It's far easier to write game recaps and write about the team when they're being successful, or at least having some ups and down. It's not as easy when the losses begin to mount. But there's a very different reason why, for the last couple of weeks, I've had a hard time sitting down and adding content here at WaP.
Saturday, after the Engineers fell for the 8th time in a row, I politely listened as a gentleman I don't know but who apparently knew who I was talked my ear off for a good 10 minutes about how much the Institute needed to can Seth Appert. I listened and nodded to be polite but it really was just putting me in a worse and worse place the longer I listened to it.
It was then that I came to the full realization that the only thing worse than having to watch our team lose game after game is to hear people whining and complaining about the team losing game after game - and that this was really the exclusive reason why all of this has been a lot less fun lately.
For years now, both in cyberspace and in the arenas of the ECAC, especially Houston Field House, it's hard to get away from the constant moaning by armchair athletic directors who have the perfect solutions for all of the team's ills. They know exactly why the team struggles and they know how to fix it. They've got rationales for every minor event that happens.
(Oddly, they were seldom heard from in 2010 and 2011, and again were rather silent during the 2012-13 season, up until the end.)
It came to a serious head over the weekend, when conspiracy theories and wild speculation ran rampant over the suspension of the team's four captains for the Miami series.
Once more, there were people who seemed to know exactly what was going on and what it meant for the team. Clearly, one tweeter told WaP, there was some kind of player revolt against the coaching staff and the captains were being punished for it. The gentleman I met at the game on Saturday insisted that the suspensions were proof that Appert had lost control of the team.
On top of this, WaP had a Union fan hurling tweets our way accusing us of some kind of double standard, since we'd dared to mention that something smelled funny at Union when they hit some of their upperclassmen with suspensions. Of course, there's a big difference between being asked if there was a legal matter involved and saying "no comment" like Rick Bennett, or being able to flatly deny it like Seth Appert did this past weekend.
Since we don't know exactly why the suspensions happened, accusations like these are basically just ways for people who already hate the coaches to fuel their own agenda. The suspensions are over, and no one left the team over the incident, but that's not going to diminish the shouting at all.
I've long been hesitant to level criticism against the coaching staff in part because the hysterical, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Appert crowd has for so long been so over the top that any rational, even-handed criticism will ultimately come off looking either weak or pseudo-sycophantic.
That's because it hasn't just been directed at one person. I've seen people try to blame the athletic trainers for the team's rash of injuries. I've seen gripes leveled at the assistant coaches, whose precise areas of expertise aren't well known outside of what has been passively mentioned in interviews, whose sole fault it is that certain parts of the Engineers' game aren't perfect. I've even seen those who for some odd reason save a special level of vitriol for the athletic director (who's apparently so awful and bad at his job that he's leaving to take a job offered to him at a Division I school).
Long ago, before I was even a student at RPI, I followed the RPISPORT-L discussion listserv, but I abandoned that not too long into my tenure at the Institute because it eventually degraded into a complete cesspool of people lashing out at Dan Fridgen, his staff, and worst of all, student-athletes themselves. I tried joining up again a few years back to see if anything had changed - it hadn't. RPI threads on the USCHO Fan Forum seem to have devolved into a similar mess in recent years.
I can deal with losing streaks. I can even find ways to endure them with at least a fake smile on my face. If you're following WaP on Twitter (and if you're not... why not?), you've seen that our band of loyal twits have even been willing to poke fun at the team's struggles from time to time. It doesn't mean we want the team to fail, it means we're trying to continue deriving enjoyment from something we all love. But now, we're starting to see some folks practically rooting for failure, just to buttress their own positions on things that need to change.
Watching and covering this team on the radio is something that I enjoy - so much so that I have been blogging without pay for six seasons now. But the end of the day, it's still just a game. We all have far more important things to be worked up about in our lives. If I allowed myself, as a fan, to get so consumed by it that I had nothing but bile for the people who run the team, I'd be losing a big part of why I watch the team play in the first place.
And worst of all, I'd be ruining the experience for others.
Everyone's got an opinion. I've got my own, incidentally. There's a serious number of people out there who need to realize that not everyone wants to hear it, especially in detail.