Underskilled, inferior teams in basketball rush the court after a big win over a top opponent. Goal posts come down in football. I'm sure they have a similar underdog-mentality, post-match celebration in ping-pong. And, well, baseball -- unlike legitimate sports like hockey, basketball, football and ping-pong -- is just awful. But it got me to thinking...
Over the last two seasons, I have been increasingly less inclined to invoke our traditional "you suck" chants after goals, and the in-game "Red Wings Suck" chant in particular. I still cheer loudly and aggressively, even on the "HEY!" preceding the obligatory "you suck." And I don't let any play or player, ref or linesman off the hook, either. But something about the "you suck" after a goal and the "Red Wings Suck" chants has lost its luster, its appeal, its worthiness. I wondered if I was just mellowing with age, or maybe it was a glandular disorder, or maybe both. But nothing else about my zeal or overall loud-mouthedness had changed...
At the same time, toward the midway point of this season, I realized that I no longer "hoped" the Preds would win a particular game or "thought" that they "might" have a chance to win a particular game "if" certain things happened. I expected them to win. Every game. Even before the brilliant and gutsy moves as the trade deadline approached. (Always with a dose of realism, of course, with respect to road trips, time off, injuries, back-to-backs, etc.) Despite the recent epiphany, I don't know when this change in perspective actually happened; maybe about this time last year.
As Predators' fans, we don't need to do this any more. As an organization, the Predators are no longer the hopeful, the underskilled, the underdogs, the us-against-the-world team they once were. Other "newer" markets still are, and we all know that those markets already look upon our Predators organization in awe.
Through patience, perseverance and smart management (and, yes, this year those trade deadline moves have proven huge), we are a thriving hockey market with the organizational and fan expectations of a thriving hockey market. It goes beyond that. We are a loyal fanbase, and we have become an educated fanbase. We have youth hockey organizations. Hockey has grown to be a proud, staple entertainment venue in Nashville, and downtown has become the place to be on game nights.
I was particularly moved listening to the pregame radio on 102.5 The Zone tonight, when it was mentioned that there are now local college freshmen from middle Tennessee who never knew what it was like to not have the Predators. To today's young adults, the Predators have always been here. And they will be for a long time to come.
I'm not calling for a moratorium on any chants. If anything, I'm just enjoying the feeling of walking the halls of Bridgestone Arena with some hard-earned and well-deserved swagger, at least as a loyal fan and lifetime Tennessean. Kudos to ownership and management for some brilliant roster management and talent development over the lifetime of this club (aside from the unavoidable hiccup of 2007-08) and business moves over the last couple of years.
Sure, we used to measure ourselves against the Red Wings -- a smart and savvy thing to do. Even aside from all of our other Predators community milestones and successes since that first season, 8-4 against the Wings this year, and 4-1-1 last year, tells me it's time to move on. Game 5 tonight was our coming out party. Did you feel it? Did you feel that we expected to win? Let any other number of teams and fanbases, old or new, from Canadiens to Blue Jackets, chant that "Nashville sucks" instead. We've earned it.
We no longer measure ourselves against other organizations or fanbases. Let others measure themselves against us. Well done, all of you. All of us.