The Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers is two games old and about to shift to Manhattan for Games 3 and 4. The Rangers are the hot sports topic right now and have captured the attention of pretty much every man, woman and impressionable child in the city.
For Islanders fans living near New York City, that means a particular annoyance is about to reach a fever pitch. It's extremely common for new and casual fans unaccustomed and unaware of the rivals' history of violence to ask any Islanders fans they know if they are, "rooting for New York" and cheering on their team's closest and most bitter enemy. This, of course, is madness.
I've been a broken record about this on Twitter since the Rangers clinched the Prince of Wales trophy.
An alarming number of people in my office are having trouble understanding why an #Isles fan would root against the Rangers. (1/2)— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) May 29, 2014
I want to find whoever started the "But don't you cheer for New York?" theory and karate chop them in the throat forever. (2/2)— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) May 29, 2014
The people referenced in that first tweet are co-workers in my relatively small office and are very nice, intelligent folks that were, most likely, just making conversation with one of our two vocal hockey fans (the other one is a friend of mine and former Whalers fan who now follows the Red Wings). Not everyone spends their day and their life surrounded by sports, sports fans and sports writing. But you don't have to get it. Only two colleagues - my Mets fan boss and a Yankees fan IT guy - understood completely where I was coming from when I said, "Hell no, I'm not rooting for the Rangers."
After a week, it hadn't let up, and I was still trying to explain that the Islanders and Rangers were two separate franchises, regardless of where they pay their taxes (or, in Madison Square Garden's case, don't pay their taxes).
For the record, my first, "You're not rooting for New York?" of the week came at 9:58 this morning. Gonna be a great final.— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) June 2, 2014
Now, this morning comes a story from LHH poster DoubleG22, who recounts the harrowing tale of meeting another Islanders fan in a bar who was "rooting for New York." Like DoubleG22, I'm not sure what I would say that person, either, since nearly every synapse in my brain would be firing at once.
If you've experienced this phenomenon, know you are not alone.
When I wrote about the Islanders fisherman jersey fiasco, one of the conclusions I came to was that there is a difference between civic pride and sports pride. My exasperation of the "rooting for New York" inquisition is based on this principal. Yes, I am a New Yorker, but always tell people I am a Long Islander. No, I'm not rooting for the Rangers, despite working and at one time living in and around New York City.
For what it's worth, if a hypothetical Islanders squad were to hypothetically make the Stanley Cup final (hypothetically speaking, of course), I doubt many of the Long Island-based Rangers fans would be pulling for the blue and orange. And honestly, I wouldn't expect them to.
When a league you've followed all season gets down to four or two teams, it's natural to consciously or subconsciously pull for one team over another. I'm sure there are Islanders fans who genuinely enjoy or respect the Rangers and wouldn't mind if they won, just as I'm sure a good portion of the state of California wants the Kings to crash and burn. The possibilities are endless. That's the beauty of sport.
But standing around a water cooler trying to explain, "I don't like these guys because I just don't" can be exhausting. This is a primal emotional response that is often tied to a lifetime's worth of built-up hatred, personal history and anxiety. It's like explaining why water is wet.
Have you had a "Aren't you rooting for New York?" moment or, god forbid, moments throughout the playoffs or final? If so, let's hear about them in the comments. Please stay on the topic and make sure your story has a "rooting for New York" reference or a comparable one.
Together, we can get through this.