Jack Kukoda is the comedian responsible for, among other things, the very funny website Kukoda.com . He's also a Buffalo Sabres fan, something I stopped holding against him the moment he got the hockey package and started inviting me over to watch Hockey Night in Canada on his roommate's HDTV.
At one point, we talked about how AHF contributor Jen was a new Buffalo fan, and how it might be a good idea to provide a little backstory from a longtime Sabres follower. A lightning-quick 3 months later, he came through like a champ.
How To Be a Buffalo Sabres Fan
By Jack Kukoda
I know, I know. It’s a little late in the season to give anyone advice on how to be a Sabres fan, especially with the Sabres in first place in the NHL. But before you go calling me a front-runner or a bandwagon jumper, I should point out that Ritch asked me to write this column months ago. Due to a combination of being busy and just an overall desire to be a prick to Ritch, I didn’t get a chance to tackle it until now. Besides, I wouldn’t be a true Buffalo fan if I weren’t just a little bit of a front-runner.
There are two hallmarks to every true Sabres fan: unbridled, irrational optimism matched only by devastating, irrational pessimism. These are the yin and yang of the Buffalo fan, existing simultaneously and in harmony with each other, yet locked in a constant struggle for superiority. The Buffalo sports fan is perhaps the most bi-polar of any fan out there, and like anyone suffering a chemical imbalance; their emotions can turn on a dime.
When things are going well for our team, you’ll know about it. We’ll travel to your team’s arena and make drunken asses of ourselves. We’ll call up sports radio shows to proclaim the Sabres’ dominance, with nary a question or comment for the host! We’ll record a new version of the song “We’re Gonna Win That Cup” every few years, despite only making it to the Stanley Cup Finals twice in franchise history. We’ll do all that and more.
But when things go wrong for the Sabres-such as the prospect of losing our captain for the season-we’ll sulk, proclaim the season lost, and blame God, the national sports media and Canadian-born referees. Sometimes a combination of all three. And yes, most Sabres fans believe Canadians are out to screw us at every turn. Same goes for Bettman.
I'll grant you that fans of all teams are full of enthusiasm when things are going well and hopelessly depressed when they aren't, but what separates the Buffalo fan is the absolute extremes.
Perhaps the following anecdote will illustrate my point:
The last time the Sabres went to the Stanley Cup Finals, back in ‘99, I camped out at the arena overnight with a bunch of friends to try and get tickets. We were all home from college for the summer, and with no real responsibilities besides our shitty summer jobs, we threw a party for every playoff game.
As soon as the Sabres eliminated the Maple Leafs in the Conference Finals, we rushed down to the arena. We even brought the pony keg with us that we had bought for that night’s game. By the time we got downtown, there were already a couple hundred fans camped out. Everyone was celebrating and drinking so we joined right in.
I distinctly remember a palpable spirit of camaraderie among the crowd as total strangers shared food and beer all night. It was like a Phish concert, if Phish concerts didn’t totally suck. When the ticket booth finally opened in the morning, everyone started chanting “Let’s Go Buff-a-lo” as we formed an orderly line.
When they sold out of tickets after about fifteen minutes, the parking lot nearly erupted in a riot. Within seconds, our collective mood had changed. Fans started pelting the ticket booth with meatball subs, 2 liter bottles of “pop,” which is what we call soda in Buffalo, and other garbage. The police, who had ignored us all night while we drank from a keg on the sidewalk in the middle of downtown Buffalo, started inching closer to the crowd. Our Woodstock had become an Altamont. Just when I thought we had reached the nadir of our collective savagery, two shirtless, mustachioed-men starting fighting each other in the middle of the line. After that, the police broke things up and everyone went home, dejected and angry.
Suddenly, we hated the Sabres, or at least their management, for getting our hopes up only to smash them by only releasing a limited number of tickets at the box office. We found out later that the Sabres had in fact released quite a few tickets, just not at the box office, and we would have had better luck calling up Ticketmaster that morning or going to ticket outlet at a grocery store. But that didn’t make us feel much better, because for a drunken and sleep-deprived hockey fan, there is little solace in logic.
Perhaps that wasn’t the best story to tell, especially since I had hoped to use this column to debunk recent perceptions of Sabres fans as a drunken louts.
In truth, most of us are erudite, well mannered, and in my case, possess abs that most men would kill for.
I’ll try to make that clearer next time.
For a first hand look at the psyche of the Sabres fan, check out bfloblog, especially the open threads during the games. It's like watching the game with a bunch of funny, knowledgeable, smartass hockey fans from Buffalo. And if that doesn't sound like fun to you, then you're goddamn communist.