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The Joys of Being a Fan

October 8, 2013 - Eric Benac
Nobody likes working on the weekends if they can avoid it and this past Sunday I had to go cover the Alpena Street Cats for the first time. I also had to work the Sunday shift at the office. This three to four hour shift requires handling the weekend's sports e-mails, typing up weekend prep results, editing photos, finding state and national stories and laying out the sport section.

On top of these regular duties, I also had to write my Street Cats story. I was also really hungry, as I had no time to eat before the game. Suffice to say, I wasn't very happy to be at the game.

This has nothing to do with the Street Cats or my opinion of hockey. It was just another example of the "weekend workday blues" that I often run into as a sports writer. I only have to work every other Sunday (and receive a compensatory day off during the week), but I never look forward to it.

Like many Americans, I appreciate the lazy joys of the weekend and I can't fully relax on Sundays, knowing that I have to work a few hours at the end of the day. So, after doing some freelance work online, I walked into Northern Lights Arena with high levels of trepidation.

That said, my trepidation turned to surprise after I got to Northern Lights Arena: it was packed. No, it wasn't quite as filled as it gets during Alpena High School hockey games, but there were people all over the place. The arena continued to fill as game time loomed and Alpena residents eagerly awaited the arrival of the Street Cats.

As soon as the players hit the ice, the stands roared with approval. The players on the ice lifted their hands in appreciation and proceeded to show Alpena that their enthusiasm was not misplaced by winning a dramatic 4-2 game against the visiting Bloomington Blaze. Sunday's game finished off a three-game sweep of the Blaze, a team that Alpena outscored 20-5.

The immediate rapport between the Street Cats and the crowd was obvious. The crowd cheered every Alpena goal excitedly and jeered every Blaze goal. They shouted encouragement during great plays and angry rebuttals during mistakes. They angrily argued with ref calls, but lined up between each period to bump fists with hockey players that, until this weekend, they had never seen play before.

Moments like that make me love my job. Sports fandom can be a tricky and fickle beast, but Alpena has already gladly accepted the Street Cats into the Alpena sports fold. Even when they were behaving badly, they were expressing their emotion for the team, emotion that indicated that these Alpena spectators were no mere spectators. They were already fans, straight and simple.

And although sports fandom can often bring out the worst in people, when it brings out the best in people like it did during these Street Cats games, its easy to understand why sports are so important to so many people. And when a team is as eager to engage with their fans, like the Street Cats seem to be, the benefits to the community are nearly impossible to measure.

In other words, I'll hope to be seeing you soon at the next Street Cats game.


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