Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fear and Retribution on the Red River

By: Mike "BCMike" Fraser
Edited By: Mike "The Deuce" Bailey

Passion is a word that gets thrown around a lot in Jets land. Passion is a funny thing, when it’s controlled it can drive the engine of the team and personify itself as the seventh man on the ice. When it’s out of control it can burn everyone in its wake and leave behind a charred wreckage of disdain and mistrust. Unfortunately passion leapt out of the boundaries of control last week and as this week begins we’re left to sift through the debris.

As we all know the Jets are slumping. In a lot of towns the mid season slump is a pretty common occurrence. The Jets are a young club that are only one or two pieces away from being a contender, but when injuries hit they can take a heavy toll. This team generally lacks depth up front so responsibility for at least some of the offence falls back to blue line. During the month of January at any given time at least two top four defenseman have been out and at least one of the top three forwards. The result has been a mirror image of December that has seen the Jets lose far more games than they’ve won.

Uneasiness descended on the faithful in January, and anxious trade talk started to filter through the fan forums. Jets fans had battled naysayers for fifteen years, but recently the packed MTSC and a winning young team had given them more than enough ammunition to silence the critics. Now jilted voices from Atlanta began to taunt them with suggestions of repeating last year’s mid season nose dive out of playoff contention and the worst of all insults: that the new Winnipeg Jets where just the Atlanta Thrashers re-packaged.

Frustration mounted with the losses, and the sweet passion that had been so neatly bottled up and put on display at the MTSC was turning sour and spilling out into accusations of bad coaching and lacklustre effort from players. In short, people where looking for someone to blame. It’s during these times, when a group of people are at the zenith of their misfortune that they become the most susceptible to group think and mob mentality. And so enter the axe grinders.

Coincidentally, just as the team began their unfortunate slide in the month of January a strange rumour started to circulate regarding the off-ice habits of the team’s young star Evander Kane. Kane had often been accused of not putting forth his best effort every night, and indeed he projected an odd arrogance, but now things started to turn strange. You can always spot rumours because they are always different stories with the same theme.  All of these rumours where a variation of the young star going to either a night spot or a restaurant and not paying his tab. Sometimes the story teller would add a bit of embellishment with a thrown glass or a bar room brawl just to spice things up a bit. In the beginning these accusations where easily dismissed and the stories of “my sisters, friends, brothers, cousin” where brushed aside and indentified for what they were; BS. However as the team slipped down the standings and people looked for a target, the rumours stubbornly persisted.

And now we come to the dark crescendo of our bitter tale. Two things happened simultaneously; Kane started to miss games with an undiagnosed concussion from a previous game and a fake fan posted a picture on Twitter of a sign he supposedly carried to a game asking Kane to pay his bills on behalf of the servers and restauranteurs of Winnipeg.  Kane, already being backhandedly accused of needlessly missing games by some, did the stupidest thing possible when confronted with this picture; he responded.  Not only did it broadcast the picture to more people than it should have, but it gave the whole sordid affair a nugget of credibility that the axe grinders and naysayers grabbed onto and rode through multiple press stories and blog postings. It basically gave the nutbars a platform and even the most moderate of Jets fans began to wonder if the young star was worth the controversy he was creating.

The light of day dispelled these rumours because obviously people that make seven figure salaries are not inclined to do the dine and dash. With this new realization the mob did what mobs do, they went on a witch hunt and began to lynch people from the highest virtual tree they could find. Face book pages were ransacked and threats of cruelty to axe grinders and nut jobs abounded. The pendulum had swung wildly in a different direction as fans came to the defence of their star player.

At the end of the day as we make our way through the rubble we can trace the Twitter incident back to an obviously disgruntled person who, if you sort through his history of tweets, may have had racial motivations for his libellous activities, and of course those looking for a frustration release valve hopped on board his misguided band wagon. And so our story comes to this dark and dreary dead end of mistrust and retribution, with the nut bars called out and the record set straight.

Now as the month starts to wind down we find ourselves licking our wounds both on and off the ice. The Jets have seen some key players return to the line up, and their game, although not producing winning results, seems much improved. Evander Kane is still out of action and no doubt wondering why the shouts of adoration at the MTSC have turned into libel on Twitter and the fans are still very much in the woods looking for reasons why their Jets can’t crack the top eight. January has been a very bad month in Jets nation, but it’s nothing that a little winning won’t cure.

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