View From The Bleachers

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Tuesday

2

July 2013

18

COMMENTS

The Unfamiliar Taste of Victory

Written by , Posted in General

Last week my favorite hockey team hoisted the Stanley Cup. It was their second championship in four years, but the elation of their success was still slightly foreign to me. I’m not yet used to the taste of victory.

It’s not that I’ve gone out of my way to cheer for losers. I don’t have a fixation on underdogs, and I’m not particularly fond of suffering, even when it comes to something as relatively inconsequential as sports.

But at the same time, I’ve never been one to leap aboard bandwagons. At least in the sports I care about, I’ve got my teams and I’m content to win and (usually) lose with them. In most cases, I’m not adopting one of the remaining championship contenders as much as rooting vigorously against teams I already can’t stand. Often it comes down to a simple process of elimination—“Which team can I most tolerate winning?”

But even in sports I’m relatively new to, I can’t bring myself to latch onto the front-runner. That’s how it was with the NHL. My friend Mike—the biggest Detroit sports fan I’ve ever known—first introduced me to hockey about six or seven years ago. Of course I was aware of hockey before that, but I’d never really paid attention to it. The poor quality of standard definition television made the sport more of a chore to watch than a pleasure. It took someone with the boundless enthusiasm of Mike to teach me the nuances of the game and to appreciate its uniqueness, both subtle and overt.

As I said, Mike was a massive Detroit fan, which meant the first several games I attended in person were Red Wings games. And with their unbelievable streak of consecutive playoff appearances (twenty-two and counting) and their frequent trips to the Stanley Cup finals, the Wings would have been an easy team to cheer for*.

*And in Mike’s memory, I often do.

But my inherent aversion to bandwagoning wouldn’t let me hop on board with Detroit. Not that I’m particularly overflowing with any of them, but shouldn’t class, dignity, and good taste keep someone from deciding they like a sport and that sport’s best team at the same time? Perhaps there’s something broken in me that makes me think fandom ought to include struggle, but I’m not sure you can ever truly appreciate winning with a team until you’ve lost with them.

Instead I decided to root for the Blackhawks. It was an easy choice really. I already had ties to other Chicago sports teams, they were young squad with lots of raw talent (Toews and Kane were drafted right around the time I started following hockey), and they were an Original Six team with lots of history—that last one was particularly important to Mike. And most important of all, they had no bandwagon to speak of.

As it turns out, I was catching the team at just the right time. Within a couple seasons, they were facing off against the Red Wings in the conference finals. That next year they won their first Stanley Cup since the early 60’s.

That was the first time one of my teams had ever been the champions, and even amidst the celebration it felt a little uncomfortable, like perhaps I hadn’t yet earned the right to celebrate. I hadn’t passed through the crucible of repeated disappointment on my way to the promised land of victory**.

**Yeah, something in me is definitely broken.

This most recent celebration felt a little more earned. I’d watched as that first championship team was gutted, and as the Hawks were bounced early from the playoffs two years in a row—not exactly lean years, mind you, but the kind of performances that make you wonder which direction the team is headed.

The reality is I didn’t earn anything. My suffering or not suffering along with my teams has no bearing on their performance or the outcomes of their seasons. I am inconsequential to their victories as well as their defeats. It’s mostly a one-way investment, but the amount time you suffer with them in defeat is directly proportional to your ecstasy in victory.

Which is why I can’t wait for the day when the Cubs win it all.

  • Doug S.

    I’m happy for the Hawks fans, especially a friend of mine in Chicago who is extra happy with this championship.

    Another very good friend of mine lives in Boston, she graduated from UConn. and has been somewhat lamenting the longish (to her) Pats drought in the SB. I made up a chart showing her championships (Boston teams, UConn men’s and women’s hoops) since 2000 and my teams (Cubs, Jets, Grizz-who moved, UW Huskies, Canucks) championships in the last 35 years. It was something like 15 to 1/2 (Huskies co-champs) explaining that she needed to realize how fortunate she was.

    I swear, if the Cubs or Jets (fan since 78) even get into a championship situation I’ll be a nervous wreck. And I want this? Damn right.

    • Kac

      I’ve been a Jets fan since the AFC championship game against the Dolphins 30+ years ago. I’m still a bit grouchy about the AFC title game against the Broncos and that’s been 15 years now. Amazing the loyalty we have to “our teams” through thick and (mostly) thin.

      Cubs and Jets….. it must be something innate that draws us to them. There sure hasn’t been much else for either one of them to get excited about in the last few decades.

      • Doc Raker

        The Jets play in Winnipeg.

  • Doug S.

    I’m happy for the Hawks fans, especially a friend of mine in Chicago who is extra happy with this championship.

    Another very good friend of mine lives in Boston, she graduated from UConn. and has been somewhat lamenting the longish (to her) Pats drought in the SB. I made up a chart showing her championships (Boston teams, UConn men’s and women’s hoops) since 2000 and my teams (Cubs, Jets, Grizz-who moved, UW Huskies, Canucks) championships in the last 35 years. It was something like 15 to 1/2 (Huskies co-champs) explaining that she needed to realize how fortunate she was.

