On Saturday, Ben Scrivens lost his temper.
This time, because a frustrated Edmonton Oilers fan tossed a jersey onto the ice while his team was in the midst of an embarrassing loss.
The Oilers goaltender and friend of the blog was so upset about it that he picked up the discarded sweater with his stick and launched it back into the crowd.
It was a remarkable display of defiance on both sides. The fan — the paying customer — disrespected the idol, and the idol hit back.
But it raises an interesting question: should a fan’s support for a team be conditional?
After Saturday’s loss, an 8-1 whipping at the hands of the Calgary Flames, Scrivens explained his actions thusly:
“You pay your money. You get to do whatever you want,” he said. “You want to boo me? Go for it. You want to jeer me? Call me every name. You’re entitled to that. You can spit on me for all I care if I deserve it.
“But when I see a jersey thrown out on the ice … You’re not just disrespecting guys in the room, you’re disrespecting guys who wore this jersey before us … the Messiers, the Gretzkys. They all take pride in wearing that jersey.”
It’s exactly the reaction one should expect of him. Scrivens is open to taking his share of the blame while also attempting to protect the integrity of the brand he represents. He’s also not going to bite the hand that feeds him.
Except it’s not the players on the ice or the franchise’s glory days the fan was making a statement about. It was the guys in the luxury suites — the Lowes, the MacTavishs. All those who had a part in running the team into the ground over the past eight seasons.
The Oilers have been eliminated from playoff contention once again. Edmonton hasn’t smelled the post-season since losing Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Eight years. That amount of failure falls on management, not the pieces they put in play.
For those who have put in huge amounts of time and money into a losing team, how many years of futility does it take before they reach the end of their thread? How long before they sour on the return on investment?
You can’t put a price on loyalty, but you can put a price on that jersey. And tickets. And parking. And concessions.
Sports are supposed to be a distraction from mundaneness of everyday life. But what sometimes gets lost is that it’s a business. Despite the pride and excitement you get out of supporting a team, that franchise’s ultimate goal is to get your money. To them, you are a customer.
When a customer is unhappy with the product, how can they send a message to the company?
You can stop spending your money on a bad product. This might work in a place where the demand is low, but not in a hockey-mad city like Edmonton. Once you pull your money out there’s a lineup of fans waiting to fill the void. It doesn’t send a message. All you do is save dollars.
So what’s a disheartened fan to do? How can they have their voice heard?
Throwing a jersey on the ice is one way — not the only way, true, but one way — to get attention as proven by the number of stories written about Saturday’s events.
It shows disdain, dissatisfaction and disrespect. Scrivens is right. It’s embarrassing for the team. But it’s supposed to be. The point of a protest is to grab as much attention as possible.
You can love your team and be critical of it, too.
Or is loyalty, even in the worst of times, worth every penny and disappointment?