SCHOPP: An exercise in patience
Imagine you're at the track. Your money in the upcoming race is on the 7 horse, not the favorite but not either a long shot. You've bet it to place (finish second or better), not thinking it the best horse necessarily but confident that it can cash for you.
You've been to the races plenty of times and you know how these things work. The best horses rarely sprint to the front from the gate. Rather they hang back and time their attack. You know from experience that with the race three-quarters over and the number-7 in 10th place not to worry. He'll make his move eventually, and he either gets there or he doesn't.
When your money is on a good horse, watching every race is an exercise in patience. What is the right time for the horse to make its move, and when is it too late. The savviest race fans learn to know when it's over before it's over.
So how come for all the experience we have watching the Sabres scrap for eighth place that we don't have an eye for this yet?
Like last year, fans were certain this season was shot long before it really was. The injuries. A 12-game road losing streak. The indifferent blowout in Philadelphia. This had to be the year Lindy Ruff's message had become too harsh or tired to work. This had to be the year the Sabres couldn't overcome the lacking mental toughness they've been accused of lacking for years. Not enough stars, not enough grit, not enough backbone, not enough everything.
I'm certainly not much different than you in this. I wrote them off. I wrote them off last year too. In all honesty, a big part of my focus was not so much on eighth place but whether or not they could win in the playoffs, and they're far away from having done that. But still, I didn't think I'd be sitting here writing this.
Part of the dilemma for me comes from the job. Misery loves company. On a day to day basis, to say on a talk show that your team is about average and we all need to be patient doesn't, as they say, "move the meter". Rip them apart however and look many people come calling. It's an unfortunate reality of talk radio that evenness has no place.
Back to the track for a second. Imagine there needed to be hours upon hours of discussion after every stride in the horse race. It would sound absurd. If you were sitting at the track next to someone doing this you'd probably assume that person had never seen a race in his life.
I suppose that's almost all of us then. The Sabres are not in yet but they have proven that Game 59 in an 82-game season is not when you give up. Give 'em credit.
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