Well, the Preds have hit a slump. That much is clear. And given the expectations people have been holding onto since May, a slump can be a truly bitter pill to swallow. All that talk of momentum, as if all we had to do was step from one season to the next, and skate a little faster, a little harder, a little longer and all of our dreams would be within reach. As hard as the summer was, we allowed ourselves to believe in our own momentum, and when that didn't materialize, we hid the ground hard.
Lots of things get said about a team having trouble. Things about how this player or that is the real problem, how the offense is anemic and the defense is terrible. At some point, this team seems to have become completely and totally unable to achieve its goals. We might as well face facts now, people will say. This is going to be a terrible year. At least we'll have lots of free time.
Why do sports fans get so depressed? Why, when things aren't going well for our team, do we give up on them? We turn off the television. We leave early. We stop buying tickets and we stop cheering, because what has this team done for us lately? We talk about this one mistake, this one game, this one week like it defines the entire season. We act as if what the team is right now is what it will be forever.
Guess what. It won't. Neither in victory nor in loss will a team stand still. No play--good or bad--will be repeated in exactly the same way again. No bad shift or great goal determines the outcome of a game and no single game determines the outcome of a season. Things that are weaknesses now may be fixed next week. Current strengths will fail at some point. The season is 82 games over 7 months. Change will happen. It's inevitable.
We get so wrapped up in the little things that we forget about the bigger picture. We get lost in our own tunnel-vision. And often, fans get so caught up in trying to determine exactly how dark the tunnel is behind them that they forget to even look ahead of them. There is light down there, guys.
Things will change. The future is not predetermined by the mistakes that have been made or by the victories that have been won. It's not even determined by the statistics that we've become so dependent on. Every game, every play, every moment has the potential to be the outlier that moves the mean. In fact, the future is potential--a thousand different outcomes bound up in every singular moment. Anything can happen.
Ah, I hear you say, you want me to ignore the bad and see only the good. You want me to put on rose-colored glasses and see only rainbows and sunshine.
Not at all. Acknowledging areas that need work is critical to improvement, and no matter how well or how poorly a season starts, improvement is always necessary. I don't want you to be uncritical. Bring up the mistakes; look at them closely and carefully. Hold the team accountable for its play. These things are important; these are the debates and discussions that have made organized sports interesting to fans for generations.
But also acknowledge the inevitability of change and the presence of potential. Let that, too, enter the discussion. Look up from the microscope every once in a while. Come out of the tunnel. Let the hope that made us fans in the first place underlie our debates and discussions. Allow yourselves, in the midst of every bad spot, to enjoy this team. Because none of us really knows what will happen.