According to Dictionary.com, that one word has two meanings, and in the case of the Minnesota Wild, both seem appropriate right now. In a general sense it means
uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
In the world of psychology it refers to
the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
For fans, we seem to manifesting mostly the first definition of ambivalence. In the general sense, we should be excited for the new NHL season, however most of us are dealing with more angst than joyful, excitement. While we all knew that Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher had his hands tied when it comes to bringing in talent to make the team successful, we’ve had to work towards excitement over signings such as John Madden and Matt Cullen. However, with the team failing to sell-out their home pre-season games, it is clear that many fans are moving past ambivalence to anger. And everyone knows well that angry fans, don’t spend money.
In the psychological sense of ambivalence, fans are getting close to being able to classify Wild head coach Todd Richards as ambivalent. On one hand, he says all the “coaching things” (which are little more than cliches) that would indicate that he cares about how his team plays. However, on the other hand (and this is the one that counts), when you watch him behind the bench during games, you see a man who shows us nothing. If the sound was out on my television, and I had to rely solely on the visual image, I would see a man who looks like all he cares about is collecting a paycheck (and a significant one at that). While former head coach Jacques Lemaire rarely yelled and flailed his arms during a game, you could at least tell what he was thinking by looking at his small facial expressions and overall body language. During the timeouts, he would get in players faces and point to specific places on the ice. We get none of that with Richards.
It appears that the betting pools have started. In light of today’s shootout loss in Helsinki against the Carolina Hurricanes, many die-hard fans are beginning to wonder how much longer it will take for heads to roll. The first head would be that of Richards. That lack of emotion I just mentioned, seems to transfer to the Wild players. With the exception of some chippiness in the first half of the opening period, the rest of today’s game was rather bland. In any profession, while success needs to be measured on a two-way street, true success usually comes from the top. Your boss needs to be inspirational to everyone from the company president on down to the custodian. Friction in the workplace usually happens when one person or department fails to complete their tasks. Right now, the missing link in success is some sort of combination of coaching and players. And as we all know, in the world of professional sports, when a team is losing the coach is usually the first one blamed.
Yet, the blame cannot rest solely on Richards’ shoulders. Part of it needs to go to the players themselves. Someone on that roster needs to step up now, and light some sort of fire in the bellies of his teammates. To this day, I still believe that Mikko Koivu was not ready to be the team’s full-time captain. I don’t know if it’s that typical Finnish stoicism, but we rarely see emotion from Koivu. A captain is a team leader. If he can’t show emotion (meaning it’s not in his personality), then his teammates are likely not going to show emotion either. Now I hate to go down this road, but these players need to remember that they are making money that any of us would take in a minute, and they are doing so in a terrible economy. Many fans are without jobs wondering where the money for the mortgage/rent payment is going to come from. Is asking for more emotion on the bench really so much to ask for? I don’t think so.
If you can’t tell, I’m angry. Anger is an empowering emotion. It is one that every member of the team and coaching staff need to become familiar with, and soon. While many fans are in the ambivalent stage, it’s better than being apathetic about the Wild. Trust me, ambivalence can quickly turn to apathy and apathy means more and more empty seats. If Wild management doesn’t believe me, one of my fellow fans on the Wild.com message boards suggested that this article be nothing but a blank page. Yes my friends, apathy is coming.