Over the past couple days we've heard a lot of people get really upset about how other fans have "turned on the Pittsburgh Penguins." We've heard Sidney Crosby say that "this is when you lean on your fans the most." We've seen people throw around the "you're not a real fan" card far too often.
We've been attacked for not giving enough support to the team as well.
We love the Pittsburgh Penguins, just like pretty much everyone who reads this blog. Penguins fans watch the games on TV, they spend money on tickets and jerseys, they read blogs and Twitter feeds about the Penguins, they argue with fans of other teams about who is better and so on and so on. Anyone who gives hours of their life to following a hockey team is a "real fan" regardless of how they act or what anyone else thinks of them.
That doesn't mean fans have to be blindly loyal.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost hockey games before. They've been eliminated from the playoffs before. They been blown out by rivals before. All of this has happened many times before. As a fan of a sports team, you can't possibly expect to see your favorite team win all the time.
But it's also unreasonable to insist that all fans cheer every single thing a team does at all times, regardless of what it is.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been embarrassing at times during these playoffs and that has nothing to do with the scoreboard. Their actions during game three were tough to watch. They didn't seem anything like the Pittsburgh Penguins that we've loved for years. Watching them resort to cross checks and charges and brawling because they were losing a hockey game is sad.
"When you have stars like we do here, you’re always going to have some criticism."
-- James Neal
Right now the Pittsburgh Penguins aren't being criticized for "having too many stars." They're being criticized for playing like spoiled children. Think of the Vancouver Canucks and why you dislike them. Think of why the Flyers have angered you so much over the years. Think of the Islanders last year. That's why people are criticizing the Penguins and some of that criticism is coming from their own fans.
"We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action."
-- Mario Lemieux in February 2011
If the Penguins lose a close game where they play hard but they're simply outplayed, we'll cheer them on the entire time. But it's tough to be proud of a team that turns into petulant children then minute they're faced with adversity. Think about all of the years we've all spent mocking the Philadelphia Flyers for doing the exact same thing. Think of all of the arguments you've gotten into defending the Penguins when someone called them "whiners" or "babies" or "arrogant." Their recent actions have done nothing more than prove their critics right.
So we're not very proud of them right now.
But that doesn't mean we're not fans. We haven't thrown in the towel or turned our backs on anyone. If the Pittsburgh Penguins play the hardworking, tough, skilled game that we all love tonight, we'll cheer them on the entire way, whether they win or lose. Being told that you're great all the time no matter what you do just leads to you becoming full of yourself.
"Ten days ago people were talking about us being the best team," Dupuis said. "It`s hard not to listen."
We still want the Pittsburgh Penguins to win this series and we hope that they win the Stanley Cup. We still want the Philadelphia Flyers to lose. We still believe that Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Marc-Andre Fleury and others are excellent players. If anything, we're upset because we know how great these players can be and we're not seeing it.
We've often said that you can't tell someone how to be a fan. You cheer for whoever you want to cheer for and you do so for whatever reasons you feel like. There's no "right" and "wrong" way. Criticizing someone isn't "turning your back on them." Cheering someone through thick and thin isn't wrong either. You do whatever you feel like.
Go Pens. See you at center ice.