Theatrical plays began over 600 years BC. Opera
drew crowds in the 12th Century. Both were judged - applauded or booed. Until
the year 1927, all movies were silent. However the theaters were never that; as
audience members would fill the room with laughter, cheers, hisses and boos.
Still today, we judge our entertainment. Stand-up
comics are often booed from the stage. Moviegoers walk out on lousy films.
Singers have items thrown at them at concert - bras or tomatoes. However, when
did we decide to start judging the very team that we love?
I remember as a child walking into Madison Square
Garden wide eyed and overwhelmed as the crowd was rhythmically chanting
"Let's Go Rangers" before the puck even hit the ice. Once the visiting
team's door to the ice was opened, the entire 18,200 began to boo no matter who
the opponent. Any other team was the enemy. The thick cigarette smoke that
loomed in the middle of the ice would swirl, as the booed skaters would circle
in their pre-game skate. The crowd would roar as the New York Rangers made their
way to the 8th Avenue side of the Garden. This was our team. No matter what.
Madison Square Garden was our home. The Rangers
were our team. The fans were all part of the team. Other teams feared our
remarks, our chants, our cheers. We were the best fans on earth.
But for some reason, the unsuccessful 2003-2004
season was completely different. Our team was being judged from day one. They
were not cheered before they hit the ice, but rather only if they performed well
while on the ice. Last season, the fans of New York became just members of the
audience, judging a show.
Perhaps not making the playoffs seven consecutive
years will turn fans into judges. Perhaps the taste of the champagne in 1994 was
so good that nothing else would be acceptable. Perhaps ticket prices have gotten
so high that paying top dollar makes losing unaffordable. Perhaps, the fans
themselves are just now different.
As the playoff-less 2002-03 season came to a
close after a home loss to the Devils, the Blueshirts Off Our Backs ceremony
followed the game. As each player was called one by one to give their game used
jersey to a dedicated fan, the crowd either booed or cheered depending on how he
had played during the season. At the end of last season, the organization
decided to conduct the ceremony in the locker room, away from their fan's
Glen Sather even went to the point of issuing a
statement last season. "Well, that's the way it works in sports. You cheer
and help the team get better. You boo them, they get worse," he said.
"It's the same as your children. If you have a child who is having trouble
in school and you berate him every day he's never going to get any better. You
encourage him. ... he'll get better."
Whenever the next season does start, I hope
the entire Garden will be shaking. Not with boos and "Fire Sather"
chants, but instead with cheers and "Let's Go Rangers" chants. Not
because we are there to judge the team; but rather because we are a part of the
team. And we should act like it. No matter what.
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