I was at the Devils/Canadians game last night for work. Afterwards, I shimmied my way to the locker room to grab some quotes when I saw Zach Parise sitting alone -- the reporters hadn't fully made their way into the locker room, so a lot of players were unoccupied. I asked him some questions on the game and the season he's having, and then I asked him this:
"Do you see any parallels with last year in your (as in, the Devil's) slow start?"
He seemed surprised by the question. It was, admittedly, an odd time to ask it, as the Devils are in the middle of a three-game winning streak. They're also 15-9-2, which, all things told, isn't a bad record. But I've been a Devils fan for over 15 years. I've seen good teams, I've seen great teams, and I've seen bad teams. I interpreted this team as "poor" because I know what the Devils standard is and I know most of these players and what they could accomplish together. Or, at least, I think I do.
I guess it's a corollary to the Culture of Losing. The Culture of Winning. The Devils have long been a successful franchise, and it has conditioned me to be disappointed with an above-.500 record and first place in the division if I feel they haven't been accomplished convincingly enough.
Is it unfair of me? Probably. Actually, yes. It definitely is unfair of me. We get so tied up in our own fervor that we forget to observe our team objectively. It's the Bad Call Syndrome. Every call against our team is a bad one, a sign that the referee is partial. Television analysts all hate our team for refusing to give credit where it may or may not be due. The entire league is against us. We can't see our teams realistically.
We have to view our teams through this season's lenses only, because each year is mutually exclusive. This year, the Devils are in first in their division and are well over .500. And that's pretty good. We also need to allow for a series of ebbs and flows throughout that season, because no team is going to go 82-0 (or 162-0, or 16-0). There's still a lot of hockey to be played, and the fact that the next nosedive or surge to the top could be right around the corner is what makes sports exciting. Fans only want the good, unaware of the fact that, like in life, you have to take the good with the bad. Even if it's not really that bad, after all.