Devils fans on the team's mailing list got an email today requesting their opinion for a new goal song. Even if you didn't get an email, there is a webpage consisting of a letter to the fans and a sidebar for submissions of new ideas on the team's website. The most popular choices will be trialed for the second, third, and fourth home game of the season. Five home games into the season, the fans will decide among those three and that song will be the one they go with for this season.
For the unaware, here's a bit of background. For many years, the New Jersey Devils have used Rock and Roll Part 2 by Gary Glitter as their goal song. Attempts to change it were rebuffed. This song was used as recently as this very preseason. At the three preseason home games, the team used "Rock and Roll Part 2" as the goal song, and all was good on that front. So New Jersey Devils fans at the team's first home game this season were stunned, confused, and angered at management changing the team's goal song to some dreck by an old rock artist without notice. The fans booed it heavily. Outside observers and tone-deaf media members wondered why fans were booing a goal. Simply because they changed the song that often went with it. I covered this in detail in my recap of the Devils' home opener loss but the long and short of it is that no one was happy. It's remained a point of contention, actually.
So, in theory, this is a good way around the problem. Putting the choice in the hands of the people who want to hear it is something I can get behind. Except I'm too cynical to believe that they really want the fans' help. Word leaked out quickly that the Devils absolutely do not want to keep using that song because the voice of the many declared "You suck" after the "Hey"s with some chanting "(team name) sucks" in the middle. That's the whole reason for the unannounced switcharoo. The team thought they knew better than the fans, the fans let them know how wrong they were, and so they're going with this Plan B. They're either hoping the fans pick something, anything else. If they don't, well, it wouldn't surprise me if they ignored those submissions.
I'm not saying they'll actually do that. No, no. I would never suggest that an organization that uses "We Are Jersey" as a tagline but didn't quite grasp an obvious lesson from opening night wouldn't be on the straight and narrow. I'm just saying it wouldn't surprise me that anyone giving their personal information to the New Jersey Devils (because of course they want to add you to their mailing list even if you're already on it, and of course, it's on an unsecured webpage) and submitting Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll Part 2 or some cover version starting from about 47 seconds in isn't likely going to have an impact. I could be wrong though. We shall see, starting this Saturday.
Of course, I have further thoughts. What does the team officially say as to why they changed the song. That Per the team's letter (signed by Lou, Scott O'Neil, and Hugh Weber and I suspect this is O'Neil's and Weber's doing since I really doubt Lou gives a flip what the fans do as long as there are goals), here's the official public reasoning:
Universally loved traditions should never change. Over the last few years certain fans started chants that offended a large portion of our fan base and turned off others. Our strength is our unity. We want a game experience that represents what we are on the ice, makes all age groups proud of who we are, and represents our community.
A large portion, huh? I'm going to guess they aren't nearly as large as, say, at least half of the 17,625 sellout crowd that heavily booed the New England Patriots' touchdown song. Also, when I got the bright idea to do the song myself, there were many people around me in Section 1 joining in. From casuals to hardcore fans, from one-game-a-year people to season ticket holders, from young kids to middle-aged people to even someone pushing the age of the elderly, they got into that with glee. We had fun and it was a lot better than hearing an overproduced dude who likes Our Hated Rivals grumble "This is our house" like Eddie Vedder with marbles in his mouth. I'd say I have a better claim at unity among Devils fans across different ages and levels of experience unity than changing a goal song without notice. I suppose this makes me not classy or a bad fan. I'll manage to live with that scarlet letter given by people whose opinion don't matter much (though I prefer that it's a block R). So will they because, get this, we had fun.
The whole issue was summed up more succinctly by the Puck Daddy himself, Greg Wyshynski:
This whole silliness by the Devils management could have been addressed so much better. For example, this fan "choice" could have been done in the preseason and the home opener could have debuted the new song. This way the entire fanbase isn't stunned by it and there was time spent to get used to it. Much better than just springing it on a large crowd who wants to do something they've enjoyed for years. For another example, management could have sent out a similar email asking politely that they don't want fans to chant that the other teams sucks. The New York Red Bulls did just that in telling the South Ward to stop yelling a certain three-word phrase that actually was profane when the opposing goalie took a goal kick in their end. (That was league-driven, which also helped). It involved incentives for the supporter's groups, but by and large, it worked very well. Being straight with the fans can work. In this example letter that didn't go out, the Devils could have been even more frank about why they want to get rid of this instead of some garbage about "large groups of people" who didn't like it despite being clearly outnumbered given the reaction on opening night. That would have lessened the impact. For a third example, they could have just tried to keep the baby instead of throwing it out with the bathwater. They could have sent a simple video of a player or even Lou himself saying "Knock it off." That could have been far more effective than new management coming in and making unwelcomed changes. But they didn't. I suppose we should just be happy with this?
But it's happening and I'm honestly curious as to what the fans will decide for each game. A song that brings people together like this is a lot different and more difficult from picking a song you'd like others to yell along to. Yes, "Rock and Roll Part 2" is old, simple, and not clever. But it actually works in a crowd environment. Everyone gets it quickly just like "Let's Go (team name)." Getting as many people involved will mean more than anything clever one thinks at their keyboard. A cool, tough-sounding chorus isn't necessarily going to work in a place where thousands of people have thousands of different tastes. As cool as it would be to hear 17,000+ yell "It's not where you're from, it's where you're at," as part of a song called Taking Respect, that's not going to happen. It's not as easy to get someone to scream something in unison. See if anyone joins in yelling "EEEEEEEEEEEE-TOWN" when, say, Patrik Elias scores. A tune with a lot of "Woah"s, "Na"s, "Oh"s, or some other noise isn't guaranteed to catch on because you think it's catchy. For example, the last attempt to change it, "Ole" by the Bouncing Souls, went over like a lead balloon years back. My point is that it's very hard to please a large crowd.
So if it were up to me, I'd change the song back to what actually has worked from a crowd perspective: "Rock and Roll Part 2." It wouldn't surprise me submissions are legitimately counted. But I'm not at all confident that's going to happen or maybe the fans splinter off and go with something else. Either way, I suspect I'll be doing what Wyshynski thinks will happen on Saturday onward:
I don't think I'll be the only one doing it again. Let me know what you think of the team's new plan, what song you want to hear, and what song you think you'll actually get on Saturday in the comments. Thanks for reading.