Hey there, it’s me, Jeffler. I’m that guy that the internet tells to Shut Up a lot. Please look at the above picture, of just some of April Reimer (James’ wife)’s interactions box on twitter. Read every single message, and come back to me.
Are we done? Okay. Let’s have a moment.
As fans, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the National Hockey League, heck, competitive sports as a whole have the capacity to bring out our most reactionary and passionate emotions at a moment’s notice. When spend so much time invested in following, learning about, and caring about a team, or an athlete, or almost anything in life, you’re going to be overjoyed when they accomplish your hopes, and upset when they let you down. I get it.
But before taking those emotions and opening your mouth, I’d like you to remember a few things.
- As much as this may seem like an oversimplification, you are an opt-in consumer to an entertainment product. In many ways, the emotional attachment you have to seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs do well is the same attachment that people have to their favourite singers on American Idol. Except your people come back every season, and they have to pick new ones. Those bandwagoners.
- The players on the ice are human beings with human emotions. It may not seem like it when they have their superhero-like uniforms on during the games, but when the game is done, they go back to their families and live close to normal lives.
- Nobody is athletically capable of doing the same thing every single time they attempt it, without fail. There’s a reason why the best in the world still practice. Lebron still works on his free throws, Tiger Woods still works on his chips, Sidney Crosby works on his shooting accuracy, Usain Bolt works on his first stride. Back to the human element; their gifts are tuned and not robotic.
- The same applies to the mental standpoint. We’ve all had bad days at work, where we just couldn’t put things together in the way that we want to. Maybe something at home is troubling us. Maybe we’re really excited about something that’s ahead of us and can’t shake it out of our thoughts. Professional athletes are probably better at avoiding this than most people are, due to the fact they’ve got decades of experience in this regard, including in their developmental stages, but it definitely happens.
- Team sports as a whole are based off of having to make quick decisions involving your surrounding environment. Hockey has this issue to an even greater extent. Every player who has ever played has made hundreds if not thousands of incorrect decisions in their lifetime of playing. It’s an incredibly hard thing to do, and shouldn’t ever be taken for granted. What we see from a top-down view on a TV screen without people breathing down our backs is much different from their perspective.
I know that firing shots at people that are firing shots is something that could be seen as a weird thing to be read here on The Leafs Nation. The writers here as a whole are very skeptical of the performance sustainability of the team as a whole and many individual players. A lot of us are not very fond of the words that are said by team’s staff and/or management and the decisions that they make. But in our criticism, we try to stay focused on the realities of the situation.
Everybody is trying their hardest to succeed. Not just for your enjoyment, but to further their careers. Nobody is complacent at this level; they’re all looking for that next step. There’s a difference between a critique along the lines of “Player X doesn’t perform well compared to his peers, and as someone who would like to see the team I cheer for succeed, I’d prefer somebody else”, and “I hate this guy he’s trash and I hope he dies”, and similar personal attacks.
When somebody in ANY situation, be it in pro sports or in your everyday life, fails to reach expectations, nobody is more disappointed in them than themselves. You don’t have to pat them on the back and say they’ve given an optimal performance; you can call a spade a spade and provide constructive criticism. But there’s no point in getting personal.
Let’s go back to the picture. People don’t have an easy way to personally attack James Reimer because he wasn’t able to stop 3 of 35 shots from some of the most talented hockey players on the face of planet tonight, plus one that his teammate kinda scored on him. So they look for a middle man, or in this case, a middle woman, and take pot shots at his wife, or at the very minimum, ask her to pass on their emotions.
This is even worse. At least the players have people training them to channel out as much of the outside world as possible for years. When you look for a family member to pass on your anger to, you’re going to their biggest fans, and saying “This person sucks and I hate them. Let them know, okay?”. Which is an insane thought.
Imagine if you worked retail, and your mother started getting phone calls about how it took too long for you to get something at the back, and as such, should be a prime candidate to jump in front of a bus. Sound’s pretty bad, doesn’t it? But at the end of the day; you’ll shrug that off faster than your mother will. To an extent, we’re all very capable of deflecting hatred to ourselves. Those who care about you will never be.
This is turning into a tangent. Let me wrap it up.
Cliches aside, the players you cheer and boo on the ice are putting 100% into careers they’ve spent most of their lives attaining. Nobody wants to make you happy more than them, because it’s a byproduct of their own personal accomplishments. Once they leave the rink, they’re people just like you and me, and they deserve respect. Even more so, don’t use their loved ones as a gateway; there’s no point in catching anybody in the crossfire of your emotions, especially somebody who it will hurt worse than your target.
Constructive criticism, and thoughtful work performance evaluation are things that come with every job (again, this is their job). But nothing is ever gained from a personal attack, be it to that guy on the third line that you don’t like or the person walking down the street that gave you a curious look.
Be curious. Be skeptical. Don’t be a jerk. This also applies to your interactions with society as a whole.