The place at which I work is an NFL office. That is the topic of discussion most days - football. Which, I don't mind; I actually like football. Though, I'm more of a college football kind of person than an NFL kind of person.
But an interesting point was brought up during a discussion of the local NFL team. I was making some point talking about hockey, of course, and someone said that hockey fans weren't like football fans. And he genuinely meant that; it wasn't just some flippant remark.
Isn't that nice? Even the fans of other sports know the difference. Not sure if that's a compliment or not, but that's not what I'm trying to get at.
The topic of discussion, at that time, was about getting autographs from players. And it wasn't that NFLers weren't as accommodating, as according to the NFL fans in my office, so much as he was suggesting that the fans weren't that nice. And, in their opinion, that's why the NFL players weren't so accommodating.
Think about that for a second. The reason why some NFL fans think that hockey players are so accommodating is because their fans are nicer. Again, not sure whether that's a compliment or not, but moving on....
Too often, we judge athletes by what they do, when in reality it comes down to how they interact with the people they're around. Athletes that aren't so accommodating? They must be jerks, right? Well, perhaps it's because they had a bad fan experience, as well as maybe they really are jerks. I mean, you just don't know.
In sports, there's this symbiotic relationship between the fans and the team and/or athlete: you just can't have one without the other. And since the team and/or athlete are the ones in the spotlight, it's easy to point fingers at them when there's good or bad behavior. But the reality is that it works both ways - players are justified to point their fingers back at us, the fans.
So when a hockey player says what great fans their team has, that's not just lip service. How often do you get that from guys who play other professional team sports? Not too often. Usually, they give credit to their teammates and to their coaches. But, you know, maybe their fans just aren't living up to their expectations, either. Don't fans have an obligation to their teams, too?
I just found it interesting that an NFL fan would point out that hockey fans are better than they are. Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone and in all cases, but it's something to think about. It's not entirely about how they love their teams, and not in how they support their teams, but in how they treat the players themselves. Perhaps hockey isn't great because of the players, but it's great because of the fans. Probably, though, it's a little bit of both.