    I swear, if the Cubs or Jets (fan since 78) even get into a championship situation I’ll be a nervous wreck. And I want this? Damn right.

    • Kac

      I’ve been a Jets fan since the AFC championship game against the Dolphins 30+ years ago. I’m still a bit grouchy about the AFC title game against the Broncos and that’s been 15 years now. Amazing the loyalty we have to “our teams” through thick and (mostly) thin.

      Cubs and Jets….. it must be something innate that draws us to them. There sure hasn’t been much else for either one of them to get excited about in the last few decades.

      • Doc Raker

        The Jets play in Winnipeg.

  • PLCB3

    The Hawks have no bandwagon? All their fans only started following hockey after Bill Wirtz died and claimed to be lifelong fans when they won in 2010. Then they all started crying when the Hawks broke the team up, not because the owner and GM were dicks like the Jerrys were when they destroyed the Bulls, but because they were going to have to do this no matter what, because they went for broke (And Dale Tallon decided that sending qualifying offers to their RFAs the summer before via post office instead of a fax machine cost them a few extra bucks).
    They were even more bandwagon this year than they were in 2010. People who didn’t follow after 2010 started climbing aboard.

    • Are you saying all their fans only started following hockey after Bill Wirtz died?

      • PLCB3

        Homer, Lenny, Carl, Barney, Sam, and Larry, 6 guys who cause 91% of all traffic accidents in Springfield is confused by your question. Perhaps you need an eye exam.

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      Feeling your pain, CAPS. The differences between “had” and “have” sometimes trip me up, too.

  • AC0000000

    The Hawks have no bandwagon? All their fans only started following hockey after Bill Wirtz died and claimed to be lifelong fans when they won in 2010. Then they all started crying when the Hawks broke the team up, not because the owner and GM were dicks like the Jerrys were when they destroyed the Bulls, but because they were going to have to do this no matter what, because they went for broke (And Dale Tallon decided that sending qualifying offers to their RFAs the summer before via post office instead of a fax machine cost them a few extra bucks).
    They were even more bandwagon this year than they were in 2010. People who didn’t follow after 2010 started climbing aboard.

    • Are you saying all their fans only started following hockey after Bill Wirtz died?

      • AC0000000

        Homer, Lenny, Carl, Barney, Sam, and Larry, 6 guys who cause 91% of all traffic accidents in Springfield is confused by your question. Perhaps you need an eye exam.

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      Feeling your pain, CAPS. The differences between “had” and “have” sometimes trip me up, too.

  • chet

    Being from Detroit, I was a Wings fan from birth. The were horrible in the 80’s. Early 90’s they started coming around and the streak started.

    I have lived in Chicago or the burbs since 1997. After the team let Roenick go I can tell you this, the city of Chicago barely knew it had a hockey team. The games were not televised and to be honest nobody cared. Nobody wore jerseys or flew flags and it was sad because Chicago had a great hockey tradition in it’s past. It reminded me of White Sox or Bears fans when their team sucks…they act like it does not exist. Those teams are “dead to them” when they are losing.

    Then came the 07-08 team. Sharpe started to perform and coincidentally Toews showed up the same year. You started to hear a buzz and then all of the sudden “Madhouse on Madison” was coined (and if it was before this I never knew because nobody cared to talk about it) they stole the song from the heineken commercial and low and behold Chicago had a hockey team again.

    • PLCB3

      It was Amstel Light that they stole Chelsea Dagger from. And because of the overkill of everyone becoming a Hawks fan, they have ruined Chelsea Dagger the same way the trash have ruined Don’t Stop Believing.

      Bears fans exist win or lose. It’s part of what makes them the dumbest fans in the NFL. Because they root for the Bears to win even when it is in their best interests that the Bears lose.

  • chet

    Being from Detroit, I was a Wings fan from birth. The were horrible in the 80’s. Early 90’s they started coming around and the streak started.

    I have lived in Chicago or the burbs since 1997. After the team let Roenick go I can tell you this, the city of Chicago barely knew it had a hockey team. The games were not televised and to be honest nobody cared. Nobody wore jerseys or flew flags and it was sad because Chicago had a great hockey tradition in it’s past. It reminded me of White Sox or Bears fans when their team sucks…they act like it does not exist. Those teams are “dead to them” when they are losing.

    Then came the 07-08 team. Sharpe started to perform and coincidentally Toews showed up the same year. You started to hear a buzz and then all of the sudden “Madhouse on Madison” was coined (and if it was before this I never knew because nobody cared to talk about it) they stole the song from the heineken commercial and low and behold Chicago had a hockey team again.

    • AC0000000

      It was Amstel Light that they stole Chelsea Dagger from. And because of the overkill of everyone becoming a Hawks fan, they have ruined Chelsea Dagger the same way the trash have ruined Don’t Stop Believing.

      Bears fans exist win or lose. It’s part of what makes them the dumbest fans in the NFL. Because they root for the Bears to win even when it is in their best interests that the Bears lose.