On the John
Rooting for the T-1000
Originally completed June 5, 2010
The text arrived ten minutes after the story ran. It was Neil the Boston Fan, taking me to the woodshed for a perceived misrepresentation of his opinion: “Just like a journalist. You never asked me if I thought the Celtics were a better team than the Lakers. You just asked why the Celtics were unlikable. Then you asked me for a prediction without asking what I thought about the Lakers.
“The Celtics – Rasheed and flopping and all – are a better TEAM than the Lakers. Ergo, Celtics in 6.”
And you know what? He’s right: I made a faulty assumption based on his comments, and based on my understanding of the Home Team Mentality. Neil bristled at my description of him as a “homer” – “I had my homerisms beaten out of me during my newspaper days,” he said – and so I will tell you now, dear reader, that during Game 3 of the Cup, (while we were having our discussion about Sheed and flopping), Neil expressed relief that the Flyers had disposed of his Boston Bruins because “there’s no way we’re keeping up with the Blackhawks.”
Indeed. These young Hawks are a furious pack of speed-crazed scorers and bruising checkers, which is why the city is beginning to feel a touch nervous after last night’s 5-3 loss to Philly. For these players to lose the Stanley Cup Finals on a 2-0 series lead would be another Chicago sports tragedy (real or perceived)… such a catastrophe would make the remainder of the baseball season almost unwatchable.
The series is tied now, the puck set to drop in a Game 5 rubber match Sunday night. If Toews, Kane, Buff, Keith, Hossa, Niemi, Sharp, Sopes, Seabrook, Versteeg, Bolland, Campbell, Madden, Eager, Brouwer, Ladd, Kopecky and co. can’t chase the Flyers and corral a championship…
But why think those thoughts? I’ve been steadily watching this team for only a month, and already I can list 17 players. Two weeks ago, that number was four, maybe six.
Now I know them all, and though this team will always be Toews And Kane just as the Bulls were always Jordan And Pippen, the true experience of getting to know these 2010 Chicago Blackhawks is the unending onslaught of need-to-know players who fly at you with 2001: A Space Odyssey Star Gate intensity.
2-2? So what? Do not forget that five of the six NBA Finals won by Scottie and Michael went six games, and that a third of their best-of-7 series in the title years were tied at two heading into Game 5. The Bulls won all six games, ultimately capturing the series and moving on.
The Black Hawks will do the same. Soon it will be time for Mad Celebration in the streets of Chicago… While the Lakers and Celtics tussle in Game 2, the Hawks will be engulfing the Flyers in a hurricane of laser-like spectacle and precision. Wednesday’s Game 6 can’t come soon enough…
My strongest memory from my first Bulls game back in the fall of 1990 is being in awe of the Blackhawks’s collection of banners. At the time, the Bulls had but three: retired shirts for Sloan and Love, and one flag flying for the team’s 1975 division championship from the Western Conference’s Midwest Division.
Ha. No longer. For our Bulls, it’s championship banners, conference champs, division champs, more retired jerseys, banners for the coach and GM, and a statue depicting The Best There Ever Will Be.
With those young pups Rose and Noah in place and Mr. Thibodeau apparently coming to town, Bulls fans are expecting even more banners.
The Hawks are too. Win or lose these Stanley Cup Finals, this group of hockey players does indeed have an opportunity to skate and score and win together many years onward. And everyone I know who knows more than me about the Hawks and hockey have expressed no doubt to that.
That’s good news for Hawks fans, and good news for the rest of us who just showed up to enjoy the show. We kid about bandwagoners, kid on them too. But city-based bandwagonning (i.e. non-hockey Chicago fans digging on the Hawks when they are good) seems to me a healthy portion of fandom.
It takes resources to follow a team. For the most part, Chicagoans have room for the Bears plus one baseball team plus one Old Barn/U.C. team. I enjoy welcoming Chicago’s non-hoops fans into the fold every time the Bulls surge in success and popularity, and I understand why non-hockey fans like me are gravitating toward these Hawks.
There are two reasons. One is taking advantage of city entitlement. I don’t fault anyone for that.
The other is the enjoyment of well-played sport. Truly, the more I watch this team, the more I think: That’s it. That is what I love about sport. Speed, beauty, poetry, viciousness, savagery, camaraderie, teamwork, celebration, dedication, pain, power.
That is, more or less, the same reason I have become a fake Lakers homer of late, and why, unlike two years ago against Boston, (or in any of Kobe’s previous six Finals), I am this time rooting for Los Angeles.
I simply find the Lakers a more fulfilling basketball experience at their best than the Celtics at their best. That’s where it hits for me. You might not like Ron Artest, but when his game reaches high levels, it’s enlightening. Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Bynum, Phil, Fisher, and even Shannon Brown… they all possess attributes of some kind of excellence that are sports-fan fulfilling. Kobe and Phil hit those spots every minute of every game, the rest of varying degrees. But it’s there.
I also enjoy seeing Tex Winter sitting behind the Lakers bench, whispering sage words like some sort of basketball Obi-Wan.
For me, at these stages of their careers, the only guys on the Celtics who get me jammed are Allen, Pierce, and Rondo. Ray Allen is particularly thrilling: while Reggie Miller always felt like some A.D.D. neighborhood kid who nobody liked but who was always picked because he had a knack for drilling EVERY crazy shot invented, watching Ray Allen fire basketballs into baskets from any spot is overwhelming to the point that you question the man’s humanity. I keep expecting some incredible Ray Allen Game to end, followed by Pierce looking at the crowd, and then handing Ray a knife and grimly announcing “show ‘em,” followed by Ray slicing down the forearm from his elbow to his shooting hand and ripping away the skin to expose his Cyberdyne Systems endoskeleton as the fans in the Garden gasp and Ray stares coldly into them. We were cheated of this scene at the 2008 All-Star Game when Ray lost the MVP to LeBron. I’m sure of it.
Copyright 2010, jm silverstein
Celebrate with us, June 11th at Debonair! The Our President book release party, featuring performances by FiveSTAR, Eyes Manouche, Jason Gatz, JD + The Atari Ferrari, and DJ RTC. Best show in the city! Phuck Phish!
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