Red Wings fans find ourselves facing a harsh reality, a reality many of us have never faced in our lives before. Our team is not good. In fact, our team may be...bad? The Red Wings are bad. Huh. Weird. Anyway, I’ve found myself struggling with how to react to these circumstances. How can I maintain my sunny disposition in the face of such adversity? I’ve been spoiled and sheltered and the real world of sports is cruel.
Maybe you’re struggling too? Well friends, I have good news! There are other fanbases out there who cheer for bad teams all the time, and they were generous enough to share some advice.
The Fan Guide to Watching Your Team Go Bad
Find something to cheer for other than the scoreboard
Your team is going to lose, probably a lot, and it’s exhausting to keep hoping your team will score more goals than the other guys. So, pick out a few players and really focus on them. Learn as much as you can about them - their style of play, their favorite linemates, their stats, their pets’ names…
Remember, pick out MORE THAN ONE PLAYER because it’s most likely your favorite player will be benched at some point due to incompetence or injury. Despite the negativity surrounding your team, you may just find some positives in individual efforts.
Maybe it’s time for you to become the stat expert you always dreamed you could be. Maybe it’s time to take your photo editing outside of Microsoft Paint. Now is a great time to learn something new to distract yourself from the pain of the watching your team trudge around.
You may also find yourself appreciating the entire sport more as you see the real difference between your team and the good teams. Let yourself be released from the stress of caring about the season, and start noticing the little things. The plays that good teams make that your guys try and fail to pull off.
Or if you really want to get wild, get obsessed with the draft. Start putting together prospect profiles and figure out every possible drafting scenario for your team and who they could pick, and who they should pick.
Lower your expectations, then lower them again
The harsh reality is, sometimes it’s better to hit rock bottom. There’s a kind of strange joy in watching a team completely tank, it still hurts, but you know at least you’re more likely to improve from there. Hanging out for years in that “not quite good but not completely terrible” zone brings too much false hope and not enough change.
Embrace your core of young guys and pray that the old guys graciously step aside, it’s now about building the future not success in the present.
Eat, drink, and be merry
Find a game to play. Maybe it’s all based on Mickey Redmond ranting about the refs, maybe it’s about Chris Osgood staring into the camera without blinking, maybe it’s turnovers in the neutral zone, but find something to track and enjoy your ginger ale.
Maybe you have a special ritual. Maybe game nights are the nights that you actually cook dinner or eat some of the cookies you think nobody else knows about. Or if you want to get crazy, maybe you work out before the game or in between periods. Have something that isn’t dependent on the score that will help you enjoy the game.
Take a break
This will all only take you so far, sometimes you have to do something...drastic.
Look, we’re all getting older, and at some point your heart (and your liver) just can’t take it anymore. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is pull the plug for a while. There’s no shame in it, it doesn’t mean you’re a *scary music* bandwagon fan, it just means you know your limits.
Face the negativity head on and fiercely and unapologetically keep loving your team
What do you do when next season isn’t better? Maybe it’s time to stop running away and enjoy the ride.
At some point, things may get so bad that not only does your team tank, but ticket prices do too. Take advantage of no longer having any real rivalries and go to as many games as you can. You may still lose, but you also may just find something to cheer for during the overall disappointing game.
Just love the sport, endure because your love is stronger than temporary defeat.
There’s this kind of gallows humor associated with a terrible team. It becomes almost amusing finding out how your team is going to blow it. You don't necessarily root for it, but you can't help but laugh when it happens. You just throw your hands up and shake your head, “these [bleeping] guys,” you mutter.
Laugh when they do something dumb and enjoy when they actually do something good you didn't expect. Laugh when they pull it together to batter a smug rival or sneak a win against a way better team.
Find your bubble and let more fans in. This is no time for any fans to go it alone or start acting snobby because they’re “real” fans for watching every minute of every terrible game. We’re all a family and have to band together to weather the storm.
Sports for many people is an escape, and don’t be afraid of leaning on the community for strength when your team is letting you down. For those of you who are lucky enough for sports to just be a hobby, be supportive and understand why people are freaking out. They may be watching their only source joy crumble into dust, be there for them and don’t harshly judge their dramatic outbursts.
Stick with each other, and stick with your team. They’ll have their day, you may not live to see it or it may remain a distant memory, but they’ll have their day.
Remember that everyone is human
I’m not the social media police and am not trying to preach, I’m just as guilty as anyone, but consider the following.
You may yell and boo and jeer and fire off the hottest of taeks, and have every right to do so, but players and coaches are real people who deserve to be respected as such. Red Wings fans are fortunate in that our team is relatively scandal free, and we have the luxury of being mad at players and coaches who are generally upstanding gentlemen.
Take the time to enjoy the stories about all the charity work the Wings do, about the fan interactions, about the winks and smiles through the glass at warmups and the photobombing.
Fans may be dramatic and have meltdowns and tantrums, but it comes from a place of love. Love for the Red Wings. Sometimes snark is all we have, but don’t let it go too far and poison all your interactions. I’m going to do my best to stick with this team, and I hope you’re all there with me.
How have you been coping? Have some strategies to share? Let us know in the comments!