We all know that as fans it seems like there are only 2 emotions in our fan-lives, a giddy rollercoaster of ups and downs, from supreme and utter glory as our team wins to dark, lonely despair as they fail don't.
In some ways it's easier to be a fan of a really good team, like the Wings, or a fan of a struggling team, like the Blue Jackets.
The Red Wings of the past decade have won division titles, conference titles, President's Trophies & most importantly, Stanley Cup titles. They haven't had to go thru a re-building phase, even when their salary was chopped essentially in half once the cap was introduced. They rarely have losing skids, are consistently in the upper echelon of the League in points and have players with skills worthy of the nightly highlight reels.
On the other side of the ledger, you have the Columbus Blue Jackets of the world. They've been bad for so long that in many ways, their fans are inured to seasons that end in disappointment, out of the playoffs and rarely above 11th or so in the Western Conference. They'd rarely string together long winning streaks or avoid long losing ones. Anything positive that happens, like beating a team that they shouldn't be able to or a player having a break-out season are appreciated and grasped at in order to validate the passion their fans have for them. If the low-set expectations of their fans are exceeded, the fans might feel the joy even more keenly than the fans of winning teams but carry with them the realistic knowledge that it probably won't last which deadens the hurt when the team comes back to the ground.
Then there are the teams in the middle - the "should" teams.
On paper, they are good enough to play with the big boys in their respective conferences, have stars that can make a difference and a good mix of skill and grit enabling the team to thrive in a multitude of different game situations. Expectations among the team and its fans are high - maybe they'll be a Cup contender, or maybe this is THE year......
But then they start to play and everyone is amazed at how poorly things go. The team can't win the games they should against the lesser-lights on the schedule. The specialty teams have people begging for 5on5 to avoid seeing the powerplay come out on the ice and saying rosaries when it's time for a penalty to be killed. The team can't win on the road or they can't win at home and there's no reason for either situation. Calls are made for firing the coach, trading star players or anyone who is deemed a "problem" in a lineup that should be able to produce consistently.
Why is it harder to be a fan of a team that should?
Because there is an inherent optimism shared by fans of teams that SHOULD that causes more pain than the realistic pessimism of fans of teams that shouldn't.
The team SHOULD win consistently at home and on the road.
They SHOULD score goals and support their goalie's efforts to keep the biscuit out of the basket at their own end.
They SHOULD be decent on the PK and PP.
The players SHOULD want to stick up for each other when one of the group is cheap-shotted.
They SHOULD come into their games with a passion and motivation to win that doesn't require fueling from the coaching staff.
It hurts more when the team doesn't live up to its potential because each failure is a jab into the hearts of their fans who have taken in the pre-season discussion of what the expectations should reasonably be. They just want to believe and be able to hold their heads high when their team does what it should and not have to make excuses for them. The optimism is only momentarily dashed by the failures tho - they're written off as a "one-of" and hence the hurt grows as the disappointments mount, leavened every once in a while with a glimpse of what your favourite team should be.
So here's to all us fans in the middle of the pack - may our overly expensive arena beers be half full and may our respective teams hurt us less this season than they did the last! Cheers!