Tonawanda News

October 19, 2013

DUVALL: Hating a winner is the stuff of sore losers

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News —

Some good sports news, some bad sports news and some politics to round out the Sunday column.

First, the good:

My St. Louis Cardinals are back in the World Series after hanging a stunning 7 earned runs on National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw en route to a 9-0 pasting in a decisive Game 6. 

Except among Cardinals fans, the big win seemed to draw a communal groan from the sports world writ large. 

Apparently we Cardinals fans have the happy problem of rooting for a team that wins too much. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say — and baseball fans are getting plenty familiar with the Redbirds playing late into October.

A piece by Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Mahler made the rounds on the Internet Friday night, the headline of which proclaims Cardinals fans to be "the most insufferable fans in sports."

How that award doesn't go to the Yankees or Red Sox is beyond me. 

I have to say, being a lifelong Western New Yorker rooting for two of the most disappointing franchises in professional sports, it's much more fun being on the other side. 

So, national sports writers, drink all the Haterade you want. Call us Cards fans insufferable. Mock our slogan, "The Cardinal Way."

I couldn't care less. My boys are still playing ball while the leaves are falling. And with all the young talent on our team it's going to be like this for the foreseeable future.

If they're sick of us already I can't wait to see what they're writing about five years from now.

•••

About one of the aforementioned disappointing franchises, the Buffalo Sabres are at an all-time low. 

Here's something to ponder: This team was in better shape when it was bankrupt and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was the owner than it's been with a billionaire lifelong fan in Terry Pegula. How is that possible?

I went to my first game of the year Thursday (I gave away a ticket to Monday's game to watch the Cards on television). As it happens, it's the first time I've been able to watch any Sabres game with undivided attention.

I'd read all the mocking assessments and heard all the groaning from fellow fans. The Sabres are just as bad as advertised.

They're the worst team in the league and one of the the worst teams in franchise history — if not the worst.

They're on pace to score about 1.3 goals per game, which would blow away the lowest goal-per-game average in league history (the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning scored 1.8 goals per game and only had one player with 20 or more tallies).

Fans have taken to chanting "Fi-re Dar-cy!" — a reference to general manager Darcy Regier. I've been on board with that for a while but whether it happens is far from a sure thing.

The team is in rebuilding mode. Regier famously said he thinks fans will be willing to endure "a little suffering" to build a winner.

But there's a big difference between "a little suffering" and being the worst team in the league.

Media reports surfaced last week in Canada that Regier is on the hot seat. It would seem odd to fire him after ownership signed off on the plan to trade away talented veterans and go with a bunch of kids. After all, wasn't this the plan?

Still, if they don't start winning — or at least playing competitive games — something will have to change or they'll face an open revolt from fans. 

If they keep being this bad, season ticket holders, the lifeblood of the organization, are going to walk away. Many of us (I've shared seasons for six years) rely on being able to sell some of our seats to help offset the cost. Right now you can barely give these things away. Any hope of selling a ticket for a profit is gone. Many fans will re-evaluate this off season and decide a poor product on the ice and a poorly managed franchise isn't worth the investment and give up their seats.

Sad state of affairs in Sabreland to say the least.

•••

Finally, on politics. The government shutdown is over. Huzzah!

I promised myself I wouldn't waste my breath evaluating a temporary solution to a manufactured crisis but I can't resist.

When this whole thing started I predicted House Republicans would overplay a poor hand and eventually Speaker John Boehner would be forced to abandon the extremists in his caucus and rely on Democrats to pass a Senate-brokered solution to reopen the government. 

After 16 days of a partial shutdown and just hours before a historic debt default — and fully exhausted of all other options — that's exactly what Boehner did.

The ending was as predictable as the whole sorry affair was preventable.

The good news? We'll be able to reprise the fight in January, the next time the government is about to run out of money.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.