Have you ever been stuck in traffic during your daily commute to work, or nine hours later on your return trip home, and wondered why don’t just a few of the other drivers stuck in this bumper to bumper nightmare make their commutes at a different time or just take a different route? If there were fewer cars on the road the traffic would flow better and the trip to/from your office would be shorter. Those good folks that made the change would benefit too with shorter commutes. Everybody would win. But that never happens; those other drivers never change their driving pattern and you’re both stuck in traffic longer than need be.
However, if that logic applies to the other drivers stuck in traffic with you, it certainly applies to you as well. So why don’t you change your commute? You don’t because you’re selfish. You get some benefit from making your commute at the time, and on the route, you choose. Every additional driver who chooses to do the same increases the congestion on the road and reduces every other drivers commute value but that driver still gains something so they do what’s best for them not everyone else. Tom Vanderbilt does a great job of explaining this "tragedy of the highway" in his book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us).
So aside for the obvious that this website could use more discussion on transportation engineering, what does any of this have to do with the Oilers?
The Oilers as you almost certainly know are a lousy, nearly dead last place, hockey team. Last season they weren’t just nearly dead last, they were dead last. And trading the teams second best player for pieces might make the team better in two to three years makes us early favorites to be in the running for dead last next season as well. Of course if you believe the official party line, then this is all just part of the OIlers master plan and if you and I as fans will only give it time, this temporary pain will ultimately allow the team to be fully rebuilt into a NHL powerhouse. In theory this sounds like a great idea; in application however, not so much.
The Oilers management team constructed a team last season with the intent of making the playoffs and that team finished dead last. Despite the fairly obvious lack of understanding of what it takes to build a successful NHL team these same people are now supposed to rebuild the team from the ground up. In essence, the lunatics are running the asylum. That simply doesn’t make any sense. If you were coming over to my apartment to watch the game and enjoy a couple of beers and my directions led to you getting horribly lost, would you trust my directions on how to get back home after the game? Not likely.
But what can fans do? Even though we’d like to, we don’t make the decisions on the club is run on a day to day basis. Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept having our team run by incompetents. Assuming that none of the readers of this site have the means to purchase the team from Darryl Katz and install the Copper and Blue as the teams’ new management team then I think we need to look to Ben for inspiration. In the aftermath of the Dustin Penner trade Ben advocated this:
Don’t buy Oilers tickets, don’t buy Oilers merchandise, don’t get NHL GameCentre and watch Oilers game on it. Don’t watch Sportsnet West; stream all your Oiler games illegally. If they start building a downtown arena, burn it to the fucking foundations. If this team goes bankrupt, hopefully Katz will sell and we’ll get somebody in charge who knows what he’s doing.
If you get past the anger in Ben’s comment and the incitement to commit a felony, you see the very simple point that this team will only be better when other people are in charge of the Oilers and the fans can make that happen if only we’ll stop supporting and consuming all things Oiler. The fans may not own the team in the true definition of ownership but we allow the team to exist by supporting it. If the fans started staying away from Rexall Place in droves, gave up their season tickets, and stopped buying new jerseys, shirts, hats, sweaters, rubber ducks, toasters, and garden gnomes those in charge of the team would notice it on the bottom line.
The Oilers are a business and Katz is a businessman. I’m sure Katz has got more money than you or I can imagine but even with all that money I doubt that he likes losing money anymore than you or I do. And if the Oilers started being very unprofitable Katz would treat the Oilers like he would any of his other businesses if they started hemorrhaging money; he would look for those responsible and would replace them. Presumably the replacements would be better than the existing but if not, the fans could simply repeat the process until someone with the ability to run an NHL team finally got into a position of power within this franchise. These people exist it’s simply a matter of finding them and then we’ll delivered from this hell that is cheering for a last place hockey team.
At its base the solution to our problem is really that simple. But even though the Oilers are terrible and are battling for last place yet again, I enjoy watching the games, being a season ticket holder, and buying merchandise and I really don’t want to give all of that up. How about this then? You, your family, and all your friends boycott the Oilers for me. You get two people to boycott, and they’ll get two people to boycott, and they’ll get two people to boycott, and so on and so on. This can’t fail. I can almost see the parade now. But how can I trust you to do any of this, you won’t even change how you commute to work even though it’d make the it an easier trip for everyone else. Thanks for nothing, now we’re both screwed.