After taking in a number of articles on the Boston Bruins v. Vancouver Canucks trial this week (no YOUR team’s not tough), I feel like there’s something I should share: you’ll be shocked to hear this, but pro sports teams don’t consider the people who cover them part of the “we” that exists in their locker room. At all.

Fans, however? You’re good.

The media gets filed under “them.” Something about the moment they enter the room after a game reminds me of the panic-tidy you used to pull off when you were a teenager and your parents came home from vacation. Shit, they’re walking in! Okay, jam these pizza boxes under the couch, try not to look too hungover, and don’t forget the “I’m a really good guy” smile.

“Great to see you. Yeah, y’know, it was gut check time, and….”

It sucks to say (and it’s one of the reasons I hate conducting interviews), but most athletes consider media more detrimental than helpful. So obviously, there’s no “we” there. It’s cool that the Bruins gave Jack Edwards a ring and all, but I’m sure when the players had their ”can you believe we did it?” talks over drinks in the summer, they weren’t mentally including their play-by-play guy. And, I’m sure Jack knows that.

As for fans that say “we?” I love it.

Shown: a “We”

The way I see it, that “we” is used in a different sense. As a fan, you’re a part of a large fanbase - a group of people all pulling in the same direction, riding the same emotional roller coaster, dedicating your time and money to the same thing. I say “we” about the New York Jets, and lord knows they don’t have a sniff about who I am, let alone that I care, but there’s also a massive number of people who are with me when I say “go Jets.” That’s my “we.”

We’re going to suck as long as we have Mark Sanchez at quarterback, eh?

Yep.

From a player’s standpoint, you do view fans as a positive, helpful thing. It feels good to have someone rooting for you, wishing you well and believing in you. So yeah, you see the fans as a part of what you’re doing. Nobody wants to lift the Stanley Cup in an empty building. There is an element of “we did it,” of shared experience.

I lived with a diehard New York Giants fan in Utah (Keith Johnson), and I don’t mean that he liked the Giants the way I like the Jets (go team!). I mean that if the Giants lost, he wouldn’t go to dinner with us that night, got surly, and generally wasn’t himself for half a day. Personally, that’s a bit too intense for my taste, but I envied the highs he experienced when his team won. Few things in life made me as happy as he was won His Team won.

That was that year I decided to quit with the “I dunno, I guess I kinda like the Raptors, Suns, Knicks, Celtics, Kings….” stuff and say “Okay, I’m all-in on the Raptors.” It’s just more fun that way, in that you suddenly have a group of fans to be apart of. That’s your team, all of you. We. So where you at, Islanders, Jets, Blue Jays, and Raptors fans? (I secretely still root for the Mets too, contrary to my theory. Shhh.)

I assure you that if the Islanders start making headway on the Rangers (haha), I’ll make as many “we’re coming for you” comments to Rangers fans as I can muster up. That’s the fan in me.

But what I won’t do, is write pro-Isles posts on theScore’s website that they don’t deserve. Proof of this is the zero I’ve written since taking over this job. They haven’t deserved it. (Okay, Matt Moulson scoring 20 goals in 40 games thus far might.)

This week has muddied the water of who “we” really is (the host of a TV show saying “We used to celebrate stuff like the President’s Cup” to a Vancouver scribe would qualify as muddying, I’d say. You’re behind a desk on television, not on the bench with Shawn Thornton or in the stands, dude).

The team and their fans are the We. Everyone else is just….them.

Comments (18)

  1. Wait a minute…

    …Jack Edwards got a Stanley Cup ring?

  2. I’m not a Felger fan in the least, but I don’t think he meant that Presidents’ Cup “we” comment in the sense you’re taking it. Felger if anything prides himself on being an outsider. I think in this particular instance he means “we” as in in “Boston fans are not impressed.”

    As for the fans referring to themselves as “we,” I’ve been a rabid Bruins fan since I was a kid, and I simply cannot use “we” when referring to the team, even though I love guys like Bergeron with the blinding heat of a thousand suns and literally wept with joy when they won the Cup. I’m not part of that tight little band of brothers, though I am very, very proud to call them my team.

    Or maybe it’s just because I’m an obsessive grammarian. ;-)

    • Char, (and Justin below), Good to know on Felger. That was actually just the shot that inspired me to write the post, I don’t know his background. But good to know it’s not always like that.

      Other writers/radio personalities have really seemed to take the media fight personally, like they’re a part of the “we.” Media covers sports, they’re not a part of them.

    • Possibly your just a prat .

      • I’m a “prat” because I don’t refer to myself as a member of the team? That’s a new one.

        • I think Bryan was trying to ruffle “you’re”[sic] feathers.

          On an entirely unrelated note, I’m sure Bourne meant “a part of” rather than “apart of.” ;)

          (Hmm… should Bourne consider the grammar corrections the equivalent of that fan in the stands yelling “shooooooooot!” ?)

