John Keats Helps Explain Sports and the New York Islanders


Before the season officially begins, take a moment to organize thought and allocate emotion. Consider potentiality and compare it to reality.

Weigh this team’s determination to improve. Ask to what degree their restlessness becomes proficiency; their struggles become success.

In this world of instant gratification, with sports embodying capitalism run amuck, ponder the importance of cultivating talent. Love the process not the product, per say.

Quell your need to see a championship and rejoice in the talent that is now apparent. See this team, this entire organization, as the response to others who spend millions and do nothing.

Winning isn’t the only thing. Winning is simply a means of taking a breath, nothing more than a euphemism, really.

No one victory lasts a lifetime. Like most grandiose ideas, it is misleading. And like most other preconceived notions, leaves one with as much doubt and uncertainty as loss, if not more so, since victory, being rare, inspires anxiety, as the fear of it leaving becomes the overriding factor.

But sports. Think about the following for a moment:

  • If you harken for days-gone-by when the same players return to the same team, year in and year out, then be patient with the team you have now.
  • If you are tired of seeing them lose, then look for the small victories, and worry not what others say or do. Be patient.
  • If you want to see a championship, ask yourself why? And if and when it does happen, what will you do next? What will you feel next? Will five championships satisfy you? Be temperate.

Love the game.

Love the man who arrives to the NHL as a boy and before our eyes becomes a man, then a star, then a legend, then a ‘man’ once again, then a memory, and then a statistic. Then, perhaps, forgotten. Such is life in general.

When seeing Ken Morrow at the Barclays Center last week, having the opportunity to say: “Thank you for making my childhood that much more meaningful,” then shake his hand, have him feel that genuine appreciation, elevates the meaning of sports to the level of a sacred institution, much like anything else of that vain.

When someone, anyone helps to elucidate the more exceptional qualities of our human condition, doing whatever it is that they’re doing, attention and gratitude should be paid.

Hockey and sports will not cure cancer. Stanley cups should not give meaning to a fan’s life. But all the aforementioned makes living the every day tolerable. That is why sports exists today.

The New York Islanders are just a team, but they are also a metaphor.

Smirk if you must, and insert all the quips you may like, but the team and its lack of success this past decade or so, very much reflects the realities of my own ‘human’ condition. Their failure has only emboldened me to continue supporting them. Why? Past glories? Not necessarily.

Why does any team have fans to begin with? Because in their struggle, their rendition of their struggle to be exact, is reflected a familiarity. It is why, for example, (however feeble) most Isles fans also follow the Jets and Mets, and why most Rangers fans are usually keen on the Giants and Yankees.

There’s no judging one for the other; one group of fans doesn’t belong to the more affluent and the other to the blue-collar. Those are words used by the very system that is destroying sports in general, and only leads to more divisiveness.

Teams are supported for the same reason one person likes the color blue over red. It’s what inspires them. It’s what’s passed down from father to son. Mother to daughter. Grandparent to grandchild. Friend to friend.

Fandom being what it is, such thoughts are lost in the shuffle. But let us never forget that watching the winning and losing is what really matters. Not just the winning. Would you watch a team, or a sport for that matter, if the same thing happened every year, every month, every day? Imagine if your team won it all every single season? Where’s the catharsis in that?

Before leaving Barclays, I looked back and saw Morrow, this tall, brooding, kind man standing around alone in the GEICO Atrium. I also noticed the security guard standing close by, and asked myself whether or not she knew the identity of the person pacing back and forth near her?

If she saw or remembered or had even heard about his gold medal victory in 1980–an event that helped unite this country and most of the Western world during a most divisive and depressing time in its modern history? Obviously, it’s all interpretation and for all the speculation, she might have been aware, or Morrow not concerned with all that.

The point is that with the rush for perfection and championships, the people who make it all happen are forgotten, as they become objects instead of subjects. Vehicles for our vicarious fantasies.

Perhaps this is why some athletes get into trouble. Could it be that they live out those same vicarious fantasies, ingest all of what we bring to sports, all the fandom, all the rage, greed, etc. and thus, fail to see the humanity of their game; the humanness of the game; the ability to make millions overshadowing the ability to ‘positively’ effect millions.

Which brings me to something that’s been keeping me up tonight. Something read during a critical moment in my life.

Junior year in High School. John Keats. Negative capability. Then I knew that it was okay to be me. To lose. To win. To lose again. To maybe never win again. But to embrace the process and never the product. The process of becoming humane.

"Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—[…] from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration."

Thanks for reading.

And thank you NHL for putting the lockout behind us.

Don’t do it again.