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According to Ralph: Fan Crush

by Ralph Strangis / Dallas Stars

Been around sports all my life. Worked in it longer than most of our players or office people have been alive. Earning a living in the sausage factory, still enjoying being a fan, and that’s an uncommon bounty.

Being a Minnesota kid, I’m a Vikings fan, carrying around a mental rap sheet of more heartbreak and kicks to the crotch than anybody should have to endure. Cubs fans wish they were that close that often. They got no idea. Over 50 years and no Championship. Zip. 0-4 in Super Bowls. And more horrific collapses in playoff games. We got names for ‘em. Andersen’s miss. The Hail Mary. Nelson’s drop. Favre’s pick. And so on. And let’s not even talk about AD this season or the friggin’ Metrodome collapsing or the house boat thing.

Guys with fancy degrees and heads full of 2 dollar words write books about the psychology of being a fan. What it means, why we do it. Like that. They say we need to feel part of something and we need to relieve stress and hold others to a standard we can’t possibly hold ourselves to. And so on.

I’ve read about it and I lived it. Here’s what I think since I get space to write about whatever I want to on hockey and the Stars and such. Thankful they let me do that really. This is better than throwing bricks through my TV or burning all my purple wardrobe. Although that’s helped too.

Here’s what I want first outta my team. Entertainment. Distraction. Maybe that’s 2 things. I turn on a game with my team in it – I don’t wanna know from anything else. Don’t care about the war or the weather or what fire hit what apartment building and what disease I should be afraid of now. I want to be involved in the bloody game! I don’t want a snoozer, I don’t want a blowout, but I know I’ll get those too I keep turning the thing on. But for Pete’s sake – entertain me will ya? I don’t have a ton of time but I got some and I can only invest in a few things, so make the thing worth watching.

Then I really would like to see that the team I’ve invested my time in cares about it as much as I do. That they’re leaving it all out there. I know they can’t do that every night but c’mon guys – show me that you’re maxing out – that you’re pushing hard – that you wanna win. And so on.

Then I wanna know am I watching something that’s getting better or something that’s fading out. I want a little hope. Like ownership is in and the brass is in and we’re doin this.

The outcome of a game is sort of at the end of the list for me. Don’t get me wrong – I want a winner – oh man do I want a winner! I need a winner. But – and this is the sausage factory part – you don’t always win. I’ve been around really good teams that couldn’t win when they needed to. I’ve watched really good teams lose games they had no business losing at the worst time possible. And I’ve had a bounce of a ball or puck send me to my bedroom for like 2 days.

Let’s say you’re working hard on a work project and you’re doing everything exactly right and then the power goes out. Or you’re on time for a meeting and there’s a car accident and you’re done. I mean – stuff happens. Outcomes don’t always go your way. That’s a fact.

In Montreal at Bell Centre I’m doin a game that is smokin’ hot. Electric. Kinda game a guy like me gets into doing what I do for. Scoring chances and weird plays and blocked shots and collisions and odd penalties and guys throwing their bodies in lanes and a guy who says to me after that the doc takes a hammer and puts the nose back straight and then I remember watching that guy come right out of the tunnel and take a faceoff. Unbelievable. What a sport.

The best year I had as a Vikings fan was the Favre year. I’d do that year all over again knowing how it turned out even – but it’s not knowing how it turns out why I keep turning the TV on.

And this season with the Stars – all the items on my checklist are hit. Love to win some more. But so would they. All of em. And I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

I’m entertained, I’m distracted, I’m twisting in my seat, I see effort, I see a team, I got hope. And as a fan – it’s worth every minute I’m putting in.

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