        • Maybe you’re a prat because while you’re “above” including yourself as “part of the team” but you’re not shy about taking ownership of them as “my team”. Odd that a self-professed “obsessive grammarian” wouldn’t see the irony.

  3. Great article, as always nice to hear from your quasi-insider’s perspective.

    In Felger’s defense (and he often needs defending), he was one a a very few embattled hockey fans in the Boston media during the dark ages (coinciding with the rise of the Patriots), and was often holding out with a bunker mentality against the rest of the MSM in town that ignored or even ridiculed hockey in Boston. The hardcore fanbase always stuck with the team, and Felger did as well, so I’m willing to excuse his usage of ‘we’ in this situation, despite agreeing with you on your general point.

  4. This is tangential, but as part of the “we” does that allow us to use the players nicknames (as we’ve heard them used by those in the media who cover them) when referring to them or is that a foul? What’s the etiquette for that? First names ok, but not nicknames? Only last names are cool? What?

    Just always wondered and don’t want to sound like an idiot in hockey blog comment sections…

    • Regarding nicknames….To me, it’s okay to use it on the comments boards of the team blog (SBNation blogs, for example). You’re using it as a quick short hand, and for fun. Also, these nicknames are just as often devised by the fans as by the players. Ex. Jannik Hansen is often referred to as Beaker (muppet!) in some Vancouver blogs, due to his high voice and insanely narrow head.

      But if I were to talk to the player in person, it would be his first name. He doesn’t know me, and I don’t know him.

  5. And this might shock you to hear, but professional journalists don’t consider themselves part of the team. You know as well as anybody, there is a line that exists and good, smart reporters know it and, more importantly, have no desire to cross it. That’s why conflict is so common between beat guys and the teams they cover.

    Sure there are a few over-the-top homers, usually in the broadcast world. Play-by-play guys tend to come from radio backgrounds, rather than journalism backgrounds and don’t think of themselves as reporters. The standard rules of objectivity and distance don’t apply.

    The grey area of “we” is how the reporter associates with readers/fans. In some places, it’s accepted that the hometown newspaper guy is part of the collective “we” – our community is excited/interested about the local team.

    But if you’re reading (or watching) good journalists, you’ll never see/hear the “we” word in reference to a team they cover.

    • Is it just my rising intolerance, or is blatant homerism on the rise? Granted, it could be me moving to more… provincial climes, but I feel like team announcers are more blatantly homeriffic than I remember them being.

      That said, it could be increasing exposure to FoxSports-anything, or it could be that some previously great announcers (like JD on MSG) were replaced by … well, homers. Or I could just be getting curmudgeony in my old age.

  6. Radio announcers have always been homers – go back and watch Slapshot – but there’s no question that more of them are turning it into a schtick. Big personalities and colourful goal calls are replacing quality play by play.

  7. Good article Justin, and an interesting debate.

    You do straddle that line, as on your Twitter (which I see as more ‘personal’) you can be part of that ‘We’, whereas on BHS, your part of the Media and on the outside.

    I’m a diehard Coyotes fan (yes we exist) and live and die on my teams results (not quite to the level of your Giants roommate, but close). I’ve wept both of the last two years when we were eliminated from the playoffs, and I’m not ashamed to admit that at all. I think as a fan, I’m NEVER going to be a part of the ‘Inner Sanctum’ of the players, but I still think of myself as part of the greater ‘team’.

    I’d be interested to know your opinion on this side note – Fans rarely change their aligenences, but players often will – there are some exceptions – mostly those players you can never imagine in another teams sweater (For example, Shane Doan in the coyotes, Jarome Iginla in the Flames) but for the majority of players, aligence is whoever is signing their paychecks. Does this strenghen the fans right to say ‘we’?

  8. I would think that it would be an objective of any sports team’s employees at all levels to have a large number of fans use the “we”. I’m glad to hear that pro hockey players think that way.

  9. in my (correct) view, if you are employed by a team, you get to say we. otherwise…

  10. Below is an example of the kind of crap that I can’t deal with. Justin, it was posted by a fellow Alaska Aces fan, here in Anchorage… =)

    “Hoping we can get our act together and beat the Bulls tonight! We have a great and talented team with or without NHL players and we really need to start proving that more. Tonight’s game will be ours!”

    Needless to say, it was posted by a FAN, and NOT A PLAYER. The gal that posted it wasn’t a former member of the team, or even an employee, either; merely an over-zealous, self-entitled twit. She certainly wasn’t happy with this reply, of mine, either:

    “What position do you play, ? What number is on your Aces jersey? I don’t recall seeing you out there… but, I did miss the 1st Period of last night’s game, so maybe you were playing, then.”

    Ultimately, they’re “OUR TEAM,” and we love them. But, when referring to what happens on the ice, field, court, etc., “WE” isn’t the appropriate term. “WE” are fans; “THEY” are players. THEY play the game and WE cheer for them… we only virtually bleed for / with them.

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