Let me begin this by saying that I am very excited about what the new ownership can, and will, bring to the New Jersey Devils. I (as part of the Devils Generals) have met with Hugh Weber and I think we all came away from that meeting feeling excited about what’s to come.
I also want to say that I had no problem with the changing of the goal song. I wrote about it and, for the most part, I still feel the same way.
Having said that, the way the changing of a goal song has been handled, no matter how minor that may be in the grand scheme of things, has me wondering what exactly I should expect going forward.
I’ve been a Devils fan since the franchise moved to New Jersey. I was seven, and just starting to figure out what sports teams to root for. Of course, I was going to root for the new hockey team that was playing just a few miles away.
I worked at the Meadowlands when I was a teenager and into my early twenties, and when I finally had enough money to afford it, I became a season ticket holder. Lower bowl – Section 125, Row 20, Seat 7!
Because of school and work, I gave up my season tickets after a few years, but I knew I’d have them again eventually.
Eventually came this season, when I became a season ticket holder again.
Through four home games this season, I have yet to truly enjoy the game – even though the Devils haven’t lost one in regulation – because all of the attention has been focused on what the goal song is going to be. .. and what the crowd reaction will be.
The way this was handled, all the focus has been put on a goal song instead of the reason everyone, including ownership and management, is there: the team.
I understand the reasoning for wanting to change the goal song. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is putting on a dog-and -pony show to give fans the idea that they are part of the process.
Given the “results” that were presented to fans during the last three games, it’s clear that the fans were never a part of any process.
When there’s an election, you’ll see news reporters standing outside polling locations to get a sense of which way people are voting. To get a sense of which way an election may go. In recent years, social media has also played a large part in gathering information and getting an idea, though not entirely accurate, as to how the results will come in.
Given what I saw on social media, and what the large number of Devils fans that I follow and interact with across multiple social media sites saw, I can report that 0% of them voted for, or know of anyone that voted for, two of the three “finalists” for goal song.
It’s one thing to change something that may alienate a small percentage of the fan base. People get outraged over silly things, and most of them get over it.
However, this “process” that was presented to fans has now turned into something different. It’s not about the goal song anymore. It’s not about trying to change a “tradition” (which I believe is silly anyway) anymore.
Now it’s about treating fans like they don’t know any better.
If Devils fans are “the best fans in the world,” as the team so often tries to reminds us, then those making these types of decisions should know that fans take that label seriously.
I’m not a marketing expert, but I am a business owner, so I do know something about marketing and the right way and wrong way to do things.
When fans (or customers) are treated like idiots, there is going to be some backlash. That backlash, ironically, will end up being worse than what it was for the original problem that was trying to be solved.
If the Devils want transparency, and want to work with fans to make the game day experience better, perhaps actually talking to fans and getting some feedback – real feedback – would be best.
When Major League Soccer wanted a chant that was used across the league to go away, the teams met with team supporters and made it known what they wanted, and why. The result? That chant is no longer heard at games. ..or at least not loud enough that it is heard by most, or on TV.
Perhaps an explanation from the team, a real explanation, would have gone a long way. Perhaps telling fans “We want to grow this brand. We want to do some real marketing. We want future generations to come to games now and enjoy themselves so they’ll be here for years to come. We want to be able to invite groups into the building without the fear of embarrassing ourselves because thousands of people chant something in unison that we aren’t comfortable with.”
Taking that approach may have actually gotten to some people. It would make most feel like they were part of the bigger picture. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed a lot of people’s minds, because some people are too selfish to think about those around them, but it might have begun the process of eliminating something.
It might have, however, changed a good portion of people’s minds. It might have made some others think about other chants that resonate loudly inside the arena. Chants that are much worse than anything ever chanted during a goal song. Chants that might actually require a parent to explain to a child what was just chanted means.
But the process and the way it was handled, beginning with a letter (that has been taken down from the Devils site) that once again told us we are “the best fans in the world,” was bad to begin with and has now become something that can’t be undone.
There is no doubt in my mind that any chant that was there before will continue to be there, no matter what song is chosen, and especially because it wasn’t truly chosen by the process that the fans were told it would be.
There is also no doubt in my mind that those other chants, the chants that are much worse than the one that this whole thing started with, will also be louder and stronger.
Is that a fair trade off? Is it worth making fans feel like they are puppets and that they’ll do whatever you tell them to, just because they’re “the best fans in the world”?
We’re not the best fans in the world. We’re not even the best fans in the metropolitan area. But what we are is passionate and loyal.
While other local teams have fan bases that change based on what corporation has tickets for the big event, I’ve seen lots of the same faces at Devils games for decades.
A large percentage of those Devils fans actually spend their hard earned money on those games. They aren’t handouts, and they aren’t there for a business meeting.
They’re there for a game. They’re there for the Devils.
And while it is all still a game, and the goals song is just a minor little detail, the process wasn’t. ..and a bad situation was made worse.
The team has every right to make any changes they want to make. They could have easily changed the goal song, as they did, put on earmuffs, and withstood the backlash for as long as it took for people to give up and accept the change. But this process is the direction the team went in and, while is seemed like a good idea, it turned into something completely different.
There’s no way the old song can come back now, and there’s no good way to solve this issue now.
However, I’m hoping that this is a good lesson and a real look into just how passionate the Devils’ fan base is.
You can’t make everyone happy, but you can treat them like they’re important, and that makes people happy. For long-time Devils fans, that holds extra weight considering how things were done in the past.
I’m now in my 31st year of being a fan and since I’m nowhere near being outraged enough to vote with my wallet, I will continue to be a season ticket holder for as long as I can. I will continue to go to games and cheer for the Devils when they score a goal, no matter what the goal song is. I will be there no matter how good or bad the team is playing.
What I won’t do is be taken for an idiot. I’m sure others feel the same way.
LET’S GO DEVILS!