The Bruins and Blackhawks are tied in game one while I write this. I’ve lived in New England for six years. In about 104 more, I’ll have lost my R’s and been accepted. In the meantime, I have enjoyed the shit out of this unlikely cup run by the B’s. Down three goals, in game seven, with eleven minutes to go, and win? Get. Out.
The BSW is up for going to a hockey or baseball game now and then. She will even watch the occasional football game on TV. She does not get obsessing or rooting on the home (or adopted) team. I argue about the pinnacle of athletic achievement, and she points out that pinnacles in other professions like medicine or teaching matter more. I can’t disagree.
What I will argue is that sports, particularly at the loftiest levels, can inspire and unite and bond. I don’t know about curling. I never watch curling. I’m not sure it exists except every four years in the Olympics. Come that time, I’ll cheer my guts out for a guy with a broom wearing red, white, and blue. Am I a homer? Absofuckinglutely.
I attended the winter games in Salt Lake City. I wanted to be a part of the event in my hometown so I volunteered and ran a concession tent. (if you saw the ski jumping, there was a tent to the right of their landing. That was mine!) I met people from all over the world. We talked and argued the right angle to hit turn two on the luge or who landed the better triple axel. I was in a sports bar when the women’s hockey gold medal game was played between Canada and the U.S. The bar was filled with Canadian tourists. Canada won that game, and they bought us beers.
Sports are entertainment and diversion. They’re also an escape and a metaphor. I’ll never hit a 90 mile an hour fastball or push a big gear up Alp D’ huez. I can, however, watch those who can and feel competitive and united with others who watch.
This NHL playoff season began with a horrific tragedy in Boston. Is hockey really important in the greater order of things? No. Yet, this cup run by the Bruins was probably a pretty good bandaid on a pulsing wound for many.
In 2001, my family and I were new to Denver. Chase and I watched every game of the Avalanche cup run. We made rituals. It made us more connected to one another and to our new home. We watched the subsequent “almost” years and were genuinely saddened that “our” team didn’t make it.
So, this Stanley Cup finals, I am in a different place, cheering on a different team, and my son passed away a few years ago. I’ll watch and yell. At some point I’ll probably wear my hat sideways. I’ll definitely require we have grilled brats one night and beer butt chicken on another because all those were part of our rituals. I’ll remember those times with my son, and I’ve reached the point, after these years, that they’ll bring me fond remembrance instead of sorrow. Lori will be bemused, but she’ll indulge me and participate because she’s wicked awesome.
Are sports essential…probably not. Are they important? I would say yes.