Thursday, October 11, 2012

Power to the people...but only if they know it's theirs to use

Special to the Phanatic

So, it's come to this. The one where we step up on the soapbox, take a cushy seat in the ivory tower, and use a bullhorn to tell the public what they should be doing with their lives.

We don't relish this role. We're usually cynics, not scolds. But sometimes, we all have to cave and let the vitriol flow towards our close-knit and loyal audience who obviously haven't gotten the message.

Today, Thursday, October 11, is the date when the 2012-13 regular season was supposed to kick off. There are no games to be found in North America at the highest level. The first two-week chunk of games has been excised, under the guise of a potential "rescheduling," backed up to October 25.

Talks between the NHL and NHLPA continue this week, but with no serious discussion of the issues driving a wedge between the two sides. That means there will be no hockey come the 25th, or Halloween, but it doesn't prevent certain outlets from reporting morsels of positivity that there will be accord by Thanksgiving, peace by Christmas, or a party on New Year's Day.

Providing false hope is a scarier specter and a darker illusion that what you'll find behind the cold stones at Eastern State Penitentiary this time of year. At least we know they care about ice quality, so we got that going for us.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has gagged his bosses, the 30 owners, leaving only he and second-in-command Bill Daly as official spokespersons upon pain of a $1 million fine. NHLPA head Don Fehr has done nothing while most of the marquee names and a lot of nobodies have fled to play in Europe at the first sign of interest. Union solidarity, like owner solidarity, is a total myth perpetuated by both sides in short bursts when it suits their PR purpose.

It's 2004 all over again. And what do you do? Complain on Twitter. Social media has got to be used for a higher purpose, folks, and this should be your time to shine and bring it into the public sphere.

There are three things that we don't know if average people can do on a massive scale anymore: think, organize, and act.

It was a total embarrassment and gave a million rags across the continent an easy target for soft news peddling itself as revelation, when the small coterie of fans in their favorite team's jerseys stood outside NHL headquarters in New York City, holding up cardboard signs displaying their disgust on September 15, with the lockout hours away.

We could lay some money down and win on the fact that there are some of you amongst the readership who have tossed off more than a few dismissive comments about the nature of the Occupy movement, at least as it has been portrayed on the nightly news.

What you don't get is, as NHL fans without product, you ARE the Occupy movement. In the United States, at least, the die-hard hockey fan is a kindred spirit with all the archetypes -- the "filthy hippie" in the drum circle; the play-acting university anarchist who totes Karl Marx in his knapsack;. the 65-year-old laid off and unable to find work due to age discrimination and a lack of proper retirement funds -- marginalized, never taken seriously, and left to your own devices until you get tired and come to your senses to join "the rest of the world."

We are the refuse, constantly subject to derision from devotees of the Big Three, College Basketball, College Football, and yes, now even NASCAR.

But those filthy hippies recently celebrated their first anniversary, so don't think it can't be done if the will and the anger is there. Anyone with eyeballs and ears know it is.

Our voices need not only be heard above the usual dissonant nonsense, but also among our friends and neighbors who attempted a bitterness-fueled takedown of the NFL over the replacement officials flap and won that fight.

Whether you come from the generation that has substituted most actual face-to-face interaction for cyber means, or from those who are now waxing philosophical about the days when typewriters ruled the Earth, if you're upset enough to complain, do it in a way that will get noticed. The internet is not enough. You will not make an impact or an impression in a "world" which doesn't exist once the power goes out.

So you feel the need to "do" something, and not just sit there and take it in an uncomfortable place (like the back seat of a Volkswagen) while millionaires and billionaires fight over Hockey Related Revenues like House Harkkonen and House Atreides for control of Spice production?

Taking up valuable internet space calling for signatures to stop the lockout ain't gonna cut it. Neither is righteous anger splayed out on HF Boards, nor is retweeting sentiments others have posted as if it matters. What this is about, only those north of the border know, but it doesn't look like it will amount to much, despite that network's sway in NHL coverage.

This weekly kabuki between the league and union is reaching the absurd status of a Monty Python skit, as transparent as Mr. Hilter trying to take over South-West England from a bed and breakfast in Minehead.

Apparently, this has not sunk in for enough fans to turn them against those who keep their favorite sport on the sidelines.

As Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer tweeted last Thursday, there are roughly 19,500 seats in the Flyers' home rink. Of that, 18,200 are property of season-ticket holders. Only five people have gone on record as canceling their plans due to the lockout. On the chance those figures are higher than in reality, how long will it take before the "love is blindness" crowd comes to their senses? Though they're not all full-on full-season plans, we realize that once you give them up, a couple dozen others will fall upon them like carrion crows to a carcass. You need to break yourselves of that cycle. Once demand drops, that will be an eye-opener.

Don't let the front office dangle a carrot in front of you with this whole "earning 2 percent interest" nonsense. Take it back. Or have you forgotten that money was yours to begin with, and you made the choice to block off the funds for that "investment?" Make the choice to take it back. Use it for rent, gas, a vacation, your kids' college fund. All better futures than a league that shows so openly that it cares little about your devotion.

Look at our Portuguese brothers and sisters, taking to the streets to combat proposed austerity measures intended to end the fiscal slide across the European Union. They stood up to a show of force by police, chanting "We will leave when you leave." In Bilbao, Spain, the firemen's union made their disgust at budget cuts known in a most naked, obvious manner.

Have you already forgotten how powerful a demonstration the people of Winnipeg staged in the Spring of 1995, with the Jets all but gone, just to keep them for one more season?

And just this past weekend, some Wichita-based yahoo raised enough cash to rent a plane and fly a specially-made banner over Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City protesting how badly the Chiefs have played this year.

Don't tell me you're so tired by your working life, or immobilized by technology that divides us, that you can't use what gray matter you have left and create something special and worthy on a scale that will draw attention. Power in numbers, it's still true.

Tonight, for instance, the organ-eye-zation is going to try and pump up sagging numbers at its shining new "entertainment" complex at 11th and Pattison (which used to be ground the hallowed Spectrum stood on, BTW) by showing the HBO documentary about the Broad Street Bullies. Some of those celebrated in the film will make an appearance. This is a good place to start. Show the Comcast behemoth you won't be so easily doped by moving pictures glorifying a team from 40 years ago, by not showing up and not spending money.

And if that feels good, take the next step. Write, call, fax, show up and show your displeasure at 3601 South Broad Street. Do the same for the NHL and NHLPA. And when that feels good, get your friends, neighbors, fellow season-ticket-group acquaintances to band together and go from there.

Whatever you choose to protest, channel that passion, that anger, that hurt into ACTION. Be heard. Be a collective force. And most importantly, know that you are not alone, in this city, this country and across this continent.

In Canada, where hockey's status is akin to a combination of both baseball and football in the U.S.A, there are several things going on. In Toronto, they're not! gonna! protest! and in Edmonton, they're gonna spend their money somewhere else.

Below are some key numbers and people to speak with who have some influence.

NHL offices: (212) 789-2000. NHLPA offices: (416) 313-2300.

Philadelphia Flyers: Wells Fargo Center (215) 465-4500, fax (215) 218-7837.
Shawn Tilger, Senior Vice President of Business Operations:
Cecilia Baker, Vice President of Ticket Operations:
Flyers Public Relations office: 215-389-9554.
Vice President, Ticket Sales: Jim Willits
Director of Ticket Sales: Tim Gobs

Signed, the Phanatic Hockey Staff

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