Being a Columbus Blue Jackets fan is not easy. It doesn't come with the same built in guarantees that being a Buckeye fan comes with.
There isn't always someone in your office you can talk hockey with. There is no promise your favorite watering hole with have the Blue Jackets game on any of their big screen TVs. And there will be nights hockey gets pushed to the tail-end of or even completely out of local sportscasts.
This is not college sports, this is the National Hockey League in Columbus, Ohio.
Granted, Ohio State's tradition is generations old. The Buckeyes have won championships in virtually all of their 36 varsity sports. The athletes in the Scarlet and Grey have earned their following to be sure.
But every once in awhile, someone else gets a spot at the table.
This week the Blue Jackets get that distinction.
The Jackets have won 5 straight games. They haven't lost a game in regulation since February 24th.
Monday, their starting goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky was named the NHL's number one star of the week for his stellar play between the pipes.
The Jackets elevated themselves from the league's basement to within 4 points of a playoff berth.
The NHL's own website moved the Blue Jackets into the power rankings for the first time all season
But more importantly, people started talking about the team in ways and places usually reserved for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State's basketball team has won five and a row and is headed for the Big Ten Tournament as the number two seed. Yet, the first question I got when I arrived at the gym this morning was; "What's happening with the Jackets?"
Two more questions followed quickly from two different people.
"Where'd they get this goalie from?"
And, my favorite question of the day, "Who lit a fire under the ice hockey?" Pretty sure that gentleman wasn't sure of the name of the city's only major professional sports franchise.
Doesn't matter. He was talking about them. The whole city was talking about them Monday morning right there at the starting line to March Madness.
At Polaris Fashion Place, a salesperson in the men's department asked me about the team success. He knew Bobrovsky had been playing better but not much beyond that.
Doesn't matter. He was talking about Sergei Bobrovsky not Aaron Craft.
Down the corridor of the mall, I was so shocked by this scene outside The Buckeye Room that I had to take a picture of it.
The sad part is, it actually looked like this when I walked up.
I had to move the Blackhawks shirt.
What's gotten into this town?
Doesn't matter. What does matter is the Blue Jackets know that winning is the final piece of the puzzle.
Columbus sports fans want a winner. They demand a winner. Indeed after decades of Ohio State dominance in the 'Shoe, they expect the team they support to win and win big.
The Blue Jackets modest winning streak is not enough to change the sports culture of an entire city or state but it is enough to begin to change the culture within the organization.
It has to begin with commitment of ownership to build a winner. It needs to continue throughout the coaching staff and filter directly to the players that the only way they will get people to pay attention to them in this town is to win consistantly.
Not just an occasional win over the Sharks or a shoot-out loss to the Blackhawks.
They need to beat up on rival Detroit for an entire season. (They can check that one off now)
They need to win a playoff series.
They need to develop and retain star players who are committed to the cause.
But most of all they need to win.
I hope they get that 6th straight win and many more wins before the season is out.
Maybe then the guy in the gym can learn the name of the team that's had a fire lit beneath it,