Multiple Juno award winners Tegan and Sara have only been booed once in their careers — "...at the Winnipeg Folk Festival."
Justin Bieber didn’t even attend the Junos Sunday night and was booed heartily after winning his fourth Fan Choice Award. Hockey parents now have to take an online course to learn about sportsmanship in this province and last week, Bryan Little of the Jets remarked how Winnipeg is distinguished by its negativity.
In case you missed his remarks, at the height of the "Baby-gate" scandal last week, he said, "We were joking around before that only in Winnipeg someone would say negative comments about the birth of a child. Then I heard someone actually did. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not."
That is either one hell of a condemnation of the sporting environment here in Winnipeg, or someone is using the media and fans as the fall guys for a season of frustration.
There is no argument this city is obsessed with its hockey and football teams. We’ve sold out every game since the Jets returned, we follow them all over North America and in spite of winning nine games in the last two seasons, the Bombers broke a record, selling more than 25,000 season tickets last year. Yet is it possible we are so passionate about our local teams we are adversely affecting the outcomes? Maybe the late, great, comedian Chris Farley can provide us with an analogy of how loving something too much can ultimately lead to its demise, as he explains his failures as a salesman in the movie Tommy Boy:
"Let’s say I go into some guy’s office, let’s say he’s even remotely interested in buying something. Well then I get all excited, I’m like JoJo the idiot circus boy with a pretty new pet. The pet is my possible sale. Oh my pretty little pet. I love you! So I stroke it, and I pet it, I massage it, I love it, I love my little naughty pet, you’re naughty! Then I take my naughty pet and I go, (crushes dinner roll) ‘Oh I killed it, I killed my sale!’ "
Could that be it? Could we, the media and the fans that follow and opine over every imaginable detail we can get our hands on, be killing our own sports teams? Are we "JoJo the idiot circus boy" that loves our teams so much we smother them and crush them with our own enthusiasm?
I never believed in this theory, but when a player suggests as a city we stand out because of our negativity, it’s worth examining. From the football end of things, for years we’ve heard coaching regimes and players have been run out of town because of the fans and media and maybe it’s partially true.
Yet isn’t that a hell of a lot better than the alternative — apathy and indifference?
As I’ve witnessed during my tenure in pro football, when a lot of athletes fail, they rarely come to terms with their own culpability, and lash out and redirect their frustration at their immediate environment (fans & media). It is much easier to blame others than accept responsibility for under-performing. Yet when the same athletes succeed and are victorious, they are the first to bask in the sunlight and adoration shined on them by these very same groups. If you embrace the sweetness from these factions when you are winning, don’t be taken aback when the sour punches you in the mouth.
The one thing I’ve come to learn about passionate sporting fans is they only get mad because they care. Anger and negativity are expressions only worth displaying about things you have an interest in. Even the Jet that has been most scrutinized this season, Ondrej Pavelec, confirmed this reality with Gary Lawless when he remarked, "The people care. That’s why the media is always here. That’s a good thing. In Atlanta, nobody cared."
During seasons of riches on the Blue Bombers, I’ve never seen a media so complimentary of our prowess and a fan base so euphoric over our successes. I’ve also been on teams that broke records for futility and incompetence, and watched fans don paper bags while the local scribes chewed us up and spit us out. The only truth that emerged from it all was that the rewards for success and achievement were far greater than any of the negatives we experienced. When you win, and win consistently in this town, there is simply no better environment for a professional athlete to be in.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.