Allow me to pour my heart into a post in the very moment the Penguins have lost a Game 7.
For starters, I hate the Rangers with a passion that you can’t understand unless you’re in your 24th year of hating a team with a fire of a thousand suns. 1990 was the year I did two things: became a hockey fan and decided I hate the NYR. I am from New York, mind, and while I also hate the Yankees I was, as a child, setting myself up for a lifetime of “Whaaaaaaaaat?” from family and friends. I don’t even respond. One look of disgust is all they get from me. If you never chanted “1940!”, it’s tough to comprehend. (Some of you can maybe claim longer.) The Rangers beat the Capitals what seems like every year – and now this. This is a particular hell for me, just so you’re aware. If you’ve hated anything as long as I’ve hated the Rangers that was not a vegetable your parents tried to feed you in puree form, I applaud your staying power.
When I was in 7th grade, I went on a family ski vacation to VT with my BFF – a Rangers fan. Turns out I had a stress fracture and my doctor said no skiing. The only thing to do for a week? Sit in the lodge and read some awful Rangers biography. In 1996, my high school boyfriend, a Rangers fan, won a bet and made me wear a Rangers jersey for a day. There’s a picture of miserable me in our yearbook.
How many times do we have to tell you?
Secondly, I hate repeating myself. But this Game 7, in which then Pens outshot the Rangers 250 million to one, is the very reason you cannot have a Game 5 or 6 like the Penguins did. Last year it sank them too. There are games where you lose, and there are games where you get beaten, like tonight. Lundqvist goes ASDFGHJKL!@#$%^&&*() and you cannot win. Nothing you could have done, nothing you didn’t try. That is why you don’t beat yourselves, particularly in the first ten minutes of an elimination game like Games 5 or 6. This isn’t a genie in a bottle, Xtina. This shit does not show up when you call it’s name, Pittsburgh. You had your chances for two games: you were nowhere, you lost. Tonight, you were HERE and you got beaten. Those are different circumstances. We’ve all had good nights and bad nights, we’ve all lost. They are not the same.
36 shots. 1 goal.
My last and final point is this: I LOVE THIS TEAM. Fuck everyone, I love the Penguins. There is also a difference between hope and expectation. I hope to win every year. I don’t expect it. Anyone who’s been around 24+ years (Old Lady Land) knows better. Winning is… magic. It’s impossible. It’s so many factors times so many obstacles divided by so many things that could never have happened, expect for that time that they did and it was in your favor.
“It’s a self-preservation thing.”
Winning is ephemeral and impossible and that, more than any blood, sweat and tears, is what makes winning special. I felt it in ’09 when the Pens won the first round. I felt it in ’10 when the Blackhawks won the second round. I am not always right – far from it – but ask people who watched the Kings in 2012. MAGIC. They had it. Watching that was intoxicating and addictive. It’s what I look for now. I want to see it every year. But I don’t. Contrary to all the evidence, I do not actually control the universe. James Neal will remove his Gingerbeard and retire to a summer of white Ferrari cruises and tight t-shirts. Sidney Crosby will shave off his first-ever respectable beard-type-thing and recluse for an off-season of pretending no one saw his girlfriend in the stands in Sochi or NY. Bless their hearts, as they prepare to come back in October and do it again. So will I.
I don’t believe in burning a team because they lost. I have always been puzzled by the tradition of firing a coach, since they are the only person who cannot go out and score. This is not to say I don’t identify strengths and weaknesses in the Penguins’ system – or any team. I do. I critique. But blind criticism is another thing and beware, Pens fans who were derided in a late-season article that called us “joyless.” We are in danger of becoming that. Entitled, expectant, the celebutantes of hockey. The Yankees fans of hockey. The only thing I hate more than the Rangers is the Yankees… it is a complicated life for this Upstate New Yorker.
Love, hate, it’s a fine line.
Luckily, there are a lot of
Pens hockey fans (look at me, being generous in depair) who know what hockey is: love and loss and loving through loss. So many of the people who read and comment or Tweet us restore my faith in hockey humanity on a daily basis. You guys are the best. Whether it’s a stupid joke about a turtle or a comment, that some find derisive but I find clever, about someone’s sass or face or post-game comment, you guys give me everything I need to stay with hockey year after year. Teams lose. I get disappointed. I get angry even, and I want change. I want wingers and no injuries and confident goalies and to clean up acts. But more than anything, more than winning, I want you guys – my friends – to be part of this every year. I want to be talking to you in May, or June, or even ending in April. Saying goodbye or saying “great job.” You’re it, for me.
Writing this blog is my favorite thing. My daily (if I can make it that often) highlight. It’s also a lot of freaking work. My job… well, if they ever put in one of those internet time trackers, we are sunk, WUYS fans. I wish every one of you could start your own blog and I would read it, comment and rejoice in the free time it leaves me. But I write this because I love it and I love you guys – even the Rangers fans. Yes you. Teams aside, we are each other’s people. You know what it’s like to be called “that girl/guy who loves hockey.” My husband is a chef, and someone at his restaurant the other night told him, “You look like this hockey player, this guy Sidney Crosby.” My husband said, “Yeah, so my wife says.” But me? I said, “Who is this person and do they want to be my best friend for life?!” I almost chased a girl with Carolina Hurricanes license plate frames out of the parking garage at work yelling, “Here’s my number!!!” So for those of you I’ve had the pleasure to meet in real life and those of you I have yet to meet, you’re the reason. I want to win for you as much as for myself, and while I hate your teams, I know you love them. I feel you. Thanks for being here with us through all of this and next year, well… I still hope the Pens kick your pansy asses. But I know you’re thinking, “Right back atcha.” Don’t let the haters get you down. Don’t listen when the media (which someone once called us and I laughed till I cried) pretend they know better than you.
Suck it., 24 hour news cycle and Twitter.
My text messages are blowing up - think I’ll drop my phone in the bathtub. See you in September. Or when Southern Ontario gets to Instagramming this summer.
Love (and maybe a little wine), Pants
PS: Let the record show I wrote this from a suite at the Ritz, for work, and near bottom of a bottle. Thus my sympathies are such as they might not be otherwise. Both for myself and for others (see: Rangers fans). But hey, that’s hockey. Time for a summer vacation for myself, I think.