The New York Islanders: Why Do You Love Them So?

Feb 8, 2014; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano walks to the locker room after a game against the Colorado Avalanche at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Avalanche defeated the Islanders 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Ask yourself this question: Why root for the New York Islanders?

What is it about them that compels you to follow their every move each week? each month? each year?

With all the losing this organization has brought to the ice, season after season, why is it that fans, you, return to the Nassau Coliseum, or turn on your TV screens to watch them? And to those who’ve walked away, but won’t admit it: you know that every now and again you take a peek at the scoreboard, silently hoping for a winning record, and thus resume your place on the bandwagon.

Why do fans who love this team, berate them so? Why do fans who love this team, defend them just as passionately?

Why does a losing team still have fans at all?

What is it that prevents fans from gravitating to other teams who would and could assuredly win a championship for them, and thereby validating whatever percentage of existence in need of validation?

The Islanders are a terrible team at the moment, and have been an awful team for quite some time, including last season. (Don’t kid yourself Islander fans: they made the playoffs with some much-needed help from the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.)

What is about your character traits that feeds off or relishes from experiencing Islander-esque hockey: are Isles fans masochistic? Slow? Blind?

Why do Isles fans then pass this tradition onto their family? Shouldn’t children, for example, root for a winner, a champion? Why have them inherit misery, if you will?

If this were a school assignment, in which teaching children the proper way of doing something–in this case win–is an imperative, then wouldn’t introducing them to a losing tradition being counter-intuitive to the aforementioned? Sort of like teaching them the wrong answers long enough, and then one day <poof> teach them the right one as a means of having that child truly ‘appreciate’ the meaning of ‘rightness’.

For the older Islander fan, do you chalk up the love or following to nostalgia? Isn’t that a dangerous way to tread through life? Living in the past, paying little attention to the present, and thus losing sight of the future?

So what is it about the Islanders that moves you? Is it that you need a punching bag of sorts? A scapegoat to unleash your pent up frustrations with your own life, and thereby venting on social media about how terrible your team is playing–a form of decompression that all-the-time points away from your own life’s shortcomings and anxieties?

What makes an Islander fan who he or she is?

Maybe it’s this:

  • working with what you’ve got and toughing it out
  • deluding yourself enough so that you can accomplish anything with grit and determination, and then succeeding, and then failing, and then succeeding, and then starting the cycle over again, ad infinitum
  • convincing yourself that Man is in charge of his own fate, and that tradition is nothing more than a receptacle for that which should remain inside of us: our power to overcome and to achieve
  • learning that talent isn’t enough; that luck has something to do with it
  • succumbing to the notion that the sun doesn’t shine equally on all and that isn’t reason enough to quit…ever
  • embracing the notion that one must love the process over the product–that it’s all about how one gets to the championship moment more than the championship moment itself

No rationalization here.

Rooting for the Islanders says much about your personality and views on life.

No, it doesn’t signify that you’re a loser or accept losing as a state of being.

But it may very well have to do with how you go about defining words like “love” “respect” “fortitude” and “courage.”

You think it’s easy for guys like Matt Martin or Kyle Okposo or John Tavares to lose? Think about their hard work and how it doesn’t pay off.

Imagine if the aforementioned applied to your own life? Sound familiar maybe? A crummy job that requires your all, and even after you give it, you take home a lousy paycheck, or worse, take home a lofty one and feel just as empty.

Maybe ask yourself why players like Tavares want to stay in a place where losing is a reality that doesn’t loosen its grip.

Thank them for their efforts and feel for them when they lose. But understand that effort goes unrewarded on and off the ice all the time.

If you scorn them for their failures, then surely you’re scorning yourself somehow. Or maybe you’ll vehemently disagree, for as a paying customer you demand success and a return for your investment. Which goes back the original question: why not go elsewhere? root for someone else? why are you still here?

Just ask yourself why you love this team, or why they force you into disdain.

Whatever the case may be, these next three weeks will give you time to think about it all.

Simply put: the New York Islanders are the most human of teams as you will find in all of sports.

–RD (@RDNHL)

 

Thanks for reading…

  • Joe Powers

    You’ve made me think with this article, Rich. Upon reflection, this is what I’ve come up with. I’m sure it’s different for everybody. Thirty seven years later, this is why I stay.

    I was, am, and will remain an Islanders fan for a number of reasons. First, because I remember what it feels like to watch as a team you picked over and above every other team goes all the way and wins the big one. Not once, but four times. In a row, no less. One other franchise has ever pulled that feat off.

    Second, because I remember what it feels like to have a beloved sports team battle back from mediocrity and even worse, to pull off some highlight-inducing moments that, while not leading to more Cups, gave a beleaguered fan base something to cheer about again, if only for a moment.

    Third, because I know (at least, I think I know) what it will feel like when decades of watching and (mostly) patient waiting finally pay off, and along with however many true fans are left I share in the satisfaction of watching my team’s return to former glory. And it will happen, make no mistake about it.

