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On Fandom, Mental Health, and Stepping Away

How this season, and moments before, have helped teach me about what’s really important in life. 

My dad passed away in January of 2022. It was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through, one of the darkest experiences of my life. I struggled for much of 2022 with grief and how to handle my stress, grief, and depression until finally, after urging and self-reflection and honest conversations with myself, I found a therapist. I recently crossed the one year mark in therapy and having someone I trust that I can talk to has helped me to better handle stressors, cope with grief and depressive episodes, and find a better balance in my mental health. Therapy has helped me become a better person and I am actively working to improve myself. I’m not where I’d like to be, personally or mentally, but I’m trying. That’s all any of us can do, really.

My first article for The Cannon was on December 6, 2015. Former site editor Mike MacLean asked if I would join as a contributor and I leaped at the opportunity. “More engagement with this team and fanbase I love so much? How could I say no?!” The Jackets won 4-1 that first night, with two goals from Nick Foligno and two assists from Alex Wennberg. I’ve now written over 1,000 articles for this site and well over one million words. The Jackets are one of the great passions of my life. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to The Cannon, the community here, and the friends I’ve made along the way. 

This season, like too many before it, has been a disappointment for Columbus Blue Jackets fans. From the preseason coaching debacle with Mike Babcock leading to Pascal Vincent taking the reins just before training camp. The hope of Adam Fantilli and a newly rebuilt defense led GM Jarmo Kekalainen with the backing of ownership, to proclaim that, despite all of the turmoil, “all of the team’s goals are still on the table.”

As of this writing, the Columbus Blue Jackets sit 15th in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Ottawa Senators who have eight games in hand on the Jackets. The team is far closer to finding Macklin Celebrini a home downtown than they are to challenging for a playoff spot. 

Anyone who has ever met me for more than 5 seconds knows that I have the worst poker face in human history. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, am a deeply passionate person, and care infinitely for the people and things that are most important to me. Can this get me in hot water sometimes? Undoubtedly. I get too invested into things, get too caught in the minutia and discourse, and as such probably get too heated and say things I shouldn’t occasionally. 

That being said, I am always and at all times unapologetically myself. I have my takes, thoughts, and opinions, but I’m not afraid to stand behind them. Occasionally, I’ll make apologies for things I’ve said. Stay tuned; there’ll be some of those before the end of this article. 

Part of being honest with yourself is admitting the hard truths. One of those hard truths for me is that this team, watching and covering them, this thing that I love and care about so deeply, no longer brings me joy. It’s become an obligation, a chore – not a source of joy, but a source of frustration and, too often, anger. 

Truth be told, this has been a long time coming. Y’all know my gripes, you’ve read them enough, I won’t rehash three years of nonsense and anger here. But there’s been times over the last few years that I’ve wondered truly if this team has been worth the frustration.

Frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s no longer worth it. In my last therapy session, a not-insignificant amount of time was spent talking through how the attention paid to this team and the general conversations around them were harming my mental health, my psyche. If this team that I deeply love and care about, that I’ve devoted hundreds of thousands of words to, no longer brings me the level of joy a sports team should, why am I still doing this on a nightly basis?

Stepping away from things is healthy. This is something I’ve had to come to terms with, to understand is a valid feeling. I’m not one to quit things, to give up, to step away – I’m too stubborn and too much of a pain in the ass for my own good. I don’t like to back down, but I am learning to take care of myself for the first time in nearly 34 years. Lately, that has meant taking a step back from watching this team, but I fear things crossed a tipping point for me on Sunday. 

In the wake of the controversy and discussions about Erik Gudbranson, I think some things crystallized for me. Paying attention to and being a part of the discourse around this team and the day to day interactions is too much. 

Following the actual on ice activities, heated words and impassioned arguments were exchanged on both sides, including by your writer. For my part, and for anyone who may have been hurt or offended by poor word choices on Twitter, I apologize. Things happen in the heat of the moment, words are exchanged, and I am sorry for those who I may have hurt. At the end of the day, all of us deeply love this team and want them to succeed and win – that’s what being a fan is about. 

But being a fan also means being introspective and understanding what it’s doing to you personally. This team hasn’t brought me joy in years. Deep in my core, I do not believe they are as committed to winning as I personally wish they were, and that hurts. It hurts to feel like you care more than ownership of your favorite team, and that wound is open and gaping. It needs time to heal. I am working through what that means to me as a person, but first and foremost, I think it means I personally need to take a step back and reevaluate my priorities and engagement. That is on me as a person and my growth, but also a reflection of where this club and the discourse around it is. I’m not sure I want to be a part of the daily going forward. 

I still love this club. Deeply, intensely, and passionately: one does not cover a leg tattoo easily, after all. But at my core, I need to review my priorities. Occasionally, I think this is something all fans should do: fan is short for fanatic, and fanatic leads down a slippery slope if left unchecked. I fear that I may have slid somewhat down that slope and again, to those who I may have hurt or offended in the past in disagreements or arguments, I am sorry. Know that it comes from the same place you are – a want to see this struggling team win something of consequence just once. 

All that being said, this reflection has led me to this: this will be my last season with The Cannon. I will stay through the draft, writing prospect profiles and year end recaps (two of my favorite things to do), but I need to take a step back. 

Protecting one’s mental health and growth are things I’ve learned over the last three years, especially in the wake of losing my father. Taking joy in the day to day and not being weighed down or tormented by things outside your control are things I am working on. Too often I fail as a result of this team, and that is no longer healthy for me. Honesty and health starts internally, and it’s high time I have that conversation.

I love this community, and I have loved what will be nearly the nine years as a writer come late June, but it’s time to step away. 

Thank you all, and go Jackets.