Sunday morning homily XIV

After more than half of a season attending Tampa Bay Lightning games, there's something I have to get off my chest: Just because the team won the Stanley Cup, it doesn't mean all the team's fans truly know hockey.

Sure, they know that Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis are the star players. They know that Johan Holmqvist has wrestled the starting goalie position away from Marc Denis. And, if they read the morning paper, they know that newly acquired defenseman Shane O'Brien is unlikely to play in this afternoon's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In instances like that, they're a knowledgeable lot. And, yes, the Lightning's Stanley Cup ring is pretty shiny. But, when it comes to the nuances of the game, there's still plenty to learn.

Early during Friday's humbling 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, when the score was just 2-1 or 3-1, a group of fans started with the "We Want Roy" chant. Like most team tough guys, Andre Roy has become a fan favorite. It's my guess, too, that there are more than a few fans who come to games just to watch players fight.

But to implore Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella to send out Roy was a mistake. Not only would that move have risked putting the Lightning down a man because of a likely instigator penalty, but the team needed more than a spirited bout that night against Boston. Besides, at that point, the Lightning was only trailing by, at most, two goals, a deficit they have surmounted many times this season.

Furthermore, I've never held much stock in using pugilism as a way to inspire. If you're an NHL player, earning a minimum of $450,000, you shouldn't need a fight to get fired up. If you do, well, you don't belong in the league.

Getting back to the fans, though, I couldn't help but laugh at this vocal group later in the second period when, after the third elicitation of a "Boston s****" chant, the Bruins scored a fourth goal. Though sophomoric and yet funny, the St. Pete Times Forum fell silent as the red light flashed.

Unfortunately, not every one saw humor in my non-verbal "I can't hear you" response (hand cupped behind ear). One lady, and I'm being very generous here by using that word, gave me the universal sign of disagreement. In response, all it took was a point to the scoreboard and an inquiry to what else she does with that finger, and she knew she had been schooled.

It's instances like these, which show a lack of knowledge as well as class, that will continue a lack of respect shown toward the team and its efforts.

This afternoon, against the Penguins, my loyalties won't be conflicted. I'll wear my Lightning jersey, with Captain Dave's name and number, and will probably cheer myself hoarse. But I'll also cringe when, inevitably, a handful of fans embarrass not only themselves, but the team and the area as well.

And for a team and a region that has one of the greatest reasons to celebrate -- a Stanley Cup title in a relatively short time of existence -- that's a shame.

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