God knows I don't feel like talking about my Devils right now, so figured I'd go off on a slight tangent. All season long I've had to read Devil fans bashing each other over the internet, for any number of things from booing to leaving early, chanting 'you suck' after goals and various other things too. Some fans fall on the side of arguing that ticket prices are high, expectations were high so we have a right to be annoyed, others argue you should support the team no matter what. As usual I probably come in the middle of both extremes, depending on the situation.
-Booing the team: Nobody wants to boo their own team, you've got to have mental issues to come to a game wanting to boo the home skaters. That said, fans really have only two ways to show their displeasure - booing and not showing up at all. Obviously if you're at the arena, you only have one way to send a message. Fans can't bench players or fire the coach, as much as some might wish they could. That said, booing should only be heard when the team isn't trying...and Thursday night was a prime example of that. When you give up two goals in less than a hundred seconds (with the first coming from ex-Devil Brian Gionta a mere eleven seconds in), that tells me you're not trying. In basically a must-win game there's no excuse for that.
Now, losing doesn't automatically equal lack of effort...I do think some spoiled fans can't or won't distinguish between the two. I'm not here to make the case I'm the smartest fan in the world but I like to think I can tell the difference between watching a team giving effort but having a bad night (or just facing a better team) and not giving effort at all. God knows I've seen plenty of games where the latter's been the case over these last twelve months.
-Leaving early: Maybe in my younger days (and when I wasn't going to games on a constant basis) I was more hard-line about this, but honestly there's leaving early and then there's leaving early. What still annoys me are the dopes who leave a 2-1 game with five minutes to go to beat the traffic or catch the early train. What's the point of going to a game if you're not going to see how it turns out? Hockey games do not end that late where you should be worried about work or school the next day even during the week. Normally I leave a game at around 9:30, when it's actually over...and I get home around 10:45, which isn't bad considering I have to go to Broad Street and then wait for the train at around 10. Even if you're living farther away than that you're generally not getting home later than 11:30. If you're gonna be that worried about getting home before then, then really there's no point for you of going to a game to begin with.
That said, there actually are times where it can get pointless to stay from puck drop to final horn, I mean when you're down 5-0 after two periods...no team's coming back from that, especially when you can see the team's already mailed this one in. As far as I know, a 5-0 comeback after two periods has happened once in ninety years of hockey, when the Kings stunned the Oilers in the playoffs during the early '80's. That's pretty much become my cutoff point. Before this year I never really left a game early period, but then again I didn't normally have to worry about 5-0 games after two, and when I had to drive to games at the CAA it was generally just as advantageous to leave after half the crowd's cleared out anyway.
Now, this 5-0 rule doesn't apply to the playoffs - I think at that point you should stay barring something utterly ridiculous like 8-0 or higher (which doesn't tend to happen in the playoffs anyway), but in an early regular season game, when the team's already mailed it in? Why shouldn't I do so as well - and save an hour in the process too by catching the earlier train home? If you want to stay for the whole game to talk to fellow fans, your friends...well buona fortuna, when you come to the games by yourself most of the time and the sth who sits next to you has already cleared out to sit downstairs, well, if you're not going to enjoy yourself then it really isn't going to do anyone any good to sit around for an extra hour unhappily.
-Trying to pump the team up with chants: Someone might ask how can you not be all for cheering and supporting the team? 98% of the time I want the crowd to support the team more, and honestly at Devils games it can be an issue at times getting fans to have pro-Devils chants as opposed to 'Rangers suck' or 'you suck' after goals. However, this ties into point one...if you think it's okay to boo the team for not showing effort then why should it be up to the fans to blindly chant 'Let's Go Devils!?' When the team's not giving effort then you're almost enabling them if you continue to cheer and act like everything's okay when it's not. Of course when they are giving effort and just happen to be behind on the scoreboard you absolutely should cheer and show support. I admit sometimes it's a fine line, and if you have any doubt err on the side of support.
On some level you do have to admire fans like the Chicago Cubs in baseball, those who continue to come out year after year to support a perennial loser, but on the other hand you kind of understand why they stink when you see fans don't hold management accountable. When fans are going to pay money and cheer no matter what you do, what's the incentive for owners to spend that little extra to help the team win as opposed to just making as much profit as humanly possible? Ultimately, the goal of every fan should be to see a winning product.
