I love sports. March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. I celebrated my 25th birthday at Yankee Stadium. And I love Sunday afternoons spent watching my beloved Buffalo Bills.
Although there are several sports teams that I love beyond reason, there’s only one that holds the top spot in my heart. And that’s the Buffalo Sabres, whose regular season happens to start tonight.
Hockey is a passionate game that inspires passion from its fans. And I’ve never been as passionate about another sports team as I’ve been about the Sabres. I’ve cried more tears over them than I have over any TV show or fictional character. I’ve spent more money on them than I’ve spent on probably all of my other fandoms combined. Being a Sabres fan led me to start my first blog, so I give them credit for being the first to really get me out of lurking around fandoms and into becoming an active participant. The Sabres taught me about communities of fans, families of blog commenters, and the importance of the connections we make with others based on the things we love.
Being a Sabres fan is a way of life in Buffalo, and loving that team has helped strengthen my relationships with family members and friends, as well as the relationship I have with the city I call home. I have so many fond memories of going to playoff games with my best friend, my sister, and my dad. And I also have fond memories of talking to my mom about past and present teams and players, learning about how fandoms can be passed from parent to child (and learning that women can be just as passionate about sports as men).
Despite the communal experience of being a sports fan, my love for the Sabres has always been deeply personal—at least since I was a freshman in college. We all have those fandoms that come along exactly when we need them, and that’s what the Sabres were for me. I struggled a lot with the transition from high school to college. I was lonely and anxious and filled with self-doubt. But the Sabres—who were in the middle of a very successful season that brought joy to our whole city—were a genuine source of happiness for me. I watched their games that season and felt like I was a part of something special, which I really needed at the time.
To make a long story short, the Sabres reminded me to never give up. On a May night in 2007, I sat in a sold-out arena and watched them send a playoff game to overtime with only 7.7 seconds left and then eventually win that game. There was something so magical about that moment, hugging strangers and crying happy tears and feeling like my entire city was bursting with pride. And it was all because the team didn’t give up in the face of adversity. That was a huge moment for the team, and it was a huge moment for me. It was the kind of optimistic moment I needed—a reminder that sometimes good things do happen, so you can’t ever stop hoping they will.
That’s what I’ve learned from being a Sabres fan: You can’t ever give up; you can’t lose faith just because things seem like they’re not going well. So even though this season might disappoint us again, and even though we’ve still never won a Stanley Cup, I can’t give up on them. They’re my team. They were there for me when I hit a rough patch, and I want to still be there as a fan even when they’re struggling. I’m forever grateful for the happiness and hope they gave me when I really needed those things, and I’ve learned that those are the best things to be a fan of—the things that make you feel hopeful and happy. Sports teams, TV shows, and anything else you can be a fan of will break your heart sometimes—that’s part of the deal. But the even the smallest moments of pure joy are worth all of those little heartbreaks in the end.
For those of you who are sports fans, tell me about your favorite team. And even if you don’t have a team, tell me about a fandom that was there for you when you needed it.