The 68th in our 118-part series.
Obviously the primary focus of fandom is wanting to see your own team win. You invest your time, your money and your emotional well-being in following the fortunes of your favorite organization, and in return you’d really like to see a championship. Or a playoff appearance. Or an indication, at least, that those things might be not too far off on the horizon. Or the first-overall draft pick. Or, well, something. But a lot of the time things just don’t play out that way for us as fans. It’s not unusual to find just small satisfaction from your team, and some terrible years you find yourself with nothing to cheer about at all, other than maybe the promise of your lousy GM getting fired in a fireworks-filled off-season. In such situations the wise hockey fan finds themselves falling back on the secondary focus of fandom: deriving boundless joy from the suffering of another team and their fanbase.
We personally have our own measure of success in playoff years that fail to see the Devils win the Cup: as long as we lasted longer than the Flyers and Rangers, it’s all good. If the Devils are going to go out in the first round, we want them to at least hang on one game longer than the two teams we most love to see lose. During the regular season, if it’s a slow night of random games on Center Ice, we’ll eagerly flip from whatever game we may have been watching if we hear during an out-of-town scoreboard update that the Rangers are getting shellacked, because it warms the cockles of our cold, dark hearts to watch them lose.
Of course, our mean-spirited glee at the misfortune of other teams is hardly limited to the Devils’ immediate rivals. Naturally, we revel in the failure of teams that beat ours in the playoffs (we have never enjoyed a more fitting flame-out in the Stanley Cup Final than the one that befell the Senators this Spring, and derived a special kind of enjoyment from that brutal, hilarious Cup-winning goal), and teams that beat ours in the playoffs many years ago (it brings a tear of happiness for how the Avalanche failed to nail down that 8-seed in April), but we also love the failure of highly-touted (read: “overhyped”) non-Devils players, and even coaches and GMs. It surprises us sometimes how petty we can be, and how much satisfaction we get from following the narratives of woe being spun by teams that aren’t the Devils, but after all these years of fandom, it’s just something we’ve learned to embrace. 29 teams go home losers every Spring, so statistically speaking, we’re much more likely to end the season on a happy note if we’re loving watching someone else fail.