    Anything worth having is worth waiting for. Sure, I could change allegiances, and probably watch another team hoist the Cup much sooner than the Isles will. I know plenty who have. So, undoubtedly, do you. But what’s the point of that? By doing so, you’re accepting a consolation prize which, at the end of the day, you didn’t really want. It’s like cheating on a crossword puzzle: sure, you filled in all the squares, but have you really accomplished anything? To carry on with this analogy, everyone around you might think you did id all by yourself, much as they might believe you really care that your new team won the Cup. But it’s tainted somehow, isn’t it? Cheering on another team feels like cheating on the Isles, admit it. Any Cup celebration by any other team is a hollow victory. To thine own self be true.

    But, let’s just say the Islanders never again in my lifetime manage to win the Cup. If that should prove to be the case, then I will go down faithful and loyal to the end. For me, it’s better to stand by my beliefs for no outwardly discernible reward than to sell out for a purely outward one.

    Maybe mine is an antiquated way of thinking. Maybe in this age of instant gratification the idea of long-term loyalty to any team that can’t bring home a championship within a few years is inconceivable. But I have a theory regarding sports fans which draws a comparison between their loyalty to their team and their ability to remain loyal to the other aspects of their lives – friends, family, spouse. It’s an unproven, unscientific theory, but nonetheless one that bears consideration.

    Long story short: being an Isles fan gives me something to look forward to, to hope for, to really want. Without that, I’m not sure I can imagine myself as a hockey fan at all.

  • Þorsteinn Halldórsson

    I second Joe´s comments here below and we did go to 5 straight cups which I believe no one has done. I am a fan that picks and sticks with his teams. But I will admit to getting tired of the non-performance our current team seems to muster nightly.

  • Andy Graziano

    I think I just spent two hours on a couch with Rich…..:p

    It’s funny. My dad is a Jets fan. I like the Dolphins. He loves the Mets. I love the Yankees. So becoming an Islanders fan because he rooted for them was not mandatory. But I did anyway. I was lucky enough to come in two years prior to the 1980 Stanley Cup and enjoy 4 straight years of domination and being top of the world.

    Although my passion for taking hockey too seriously has righted itself (I no longer throw things and not speak to anyone post-game) I still love the game and my team. And in my world, both sports and real life, that commitment and loyalty is taken very seriously.

    It’s so easy to kick someone when they are down but is it the right thing? In my mind, never. So what, we are struggling. So what, we are bottom of the league again. We will be back. And I will not have to jump back onto the bandwagon for I have been riding shotgun ever since 1978.

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  • Peter McEntee

    Great piece, and here is my attempt to answer why I am a fan:
    Being a fan wasn’t as much a choice as it was just a natural thing. I just began to like the team, and that liking escalated into a passion unmatched by any other team.
    Had I put time into choosing a team, it probably would have been, and should have been, the Rangers. Not because I liked them, or as my complex 5 year old mind thought, “Their uniform was cool.” My grandfather played on the MAHL (Metropolitan Amateur Hockey League) affiliate for the Rangers back late 40′s and early 50′s.
    However, putting that aside, I was an Islanders fan. That was my team, although for no true reason. It just was.
    Growing up, I now have countless reasons to love this team, but the main ones right now are hope and a certain man you may know, John Tavares. I’ve seen much more losing than winning in my 9 years as a fan, but with the prospect pool the team has assembled, it looks like that depressing fact will change soon. This year certainly was a blow, but it wasn’t going to stain my love for this team; nothing will.
    That’s pretty much were I stand on this team right now. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, as my dad has referred to it. But regardless, I love this team, and always will.

  • FitzWilly

    Nice read Rich
    very thought provoking :)
    Mine is a simple story, Al Arbor is from my hometown, Sudbury, Ontario
    and there you have it
    Plus i was a big fan of Clark Gillies, Bob Nystrom and of course my fav Islander of all time Battlin Billy Smith
    then we started winning Stanley Cups, and the rest is history
    Good or bad, real fans stand by there team
    Also I thank my lucky stars every day that I’m not a Leafs Fan, they are just idiots :)

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  • Danfromouteast

    Whether or not the Islanders get prospects I think the season is lost due to the fact that even if the Islanders start doing really well they have to hope that other teams like Philly go on long losing streaks not to add that JT now may have to bond with another line mate like he has to do, and does year in and year out. I think it’s about time the rebuild story fans have been force fed for what it seems like has been for twenty years or so and start putting a better product on the ice not just for the fans but for the players that put their heart and soul into this team and resigned with the belief that the owner will do his part. At times I feel Snow has his hands tied due to a completely ignorant owner, who by the way I believe should sell the team. Coaching to me is subpar as well there are times even when they win they seem lost out on the ice and the special teams is atrocious that falls in the hands of the coach/es. I will always be an Islander fan and like any other Islanders fan fell we have the right to express ourselves especially when the owner hides in the shadows as HIS team consistently occupies the basement or at least lower levels of teams. The once proud franchise where at one point in time any player would have given anything to play on has become a joke and that my fellow fans falls solely on the owner. You should be ashamed Wang. PLEASE SELL THE TEAM