Behind Enemy Lines: A Sabres Fan in DC

Everything was fine.

I woke up this morning excited, ready and raring to go. I slipped into a pair of well-worn jeans, a white cami, and my Patrick Kaleta Sabres shirt. I was going to the game.

I put on my makeup; three shades of blue eyeshadow with a gold shimmer overlay accented by blue eyeliner to match the “blue and gold” aesthetic I was going for. After all, on game days, I bleed blue and gold. I always have.

Tonight was the one game my favorite team, the Buffalo Sabres, was playing in my area this year. I originally wasn’t planning on going, but my diehard fan heart couldn’t let it go. I had to see them. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t.

I sat through the work day, looking anxiously at the Sabres SnapBack perched on my desk, ready for me to wear out of the building, beckoning me. “Get ready, Jess. Your team awaits.”

The workday crept by. Slow and steady, but I made it to the end.

I sent my last email, hastily packed up my laptops for their sleepover in the office so I wouldn’t have to try and beg the arena security staff to let them in, and headed out.

On the train, I listened to the Sabres’ goal song for this year: “Let Me Clear My Throat.” Anticipating a good game. I was beyond excited by then.

I got to the arena, bought myself an incredibly overpriced drink, and headed to my seat. A minute later, warmups started. My favorite part.

The Sabres looked good, they really did. Solid play from Chad Johnson, the new goaltender, and some promising slick stick moves from Jack Eichel, the newest protege.

The anthem was sung and the first period started. Nobody was sitting to my left, nobody was in front of me. I was content — even though the rest of the section was filled with Caps fans. I could put up with the enthusiastic kiddies behind me — I share their passion, albeit for a different team.

Halfway through the first period, two guys sat in front of me. I thought nothing of it at first and continued to cheer loudly and proudly for my team.

First intermission, I left and walked around. Had to stretch my legs.

The second period started. The game was getting good.

Halfway through the second, the worst thing happened. The guy in front of me was texting, something which doesn’t usually bother me. Not even in movie theatres where it’s considered obnoxious.

What bothered me was the text of the message.

“The bitch behind us is obnoxious.”

I realized very quickly they were talking about me.

All I had done was cheer for my team — something that is generally considered normal at sporting events. It was happening all around us. The Sabres, when they scored first and the announcer stated the goal scorer and the assists, got a rousing “Who cares?” from the crowd. Something that is new this season and quite unwelcome to me and likely many other visiting teams’ fans.

Mind you, I don’t usually eavesdrop. But when a phone’s brightness is all the way up, it’s hard to ignore. It’s worse when you see text like that.

“Now I’m just going to silently judge her.”

That came later.

Silent judging quickly turned into snickering and I slowly felt myself recoiling, feeling terrible about myself and self-conscious about how much enthusiasm I was showing toward my team.

I had bought my ticket to the game two days prior, paid much more than it was conceivably worth (the seat wasn’t even that good), and had intended to enjoy the game.

I ended up leaving before the end, with about five minutes left in the game; something that I had never done before and something that I am ashamed of having done.

I love my team. I have loved them for a decade now. I had never been ashamed of them, never stopped loving them, never felt like I couldn’t be a fan.

Until tonight.

I am sorry, Sabres. I am so, so very sorry. I love you, but I can’t do this. I can’t put up with awful people for you. I will always love you.

But for now and until I can travel to see you outside of Washington, DC, I will love you from afar.

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