that magnitude appears extreme in isolation. But without knowing the action which brought it about, it’s difficult to assess the reaction. After all, for every action, there is an equal and opposite…criticism. πŸ˜‰

Absent specifics, my opinion remains uninformed.

7. M T - September 18, 2009

I think people are sick of talking about it and that is why no one wants to provide any details. Suffice it to say that most of what you’ve heard about the “new” boards has been greatly exaggerated. For example, there is NO rite of passage to join. There is plenty of information on the new boards about what happened (since any attempt at an explanation of what happened- even rational – got deleted immediately from the Official Boards with the offending poster usually getting suspended or banned).

Maybe you should take your friend up on the offer of the url and see for yourself- you don’t have to join to look. You’ll probably be surprised to see just WHO is actually there. … And so long as you’re not easily offended by boobies and cursing, It might even enlighten you.

CapitalSpirit - September 19, 2009

Well, yeah, it might…if by “enlightening” you mean finding out what people have been saying about me behind my back when they think I won’t see it.

Which kind of brings this whole discussion full circle, doesn’t it?

8. M T - September 19, 2009

What I meant by “enlightened” was more that you would be able to see the quality of the posters who got banned or just left the official boards (all of the “Official game-day thread” starters for example) in favor of a new community where they could continue to socialize in addition to talking hockey, without the EXTREMES of censorship that were seen over the whole debacle. Some acted immaturely and were banned for legit reasons, but many bannings were really puzzlers: A lot of long-time board members and very hockey-savvy people were just axed while Pens trolls and name-calling newbies were left to run amok.

You’ll find that the quality of the hockey talk there currently exceeds that on the official boards and that the new boards are more active. You’ll also find that posters are more accepting of everyone else’s opinions and policing themselves seems to keep threads civil and discussions more interesting. If you’re nice and respectful, so are they. If you own up to it when you’re an arse, they’ll forgive you.

A lot of those posters do know each other IRL (and the majority originally met through the Caps boards) so there ARE some in-jokes and name-calling that some might not realize are in jest, and sarcasm still exists so you’ll need a sense of humor and a working sarcasm detector, but ALL of them do LOVE the Caps: Nobody wants them to fail, even if they’re critical of players or management when they’re disappointed by team results. What’s the point of having a “discussion” board if the only point of view is that everything is great, there couldn’t possibly be corruption anywhere in the league, and obviously Ted can do no wrong? Personal attacks are unnecessary and immature, but there’s nothing wrong with criticizing certain actions or events without name-calling.

Everyone makes mistakes, but what sets apart the good peeps from the bad is when you own up to it, do what you can to fix it, and move on. Many of the members on the new boards have simply done just that.

9. M T - September 19, 2009

Hmmmm, I’d hoped to email you this next part of what I had to say so that you could read it privately because it’s more personal, but I don’t see an email link on your blog. I guess you can just delete it after you read it here, if you wish. It’s not meant to be an attack or anything- actually I hope it will help- so please don’t take this personally. Here is the rest:

Did you also see the post that mentioned that you should get an invite to join, before someone found and linked this blog-post? Yeah, they’re talking about you behind your back on the new boards, but honestly, people say things like that on the official boards too …and at games. People think you are weird. Most people don’t understand your spirituality. Heck, I had a legit Wiccan handfasting (that would have been my legal ceremony if we’d gotten our marriage license in time) a year and a day before my Renaissance-themed wedding, and even I find you a little weird because you take it to such extremes.

(Are you Wiccan? I’m not actually Wiccan but I understand a little bit more of it than most. Plus, I am superstitious, have had “interesting” spiritual experiences, own and use Tarot cards and a book on “Spells for Your Home”, and believe in karma.)

My biggest problem with you is that you are awkward socially, probably, in most part, because you’re shy like me, and you always take things personally. You talk about spiritual vibes of love and positivity, yet your own self seems out of balance. You’ve just got to learn that most people in this entire country of Christian idealism vs modern sciences just won’t “get” you, about half will refuse to accept you (believing you need to be “saved”), and a few will just not like you, and refuse to make the effort.

The internet will make this even more extreme because people can sit there anonymously and hide behind their keyboards. You’ve got to look deep within yourself, shake it off, be proud of your “weirdness” and say, “This is me and I love myself just the way I am,” and if you can’t say that then you still need to figure out who you really are and come to terms with it.

CapitalSpirit - September 20, 2009

Delete, nothing–that might be the most constructive criticism I’ve gotten in the entire history of this blog. (All, what, two years of it.) THANK YOU.

This deserves more of a reply than I have time to type right this second–I’m running out the door to meet someone–but if I remember this when I get home, I might have a lot more to say.

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