First off, for any Islander fans interested, I have been writing regularly at http://islesnation.com/matt.htm
. In order to expose my blog to more people, I decided to post my latest entry here:
"I want to be a lion,
Everybody wants to pass as cats.
We all want to be big big stars, but we got different reasons for that.
Believe in me because I don't believe in anything,
and I want to be someone to believe."
It's way too easy to be pessimistic when a team is losing. Perhaps with good reason. Despite the playoff picture looking bleak as the Islanders hang on by a thread, this Islander fan still remains optimistic about both this season and the future. And with good reason.
This is a streaky team. Everybody and his/her mother knows that. The roller coaster ride of a season as all but made me bipolar as I pull my white sweater over my head approximately five minutes before each game. As my head emerges from the center hole I simultaneously reach for the keyboard to turn on the slingbox to FSNY. Or, on a bad night, FSNY2. At this point I know full well that two and a half hours from now I'll be either ecstatic or upset for something I have absolutely no control over. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Lets side track into my life for a bit here. Personally, I do not practice any religion. None were imposed on me at a younger age, and my curiosity never cause me to indulge in pious ceremonies. That side, like the rest of mankind, I require something more than just everyday life. Something to provide hope. Something to look forward to, that I know will always be there. Simply put, something to believe in.
Ever since my first Islander game well over a decade ago this team has been that something to believe in. Remember, I wasn't around for the Dynasty Era. I never experienced a team compromised of Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin, which I was reminded of while watching yesterday's Core of the Four celebration. Heck, I never even saw the names "Healey" and "Lafontaine" stitched on the back of Islander jerseys except for a few older video clips. Not even "Turgeon."
While I never experienced what it's like to be on top, I was certainly around for rock bottom. My first year following this team was the beginning of an eight year playoff drought. Yet, not once in those eight years - the first eight years of my being a hockey fan - did I even consider switching allegiances. I always had hope. They were the lovable losers to me. It's too easy to bash a team when they're down, then jump back on the bandwagon when they're winning again. It's much more rewarding and fulfilling to maintain cheering for a team through the tough times and watch them pick themselves back up.
That rewarding and fulfilling sensation is exactly what the 2002 playoffs were for me. No fan had a bigger grin on his face than the one I wore on my face as the Islanders clinched their playoff spot. As the regular season came to an end, I was one of the Isles faithful chanting "Playoffs" at the Islander-Ranger games reminding our cross town rivals where we were going, and where they weren't. I was on the edge of my seat at the Coliseum for the playoff series with Toronto, waving my white towel. When Shawn Bates put that puck into the net I was jumping up and down like a kid who just consumed several pixie sticks in under a minute. Unlike that kid, the sugar high didn't come crashing down for me.
Approaching the six year anniversary of that playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, our Islanders have made the playoffs all but one season since. Albeit, I still have yet to witness a playoff series win. However, if I can maintain hope through the thick of the Mike Milbury era I'm certainly not going to stop believing in this team now.
I'll admit, like I did in the first paragraph, the playoff possibility looks bleak right now. Do I need to remind any of you of how they looked this time last year? DiPietro was out indefinitely with a concussion, and an ice cold Mike Dunham stepped in to cover for him. Still, even then, while wearing that jersey, I held my head up and believed - with Wade Dubielewicz giving me perhaps the biggest high since the 2002 playoffs (even better, it was on my birthday - 4/8).
Do not label me as one of those fans in favor of tanking the season to put Steve Stamkos's name in blue and orange. I still have hope, and won't give up on this team no matter how bad things are... and things could be a lot worse. Kirk Muller anyone? Things are a lot better now then they were when this team sported the Fishstick attire, and that should not be taken lightly. As Nolan and Dubie proved this time last year, never count this team out and always hang on to your hope.
As I stated earlier, this team is streaky. Another four consecutive wins, and we find ourselves sitting in the eighth seed. We haven't been eliminated just yet, no need to act like such has occurred. Amidst studying tirelessly for midterms, I will be pulling that white sweater over my head as I turn on the slingbox for Tuesday's showdown at Madison Square Garden. Who knows what kind of momentum a victory could bring? As I've said in the past, winning is a habit.