A little over a year ago, the Islanders were a tire fire. Now someone is probably setting one in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot.
That's the next step, right? It's gotta be. Sometime between now and Saturday's Game 6 between the Islanders and Capitals, some dope or group of dopes will try to out-dope the dopes that have doped their way into getting all the attention this series.
Like the ones who harassed Caps fans for having the gall to support their team on the road, a sin so unforgivable that any form of torture is permissible regardless of the Geneva Conventions. Or the scavengers who stole seats from Nassau Coliseum, which were replaced by folding chairs long enough for photos to be taken and jokes to be made before some killjoy came along and installed real upgrades. Or like the strong-armed fan who served Brooks Orpik a beer he didn't order directly into the side of his head on Tuesday night, after the Caps won Game 4 in overtime.
Asked Alex Ovechkin about closing Nassau Coliseum: 'It's our job, you know?. ... I'm going to probably take a chair.' #CapitalsTalk— Chuck Gormley (@ChuckGormleyCSN) April 24, 2015
In other words, with the Flyers out of the playoffs, Long Island is taking on the role of "New Philadelphia." The only things missing are Michael Irvin on a stretcher and Santa Claus.
These have been the stories of the Islanders in these playoffs. Until Tom Wilson's bone-crunching hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4, you'd be hard-pressed to even know a series was being played between hockey teams and not just between the seats and cars. No one cares that after many long years, the "eternal rebuild" is ready to finally roll out of the showroom and hit the streets. Even the nostalgia pieces about the final season at the Coliseum (which themselves were becoming homogenized into similar-sounding songs and dances) have been overtaken by reports of roving packs of delinquents living out some childish craving to be the baddest asses on the block.
Which, for many of us, goes beyond unfortunate and into ironic. We've waited and wept for too long for the Islanders to have a season this good only to have the spotlight hijacked by idiotic actions off the ice. Instead of being pissed off at a Caps fan for waving a towel, be pissed off at any Hockey Fan Homophobes from Hempstead for undermining any respect the Islanders may have finally started to earn.
That's the way it was
Society has unfortunately come to accept a level of stupidity in the name of sports fandom because "That's the way it is" or "It's always been like this" or "They deserved it" or "Rangers fans are worse" or other excuses.
The problem with "That's the way it is" is that it works every which way. As with most things Long Island, there needs to be a reminder that the 1970's are over. Fans taking to social media to vent frustrations over harassment aren't "pussies" who "need to grow a pair." They're just people. Who paid for a ticket just like you did. To watch their team just like you did.
All it takes is one Vine, one Tweet, one captured moment to stereotype an entire fanbase in a minute. You can "Not All Islanders Fans" all you want but it won't matter. It doesn't have to be all of them. One or two is all it takes. One headline is all it takes. The bad apples are the bunch. That's the way it is in 2015.
The real answer is to demand better of ourselves the way we constantly and almost irrationally demand better of the teams we're ostensibly together to enjoy. We shouldn't let it slide, as the Islanders essentially did in their half-assed, horseshit "response" to the car keying and abuse reports.
You know you're in the wrong when Senators owner Eugene Melynk, proud owner of Canada's tightest wallet, trumps you in making amends to upset fans. Better still, get in front of potential problems, as the Flames did in trying to stop harassment along Calgary's Red Mile.
And we can all start on Saturday. If Game 6 ends up being the Islanders' final home game at the Coliseum, don't let it go out in a final blaze of societal embarrassment. Don't make its finale a punchline that will stick with Long Islanders forever. Don't make the Nassau PD in attendance work any harder to protect the "crown jewel" their county has failed to over the years.
The longer I think about it, the more depressed I get. Maybe they'll be a day when the lowest common denominator doesn't dictate how things go for the rest of us who are smart enough to know better.
My childish craving is that the Islanders are still a playoff team when it happens.