-Treatment of the opposition: If one thing drives me nuts about Devils fans on the internet, it's the constant complaining about how 'juvenille' we look with our Rangers suck and you suck chants. Granted, there are points where it gets utterly stupid, like chanting 'Rangers suck' when they're ahead of us in the standings (and some might say any game we're not playing them) and it's not my thing usually but hey, if it gets the fans fired up then why should I be discouraging it?
Sure it's juvenille...and? Fans are supposed to act like they're in a library or drinking high tea? God knows you get a lot worse treatment if you attempt to go to Philly for a game than we give other teams' fans - and I'm not condoning their ruffianism for a second. So long as Devil fans don't get physically violent towards other teams' fans, why should I care what they think of us? Do what you want to do, so long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else's enjoyment of the game. If worrying about what we're chanting is going to interfere with anyone's enjoyment then they're way too concerned over appearances.
As far as the 'you suck' thing after our goals, that ties in to our goal song - Rock and Roll Part II - which by the way the fans were up in arms to get back after the Devils took it away for a few years due to a contreversy over the royalties received by the songwriter, who was in jail at that point. If you're going to complain to no end about wanting the song (which I couldn't give two figs about, except that it's at least a lot better than a couple of the ones they tried to replace it with) then don't complain when people use it the same way they've been using it for years. Of course people get stupid with that too, chanting you suck when we're way behind but hey you get stupidity anywhere, big whoop.
-Complaining about ticket prices: This is almost universal for fans everywhere. I do think some fans use it as an out to justify boorish or unreasonable behavior. I've never booed the team because of what I pay for tickets or when I get home from a game, that's my own choice and I know going in there's a chance we can win and a chance we can lose, that's fine with me. Granted I generally have only paid $10-20 per game every year I've had season tickets (2005-06 and the four years at the Rock), but even if your own prices are relatively cheap compared to the masses, it's a time investment if nothing else. After work, I generally have about an hour to eat dinner and wind down before going to a game, so when I go to games during the week my entire day is basically work then the Devils.
And yes, in general ticket prices are too high, especially for the Devils considering the cheapest season ticket seat - other than the special $15 seats only a couple hundred sth's have grandfathered in - is currently $31 for the upper corners. Maybe it doesn't sound bad to a fan who has to deal with the MSG gouging or ticket prices for Canadien markets, but guess what...those games still sell out (or close enough), so as much as they're pricing the average fan out, it's still not unreasonable for the market they're in. Considering we struggle to even get 15,500 per game, the fact that our ticket prices are what they are is insane, especially when you see the amount of tickets that get discounted every year. Not to mention there've already been several games where the team's just flat given away tickets.
Unfortunately the only thing fans can do to lower ticket prices is to not show up. Eventually it is going to reach a point of saturation, to a degree you're already seeing that with the Jets and Giants in football. Both those teams burned through season ticket waiting lists that were 20 and 30 years long once they moved into the new stadium and started charging for PSL's. Not to mention the problems the Mets and even the Yankees to a degree have had drawing in their new baseball stadiums with the expensive ticket prices there. If prices are too expensive or you're not going out of protest that's fine with me. If you are gonna show up though, I don't wanna hear you using the price as an excuse to act like a spoiled brat.
-Being at or watching every single game, even when the team's fifty games out: Okay I admit it, I don't pass the grade on this one. God knows I couldn't tune out the Mets fast enough this year, and I'm sure if this kind of season the Devils are having keeps up I'm probably gonna cut back and wind up going to around 20-21 games instead of my usual 27-28.
On the other hand, I don't think I should be judged too harshly, it's not like the Devils are my only sports team after all. They'll always be the team I root for above all else in hockey (and that should be the primary thing one looks at if someone were to grade my fandom) but when the Jets are in the midst of a playoff run in the NFL or spring training's coming up in baseball, does it make me a bad Devils fan to want to shift my focus elsewhere when the team gets thirty games out? Or maybe just save a few hours of your own day not watching a game when your team's way out of it anyway? Shoot, as much as I like MLB, the NFL or the NHL I don't usually spend a lot of time watching other teams in the playoffs after mine's out of the mix.
So to sum up my novel, what makes a good fan? Supporting the team through thick and thin (though not entirely blindly), staying until a game's decided, having some knowledge of the game you're watching and giving the opposition a nice razzing - without truly being disrepectful to other team's fans or exceedingly vulgar. And not judging other fans by how they support the team, whether you go to more games or watch more games...but by the same token a fan should only support your team. You don't switch allegeiances to say, the Wild in March and then root for them to beat the Devils cause well, we're out of it anyway.