One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the way that fans can see “bias” against their club, irrespective of what is actually said or written. This has been around in all sports since the dawn of time. Modern technology, specifically social media however, allows this perceived “bias”, and the reactions to it, to reach a larger audience than ever before.
Now, I will freely admit that I myself have been guilty of this in the past. Indeed, if we are all being honest, every single one of us has. It goes with being a fan. We love our clubs, and want to defend them against “attacks”, be they real or otherwise. Sometimes, this is as simple as telling another teams fan to “go away” (albeit in rather less polite terms more often than not). Other times this can manifest itself in rather less savoury attitudes and actions. I know of a number of fans who were forced to change their Twitter accounts, or become very selective about who could see it, due to the consistent abuse they received from other “fans”. And their only “crime” was to pass comment on another club and its’ actions.
You see, some “fans” have a real inability to accept that not everyone will think that their club, or fellow supporters, may act in ways that invite criticism. Want to see proof of this? Go and google “Sheffield Steelers homophobia”, and look at some of the reactions to that. There were fans who chose to attack those who criticised David Simms and the Steelers for their actions, rather than condemn the blatant homophobia on display. Why? Because others, such as myself, were “unfairly” attacking the club/Simms/Steelers fans. And how were we being unfair? By drawing attention to a homophobic act at a Steelers game. But this was just “anti Steelers bias”. It had nothing to do with being offended by Simms and his blatant homophobia. Or the Steelers comically poor reaction, (which for those who don’t know, included inventing a fake LGBT charity they had “contacted”). Or conversely, we were too offended by Simms and his “harmless” behaviour. These fans could not see beyond their own Steelers blinkers. Sometimes, blind loyalty isn’t always the best approach to supporting your club, people (been there, done that, dealt with the consequences).
And this week, I’ve borne witness to this kind of attitude once more. Hopefully, you have all read my previous blog about defining success. Well, here is a quick recap of what lead me to write that particular blog:
I noted on Twitter that the Cardiff Devils are, in my opinion, probably the best example of on and off ice success in British hockey. They fill the IAW to capacity pretty much every week. Cue an affronted Steelers fan (them again) saying that this was “by ANY definition struggling, and moreover worrying”. I couldn’t make head nor tail of this opinion. A back and forth debate was had, which included claims that the Steelers playing to 5,000ish a week, in a 9,300 capacity venue was more impressive than the Devils selling out every game. Now, my insistence that it really isn’t is apparently an attack on the Steelers. Indeed, after openly wondering if said Steelers fan would consider the sell out, or near sell out of Saturdays game against Milton Keyenes would be “by ANY definition struggling, and moreover worrying”, I was accused (not to my face, or indeed even on my timeline where I could respond) of going on an “anti Steelers diatribe”. And this was because I didn’t agree with the Steelers fans that their achievement was somehow superior.
Now, I’m sorry, I might be biased here, but I consider filling a 3,000 seat arena every week at full price far more impressive an achievement than filling a 9,300 seat arena once at just under 1/3rd the regular price. Or playing to a just over 50% full arena most weeks, in fact. Cardiff are maximising their potential, the Steelers are not.
That isn’t to detract from the Steelers filling their barn. Selling 9,300 tickets, even at £5 a head, is impressive. I’m not doubting that. All I’m saying is what Cardiff manage is more impressive. But that sneaky bugger, bias, rears it’s ugly head. And it is symptomatic of hockey fandom. Now, I’m not saying every fans is this biased that they can not contextualise my comments. Nor am I saying that every fan is purposefully misreading/misinterpreting them either. But there are those, who for whatever reason (usually a blind fait that their club is superior to all others), seem incapable of doing this.
Let me be clear here: This isn’t an anti Steelers diatribe. They have just presented me with the 2 most obvious examples I can think of. Phoenix fans did it. Panthers fans have done it. Ditto Telford, Belfast, Fife, Storm, Stars, Jets, etc. I have just reached a point where I believe that as adults (which is what most of us are), we should be able to accept other peoples opinions and interpret them correctly. Sometimes, we need an “outside” perspective to show us our own bias, and how it clouds our thinking. Maybe it is just how the world work with social media: read something you disagree with, and attack. Seems to work for the POTUS. But is social media the cause, or is it simply offering people a platform where they feel able to attack with impunity, safe in the knowledge that their targets will rarely come face to face with them?
Ok, this got a bit rambling towards the end, but I felt it was important to write about this. But I truly believe that if people could see beyond any supposed “bias”, then just maybe we might find another way we can help grow the game. By communicating with each other, and identifying what does and does not work, we can build a stronger sport. But if we maintain the highly focused “bias”, then all we will do is isolate fans from each other, and the sport will lose something truly inspirational.