Ninety percent of my fellow red-and-black bleeders, I think, would agree with that. Still, there's this bizarre contingent growing in ChiTown that insists on acting like Paris Hilton on a date to Old Country Buffet. They kept lobbying for home games on TV, now they want more games on WGN and the blackout lifted on Centre Ice. For years, they pined for the return of Pat Foley, now they complain he's too old to see the players on the ice. After an eternity complaining about an empty United Centre, now the standing-room only crowds don't know how to conduct themselves. The season-ticket holder party, the one with all the free food and beverages, has been moved from United Centre to Navy Pier. You get the idea.
I love the Hawk fans, and I'm proud as hell to be a part of a strong, growing family. The problem is, as the family grows, you can't help but gain a few more crazy uncles and troubled cousins along the way. And now that the Hawks have turned the corner, the Hawk fringes have turned their attention to anything and everything off the ice they can find to complain about.
OK, go ahead..."FtBR, you're complaining about people complaining, doesn't that put you in the same boat with them?"
Moving on, the latest, and most intriguing debate has been over the in-game experience at United Centre. Music's too loud. Not enough organ. Geico caveman is stupid. Goal celebrations should be left to the fans. Real fans don't need encouragement to cheer. Tommy Hawk should be tarred and feathered.
Not too many complaints about the Ice Crew, though.
I can see both sides of this argument. I was at the Stadium for Hawk games when there was no video screen, no replays, nothing but pure, unaltered hockey. Hell, the out of town scoreboard was a manually operated job at the West end and a guy swapped out numbered metal plates when the scores changed. I was also a White Sox season-ticket holder when an Albert Belle-led team was so bored, so uninterested and so dead we actually kept STATS on who won the scoreboard games between innings. I never did get the hang of that "Hat Trick" game.
To me, this all swirls around this underlying fear among the faithful that John McDonough is "Cubizing" the Hawks. It's a legitimate concern, but I think he's smart enough to realize that Hawk fans, simply, will have none of it. Mr. McDonough is a marketing guru. He spent 20-odd years convincing simple people that they were part of some special society, watching the most special team on Earth playing in the most sacred ground this side of Mecca. And he succeeded. Most folks outside of Chicago shake their heads and laugh at Cub fans, wondering how anyone could not realize they're simply following a bad team in a crumbling stadium. They have not seen the McDonough influence.
These Wrigley Field circus tricks simply won't work at United Centre. Every time there's a "special guest" dropping a ceremonial first puck, it makes it less special. There's far too much established tradition firmly in place at UC to attempt to change the culture. The Anthem, for example, could never, ever be performed by some of these "artsy" singers we all see on the Centre Ice games, notably the games in California.
I'm straying from my point. My point is simply this, and it's a question for everyone involved in this endless back-and-forth bickering about the UC in-game experience:
Is the game on the ice really that boring that you're obsessed with everything going on around it?
Hell's bells, gang, this is the team, the players, the moment, the season we've been praying for all these years. We're heading for the playoffs, we've got Calder winners, runners-up and contenders skating rings around the other teams, and you spend your free time arguing about the Geico caveman?
Who sits next to you? Most of you are season-ticket holders, so you have roughly the same gang next to you all the time...haven't you bonded, created your own wee society? Plainly speaking, I wasn't even aware of half of the distractions you're all going on about, because during the game I'm so busy with the gang in my section that I'd never even noticed any of this other stuff. During commercial breaks, between whistles, any of that "down time", we're discussing the game, sharing opinions of players or commenting on the play we've just seen, keeping that hockey atmosphere "real". We create our own atmosphere. We create our own in-game experience. Over the years, these are no longer the "people I sit next to". They are great hockey fans, great friends, and I'm proud to know each and every one of them. I look forward to catching up with them each and every game, and it is those people, those friends, that provide me with the in-game experience I enjoy every home game. I invite anyone having those "in-game-experience blues" to come down section 301 and talk hockey. Just be sure to wait for a @#$%ing whistle before you come on up!