Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hockey Playoffs

I've mined this topic before but it just never stops being an issue in my life, so here we are again: sports fanaticism.

Tonight the hockey playoffs start. I fully and completely expect someone to die on the ice in the Pens/Flyers game. That's only slight hyperbole. It will be AWESOME. And neither of those are my teams. (Though I do sort of find Scott Hartnell's curls adorable along with Claude Giroux's Northern Canadian accent. I hate the Pens. Sidney Crosby is the most annoying superstar in sports. He flops. And he's just a little too pretty? And he whines. Which the head coach of the Rangers, John Tortorella, got fined $20k for pointing out. (Though the NHL says the fine was for swearing.))
Hartnell's curls

Anyway, my team, the Caps, start their cup bid tomorrow against the Bruins. The Bruins have Zdeno Chara who is 6'9". Without skates. I maintain that when Hollywood inevitably remakes The Princess Bride, Chara should be in the Andre the Giant role. And they have the Tea Party goalie Tim Thomas. They're scary on a lot of different levels. Oh: and though I love the Caps, they aren't that good. At least they weren't in the regular season. As every hockey player will say throughout the playoffs, "This is a whole new season." (If you would like to make a playoff drinking game, that's a good one to start with.) So ya never know, they could decide to not suck at hockey in the playoffs. I'm not overly optimistic but I'm not generally known for my optimism. Especially when it comes to teams I follow.

A former law school classmate said something to the effect of "Oh, hockey playoffs!" I said, "Yes, I'm excited. But terrified." Friend responded, "Why terrified? It's just sports."

People. Say that to me again. Come on. Do it. My brain does something like this when you say that, "!@#@$#%&*()(*)&*(@#&@($&(!@^$!@#@$&*()&(^!@^!@#$$!@#$%^&*(!@#$%^&*" I have to suppress my general murderous tendencies even more.

Sure, you hippie fuck, it's just sports. The same way your stupid Phish concerts are just music.

Don't disrespect that which I adore.

This friend also has this annoying habit of claiming every team on the Eastern seaboard as "his" because he grew up in New Jersey. So he's a Jets AND Giants fan. And then claims Arsenal and ManU because he's a Brit? (He's not.) He actually honest to god graduated from Maryland but I'm gonna wager that I know more about the Terps than he does. And now that it's hockey playoffs he's a Devils fan. But he's not even a fan. He was willing to sacrifice the Giants Super Bowl win for winning a pool that would have meant money if the Pats won. He was torn about which way to root.

That's not fandom. Don't claim fandom. Claim mild passing interest. I would never ever trade an LSU win for money. I wouldn't ever bet against LSU. Even when I bet on them to win it gives me heart palpitations because it feels so jinxy. I did it once. I doubt I ever do it again though I'm pondering a prop bet for them for the BCS title when I'm in Vegas in June because maybe it'll be good luck? I have to ponder it further. Not only would I never trade an LSU win for a monetary gain, I'd sacrifice many animals and probably a few people for LSU victories. (Actually, I'd feel better sacrificing the people than the animals.) As it is, we all know I have crazy superstitions about what I wear on LSU game days. Because my Caps fandom isn't as innately ingrained yet, I don't have quite the superstitious nature but I wore a red cable knit sweater for a bit and they never won when I wore it so I stopped. I'm also sad my "I Laich Hockey" shirt has yet to be a winner. 2 games it has been to, 2 losses. Not about to force it into being a winner during the playoffs.

The way sports makes me feel is not mild passing interest. This...matters to me. I can't explain it. Even though I obviously keep trying. It's everything I do with the logical, rational, carefully considered part of my brain, which I would say is how I spend the vast majority of my time, the exact opposite clicks on when I watch sports. It's pure unadulterated love. It's completely and totally irrational. I don't even really analyze it. I just watch it and enjoy the hell out of it. Whatever "it" happens to be. LSU football and baseball. All the hockey ever. Just blanked out joy. Which is why I could never write about sports from a critical perspective. At least not the games. The issues around sports I think I can, and have, tackled. The games? It's a little like being black out drunk. It's all just a flurry of adrenaline and emotions for me. It becomes a black hole and I'm really bad at remembering what happened in which games after they've concluded. I marvel at fans that can rattle off favorite plays of the season without being reminded.

I drive my mother insane with all the hockey watching. "Is hockey just ALWAYS on?" "You say that like it's a bad thing." And no, it's not. The season ended on Saturday and playoffs started on Wednesday. It was a long time in between, you guys.

I'm not trying to force sports down anyone's throat. I get it. Not everyone cares as much as I do. If at all.  I wish you cared. I'd love to make you care. But I know some of you don't. (Related: in analyzing my dating patterns, it's becoming increasingly clear that non sports fan is just not gonna work. Forever alone.) It is of great disappointment that no one else in my family thinks going to LSU football games is THE highest priority for vacation destinations ever. But that's my family and I think they owe me a little bit of consideration for my interests as I have to listen endlessly to cop talk and car talk and the other inanities of their days. My brother's devotion to the Giants seems normal and my mom attends his, what I consider stupid, rec league softball games. They have their things. Mine shouldn't be negated. My dad has relented. He buys LSU gear without any prompting. Just bought himself a shiny new sweatshirt to support my team. Still want him to go to a football game. (Dad bonus points are attending 2 hockey games with me this season.)

Even as I work to not force sports down everyone else's throats, and love the hell out of everyone who does join in and want to watch with me, my only real request is that people don't minimize my, or anyone else's, devotion to it. Life is hard and sucky and as someone who idles in neutral about almost everything else, sports are the one thing, for whatever psychological reasons that I can't even begin to understand myself, I am devout about.

For that same Phish fan: that's not at all my thing. Never will be. But good that that's what you care about. If that's what makes you want to get out of bed, then I fully appreciate it and will work my hardest not to belittle that. (If you're a Rush fan, I have no sympathy. (Kidding. Kinda. Not really.) (Inside joke.))

With a 30 second commercial, the NHL marketing team said all I just said rather succinctly and perfectly:

Also, from 24/7, this:

It's never just a game.



(No one died in the Pens/Flyers game, though it did require OT to settle it. However! A player in the Wings/Preds game has his hand sliced by a skate and went immediately to the hospital for surgery. That same game ended with Shea Weber slamming an opposing player's head into the boards. So we got a little bit of a caged death match feel, just not in the game we expected it in. And Kings/Nucks game is still ongoing if you enjoy your violence on ice. Someone on Van just got a major for hitting someone else in the head. Hockey!) (If you're an LSU fan, rooting for the Kings is a decent choice because their old jerseys look like this. I have no desire to root for anything L.A. ever, but those jerseys are sweet.)

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