TAMPA, FL - MAY 25: Tampa Bay Lightning fans cheer in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at St Pete Times Forum on May 25, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Lightning fans, I'd like to take a moment to address you as one of you:
Last night, following the Lightning's come-from-behind 5-4 victory to stave off elimination in the conference final, there was a scrum between players on both teams which may or may not have triggered the response of fans throwing several team giveaway noisemakers on the ice, which may or may not have caused Boston's Nathan Horton to spray a Lightning fan with a water bottle and then throw it into the stands.
Not good, folks. This was sad, stupid and pointless for lots of reasons, but mostly because we are better than that.
No doubt that last statement will draw laughter and derision from fans living elsewhere, in the homes of teams that are more established, with longer and more glorious histories. Some of these fans live in cities where mass arrests and riots are standard practice after one of their teams win a championship...or even if they don't. But the fact of the matter is we are better than that, proven by spotless records in terms of incidents of civil disobedience following championships involving any of our local teams in any sport. That's indisputable truth. Whatever trash talk can be slung at us and our shortcomings, our record for conducting ourselves with class in situations like these is beyond legitimate criticism...
Is throwing stuff on the ice after the game as bad as setting police cars on fire and looting stores? Of course not. But it's not good.
Obviously, far more fans did not participate in this idiotic behavior than did. Those fans who only observed the stupidity at the St.Pete Times Forum are mortified by it.
One observation by an anonymous fan:
"It ruined the win for me. I hate throwing stuff on the ice anyway, but when it's clear that fans were trying to hit Bruins players with them, it's completely, totally, 10000000000% embarrassing to me. I've never been afraid to call out our fanbase, and I did again on Twitter last night.
Especially after all the attention "we" have drawn to "ourselves" with the sign fiasco, to behave like that with the spotlight on us is completely unacceptable."
"I can't stand people being disrespectful - no matter who it is. Even if the person in question seems like they deserve it, it still bothers me if they're disrespected. It's one of my biggest pet peeves, in fact. If you can't be respectful, they you should just walk away. And that's what those Lightning fans should've done; walked away."
For those trying to rationalize what happened: if your argument is "they started it" or "what they do/did is/was worse than that", save it. Think back to your earliest memories in a sandbox or on a playground; when have those arguments ever worked? They weren't valid when we were kids and they aren't valid now.
To those who participated last night, I'd just like the answers to two questions:
- What were you thinking? What, this is how you celebrate a nail-biting, come-from-behind victory that kept us alive and puts us one win from the Stanley Cup Finals? Or is it that you saw Steve Downie get roughed up after the horn and the first thing that came to your mind was "Oh, there is no way I can leave without letting everyone know my opinion on the matter at hand! Let's see how far I can throw...I don't know...this freebie noisemaker thing." Yeah, that'll show 'em. I guess those of you who actually managed to reach the ice deserve some kind of qualified kudos; at least you didn't hit any fellow fans with the stupid things.
- How many of you believe in the whole "athletes are role models" paradigm? I'm willing to bet that at least a few of you chuckers have expressed disgust with a player for one of our local teams getting in trouble for doing something dumb and/or illegal, citing how he should set an example for the youngsters and how he's responsible for representing the area on behalf of the team for which he plays. I always love listening to those passionate testimonials. Hey, you know who else sets examples for our kids and whose behavior represents where we live? Us.
Unless somebody has answers to the questions above or can otherwise justify this utterly obnoxious and ignorant display, we just need to suck it up and take the heat on this one. Hopefully, we get a chance sooner than later to redeem ourselves and our reputation.