...smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection."
Thomas Paine 1737-1809
Being a fan of a sports team is a funny thing. When it comes to the team's performance, a fan is very limited as to what he/she can contribute directly. Sure, a fan can show up at the stadium and make noise, which is a huge part of the game; however, when it comes to actually making something happen on the field, there is nothing a fan can do but watch and react. This fact is both a beauty of fandom and a bitter bite of fan reality.
What makes a fan? Is it about community and being a part of something? Is it a simple distraction from the riggors of daily life? It just depends, doesn't it? There are spectators and then there are fans.
For fans it is very hard when you confuse fandom and spectatorship. For fans, feelings run deep and you become emotionally vested in everything that happens with the team. You develop expecations based on what is percieved by yourself and the community of fans. When those expectations are not met, it becomes a very disappointing thing.
Spectators crawl out of the woodwork when adversity strikes, and as fans we have to remember that spectators have their place in the whole picture too. Spectators often say things that sound utterly retarded to fans. Because fans invest much of their free-time in discussing the team with other members of the fan community, the comments of a spectator often sound foreign and overly critical.
If you spend any time on MHR you begin to recognize the same names who have been here through thick and thin. Obviously the MHR staff is always around, but there are many others who are here daily through the best and worst of times. Every one of them is entitled to their view through whatever color glasses they choose to wear.
As a fan, I'm interested in constructive criticism and praise of the team. Obviously the team is not perfect, and there are some growing pains they are going through now, but that doesn't change a fan's love of the team. Recognize that adversity is part of the team getting to where they are wanting to go, so for that reason we must smile in trouble.
As fans, we need to gather our strength from distress, and realize that we can't get where we want to go without experiencing it first. A champion is not built without experiencing setbacks, they are a requirement and necessary aspect of the learning curve. Our distress may not be over, but recognize it for what it is.
We must grow brave by reflection. The team can come out of this stronger than ever, but it will take incredible leadership. Can the fans stomach the time it will take? We are going to have to be brave in the face of stuggle as fans. Hopefully the leadership of the team will never again leave us embarrassed as spectators as they did on Sunday.