William Shakespeare said it best,
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Taken out of context–Julius Caesar–the general meaning embedded in the aforementioned quip tackles a most troublesome dilemma forever informing the human condition: when is failure our own doing, and when is it a question of fate.
Reading through the gamut of Shakespearean tragedies, most of what the Bard elucidates for his audience tends to take them down a middle ground, one in which an individual’s own inherent character flaw–be it hubris, cowardice, ignorance, jealousy–heralds in an unfortunate incident that leads to the downfall of both protagonist and those who count among his friends and loved ones alike.
These dramatic overtures are nothing short of mirrors reflecting every day incidents that come to dictate our lives in one way or another. How many of us haven’t harkened back to an earlier time in which a left turn or a right one would’ve made all the difference in the world?
Call it the Butterfly effect. Call it Fate. Call it coincidence. But whatever you do, don’t believe decisions that appear secular and singular in nature, haven’t an effect upon others, not to mention future decisions to be had.
And that which goes for life, also goes for the game of hockey, which is an extended metaphor in many ways for our lives in the every day.
The New York Islanders cannot fault the stars at this moment: cannot blame bad calls, missed calls, and/or no calls. They cannot point toward a tough road schedule, or even injuries, for their 10-game losing streak.
Adversity is both the nature of the game and the necessary dichotomy that propels the drama inherent in sports as a whole.
Teams have overcome similar setbacks and realities, going on to succeed beyond expectations. Just look at the Ottawa Senators of just a few months ago.
Never mind the talent comparisons between the Isles and the Sens. Please save your coaching critiques, etc.
The fault, dear readers, lies with the Isles themselves, that is, with each individual hockey player comprising the team at present.
Never can any of us say that the Islanders lack talent in that locker room. Far from it.
In fact, your present frustration and consternation derives from the very notion that expectations were quite high because the talent is so readily apparent and equally non-existent.
Earlier in the week, Kyle Okposo was quoted as saying that the “talent is in the room” and that it’s nothing more than a question of “finding it…because it’s here in this room for sure.”
And that’s the problem for each individual player, one may safely assume: the period of self-reflection lasting as long as a stare out into nothingness, and then the search outward with one’s eyes, looking to one’s left or right or center, and thinking, “He’s not picking up the slack.” “He’s terrible.” Etc.
Forget the stats. Disregard any quantifiable action on the ice, but rather, zone in on what matters here at present: this team is completely broken.
Nay, destroyed from the inside out.
Scrambling through the labyrinth of one’s collective memory in search of past success as a means of garnering a positive attitude, is like trying to go Home again. Not going to happen and that quest is nothing short of a pipe dream, which causes harm for an individual in the present.
If anything, the Isles should learn from the existential emphasis currently hovering over them: the absurdity that is having two of the finest forwards in hockey on one of the worst teams in the entire NHL. The bewilderment that comes from thinking that this team was giving the Pittsburgh Penguins and others a challenge completely unexpected not too long ago.
Last night’s defeat occurred in slow-motion, as if watching an instructional video and/or documentary on how to detect ‘inevitability’ and bear witness to it unfolding before one’s eyes.
Andrew Cogliano‘s tying goal wasn’t surprising, but, nevertheless, frustrating to watch.
But as soon as it happened, in almost perfect synchronicity one can imagine, Islander country, and undoubtedly the Islanders themselves, were looking around for the ‘inevitable’, which came in the form of a 3-on-1 breakaway while the Ducks were short-handed; then it came again seconds later with Corey Perry’s notch and the Ducks 4th of the contest.
And that’s what’s wrong with this team.
The Islanders haven’t succumb to a self-fulfilling prophecy. They’ve come to embody it wholeheartedly for all of the NHL to see.
They’re not a laughingstock at present. Nothing funny about tragedy that could very well touch you in some way in the distant future.
No. The Islanders are riddled with the disease of self-doubt, to the point that other teams want nothing more than to beat them and leave as quickly as possible so as to avoid infection.
The Islanders are that team you dare not look at for fear of turning into stone, or stab one’s eyes out, for want of plucking out the image of such horridness.
Melodramatic you say? Of course it is! But that doesn’t mean it’s an erroneous assumption to think the Isles are as downtrodden as one can be without being a joke–a cautionary tale for the other 29 teams in the league.
Safe to assume that opposing coaches use Islander footage much like parents use the Boogeyman to keep their children in check.
Are they out of playoff contention? Will Garth Snow dismantle the team? Are hopes and aspirations nothing more than a by-gone notion? An afterthought? A fleeting dream?
These questions can only be answered by the players.
And the answers are not in the stars but in themselves.
I leave you with something that has shown me the door out of some of the darker places in life, and it comes from a man who lived some terrible times in his own right, a man filled with sobriety, absent of melodramatics when it comes to things touching the human condition, the great French writer Albert Camus–
I dedicate the following to all the readers, listeners, and New York Islanders out there viewing this:
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
Playoffs or not, loyalty above all else.
Stay the course, fandom.
But always stick by your team.