Sports fandom can be an exercise in irrationality. Just months after blaming their fans for the team’s failure to meet its financial goals, the Lewiston Maineiacs earned cheers from these same fans for announcing that, hey, “we’re just going to stay right here.”

By all accounts, the team’s violation of trust should have earned it scorn, not applause, from its loyal supporters. After all, ownership and management had placed the responsibility for the team’s straying eyes on the fans. If you had only done more, they said, we wouldn’t be going.

And it’s not as if the fans are the sole reason the team is staying, either. The foibles of their escape plan were well-known. The Maineiacs leaped before they looked, failing to anticipate that their incursion on another team’s territory in the Montreal suburbs would stir some opposition.

Yet the fans are still here. They rooted for the boys on the ice and went to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee for the playoffs, despite the team’s dismal showings against Drummondville. Abandoning the team never crossed their minds; their rancor showed toward management, but the team was untouchable. “It’s not the boys’ fault,” we heard more than once.

So despite everything the team did to alienate them, the fans still cheered.

That says something.

It says something about the quality of hockey fans across the Twin Cities, about the source of pride the team is to this community, and the level of commitment the Maineiacs owner and new management team must now have.

This warm reception is a one-shot deal. There cannot be more dalliances with other cities or rinks. There must be renewed activity from the Maineiacs to be part of this community, more so than just as billets, to foster needed goodwill and broader fan support.

In other words, the Maineiacs cannot behave like they are in Lewiston by default. The team must follow its announcement with concerted action that proves to diehard fans – and the casual fan base – that the commitment to this region is genuine and permanent.

Sports fandom might be irrational, but it is not oblivious. The Maineiacs, by virtue of the public mea culpa Tuesday, its management shuffle and recent, laudable outreach efforts to season-ticket holders and sponsors, seem to realize the team has been given a lucky second chance.

The fans won’t be so forgiving next time.

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