I'm not a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, but I imagine if I were, I would be hurting pretty good this morning. On Tuesday night, the Bolts—the record-setting Bolts who just tied the mark for the most regular season wins ever and tallied the fourth-highest point total in NHL history—were swept out of the first round of the NHL playoffs by the eight-seed Columbus Blue Jackets. After taking a 3-0 lead in Game One, the Lightning lost 4-3 and never led again THE ENTIRE SERIES. In Game Four, with their season, pride, and very own Bud Light on the line, they gave up seven goals. I'm not a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, but I imagine if I were, the last thing I would want to do right now is think about the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Apparently the Lightning social media team didn't get that memo, however, because 15 minutes after one of the worst postseason meltdowns in American sports, the Bolts Twitter account was already shoving a giant foam finger back down their fans' throats, issuing a teary, jilted lovers' apology the likes of which certainly hockey—the ultimate f—k your feelings sport—has never seen. The intention was to foster some sense of camaraderie with their smarting fanbase, to let them know that this means as much to the capital-O Organization as it does them, but in a weird, sad, bizarre way, it only made things worse.
Now I'm no expert—not on the human psyche and not even on social media. But as somebody who runs all the social accounts for the website you're reading right now and also retains a manic and at times wholly unhealthy rooting interest in teams who not only lose a lot (Mets, Dolphins) but do so in the most gut-wrenching ways imaginable (Tottenham Hotspur, who have their own adjective, "Spursy," for such moments), I have a perspective, if not a unique one.
As a "social media editor"—AKA someone you may or may not realize even exists until they screw up so bad they have to move back to Indiana to live with their parents for awhile—you're always looking for way to translate whatever big moment is taking over the internet into your brand's language. Some topics you don't touch (you didn't see The Loop being glib about Notre Dame going up in flames, for instance), but things get decidedly more difficult when YOU are the topic you shouldn't touch.
This is where the Tampa Bay Lightning ended up on Tuesday night: Caught between a rock and a devastated arena full of half-drunk hockey fans. In the end, they decided to go the earnest route. They decided to apologize for something that they A. had no control over (a game) and B. something you should never apologize for (sports). In the process, they became not only the punchline of the same joke being simultaneously told by 5,000 open-mic comedians, but a reminder for every Lightning fan who woke up this morning and absentmindedly flipped open Twitter that it wasn't all just some sick, twisted nightmare. And if that weren't bad enough, they even tweeted out a congratulations to the Blue Jackets an hour later. Come on guys, read the room.
So what should the Lightning's probably equally devastated social media lackey have done? What lesson do sports franchises and fans alike need to learn so that we're not subjected to 280-character retellings of Wuthering Heights every time a team gets bounced from the playoffs? Well, when the Warriors gave up a 31-point third-quarter lead on Monday night and fell victim to the largest postseason comeback in NBA history, they tweeted this:
And when PSG blew a two-goal first-leg league in the Champions League knockout stage, losing at home on a questionable stoppage-time penalty kick, they tweeted this:
Sometimes in sports, there's just nothing left to say. Sometimes, saying nothing is everything. Sometimes, as the best one-liner in the recent Pet Sematary reboot goes, dead is better. And this morning, the hopes and dreams of Bolts Nation are very, very dead.