Tuesday, April 12, 2011


"Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get to where you're going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not."
-The Whether Man, from Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth
If Expectations really is a city (and as a rule I always believe everything Norton Juster tells me), then Sabres fans are advised to locate it on a map sometime before tomorrow's game in Philly. The postseason is an emotional time, and I find that the best way to keep things in perspective is to get a head start.

Here's the good news about Expectations, though: It can be anywhere you want it to be! Which makes it hard to plug into your GPS, but that's fine because you can never get lost on your way to a place whose location you decide on.

I've toyed around with this idea in the past, but I've always stopped short of saying what I really mean. No longer.

My expectations for the Sabres are low, and I'm proud of it!

Now, let me be clear: I am neither a pessimist nor a pushover. When I say that I don't expect the Sabres to win the Cup or even make it out of the first round this year, I don't mean to imply that I actively expect them not to do these things (where would be the fun in that?), just that I don't need them to happen before I'll feel like the whole thing hasn't been a total waste. I also reject any notion that my low standards somehow mean that I am weak, soft, or unambitious. While those assessments might be valid for low standards in practically any other area of life, I don't see the correlation when it comes to sports, mainly because the standard to which I hold my favorite team has absolutely no effect on anything other than my enjoyment of what is to come.

By day, when I'm not avoiding my blogging, I work in a school, so I understand that setting high expectations, whether behavioral or academic, is the first step toward success in those areas. But the necessary second step (AKA the hard part) is consistently enforcing those high expectations. As a sports fan, taking the first step is easy enough, but since the second will always be beyond our reach, why bother? We can ban all the orange, not wash all the jerseys, grow all the beards we want, but at the end of the day, we will never be able to trade or bench a player, score a goal or block a shot. So I ask: Why set our expectations high when we have no control over whether or not they are met?

Let me put it another way. If I say, "I will not be satisfied with this blog post until it is at least six paragraphs long, posted by 9:00pm, and somewhat not confusing," I am setting a goal, and thus motivating myself to reach that goal, and not settle for anything less. But if I say "I will not be satisfied with this Sabres season until they beat the Flyers," all I'm doing is making it more likely that I walk away unhappy.

The way I see it, we shouldn't be afraid to keep our expectations low for the same reason we shouldn't be afraid to let our hopes soar high. What have we got to lose?

Of course, this is easier said than done. If the hard part of maintaining high expectations is resisting the temptation to lower them when things get hard, then the hard part of maintaining low expectations is resisting the temptation to raise them when things get good. Here's hoping the Sabres tempt me plenty, but that I manage to remember that, at least by my count, the Whether Man already hurried the Sabres along out of Expectations some weeks ago.

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