This off-season is the same, but different.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the Senators off-season moves, you’ve heard the headlines before: goalie controversies, unpopular trades/roster decisions, and terrible branding. The specifics and particular players change, but the subject matter is the same.
A few months ago it all would have worn me down.
I would have simply tuned out the endless twitter debates, not clicked on the latest hot take. I might have written something generic and not betrayed much of my own thoughts. It was what I could manage at the time. I didn’t have the energy to debate the minutia of Sens fandom or rehash old marketing ideas. I was interested in those things before and suspected I would be again, but during the season those things didn’t matter that much to me. The Streak helped, but it felt like an endlessly negative season. Being a Sens fan mattered to me more this past season than in previous years. It made such a difference to me this season that I didn’t want to keep writing, to be so immerse in something so negative. I didn’t want anything more than what we had during The Streak: Sens games that mattered, different things to talk about, and burgers before every game. I thought I’d take a prolonged break from writing about the Sens.
But something changed. I started to have ideas I wanted to write about again.
Bryan Murray and company decided not to extend Erik Condra in the final days of June and then doubled-down on the decision by not matching the offer he received from Tampa on July 1. The decision was a polarizing one and widely panned on twitter and various Sens blogs. Sick as I am of debating the particular merits of Condra, what interested me about the fallout were the larger questions it raised about Sens management. For those who have seen the Corsi light, it was particularly distressing to see another example that Murray and friends haven’t said the same vows. When you think about the game in a certain way and the team you love doesn’t, you start to wonder if it’s the best fit.
Last week the Senators revealed the team’s 25th anniversary logo to unsurprising vitriolic anger. It’s indisputably a crap design but the anger flows more from the organization’s continued resistance to creating quality team iconography on a permanent basis. Time and again Sens fans have vocalized what they’d like to see from the organization and only once have they delivered. Fans commit to teams through a variety of organic and inorganic actions. Rather than stimulating connection, the Condra departure and 25th logo fostered negativity and just furthered separation between the two parties. Not the most significant events, just the latest in a long line of missteps.
Identity is hard.
The Hamburglar might have been the name behind The Streak, but the identity of the Cameron-era Sens was that third line, its DNA was Condra’s game. The Sens have struggled to carve out a sense of self over the last two decades situated between two historically obnoxious franchises. The organization has compounded the issue through continued marketing and design failures.
Even when there aren’t millions of dollars at stake, identity is hard. For me, being a Sens fan is defining in a way that has much needed permanency.
Identity, defining and accepting it, has preoccupied my mind for as long as I can remember. This task got more pressing over the past year. As the urgency of the task increased, as the need to come forward and explain myself to my friends grew greater, things which defined me without the need for further explanation – school, art, fandom – grew even more important.
When you’re in transition, the things that aren’t – no matter how insignificant – matter quite a deal. Those things are comforting, those things are stabilizing. Those are things you can hold up and show acquaintances and friends that you’re the same person, that you’ve always been you.
It’s not just a transition for you, but also the people in your life. The way other people see and perceive you is adapting. Every relationship you have changes and is challenged. You’re still you and the things that make you who you are, like being a Sens fan, take on greater significance. Not just for anchoring who you are, which they undoubtedly do, but, at least for me, being a Sens fan has opened me up to the kind of support that’s necessary for me to do this.
There have been some changes this off-season. I didn’t think I’d return to writing about the Sens for a while. It had just become too difficult to write about the team I love when the byline didn’t fit. I thought it would take a lot longer to have the right name there, months and months of small steps. But this team didn’t just provide me with stability, it also offered community. I’ve been overwhelmed with the acceptance, love, and well wishes I’ve received. That reaction helped me get back to something I love doing the way I wanted to do it.
I’ve always been me. Now the byline’s right.