On the John: Tippin’ ‘em back with the Hawks and the C’s

On the John

Tippin’ ‘em back with the Hawks and the C’s

Originally completed June 7, 2010

One more win for Bolland and co...

While I waited for my burger, the guy at the end of the bar at Wilmette’s C.J. Arthur’s ordered a shot and a beer.

“Actually,” I said, “that’s not a terrible idea.”

“Absolutely not!” he exclaimed. “Hawks score, take a shot. I’m hoping to be toast.”

“You deserve it. You’ve put your time in.” A definite Hawks fan. That was certain. He was wearing a navy blue Chicago Fire Department t-shirt with the Blackhawks Unfriendly Indian Face on the shirt pocket area. His own features possessed the standard excited rage and focused intensity present in all big fans before all big games. If I was a bit more hyped for the Super Bowl, it’s only because it was a single game, and because I had visions all week of soon-to-be Super Bowl MVP Alex Brown compacting Peyton Manning so many times that after his second forced fumble he would walk to the sideline, pick up the coach-in-the-booth phone, and say, “Is it about my cube?”

Todd was behind the bar. He poured two more shots – Jameson – set one down at the empty stool left of Definite Hawks Fan, and one for himself. I was not seated, something DHF soon noticed.

“Are you not staying?”

“Nope,” I said.

“You should hang here and do shots and watch the Hawks whip these slobs.”

“If I do that, I will never get home.”

“You’re god damn right about that.”

“I was coming through to watch the basketball,” I said, “but this particular dish set-up won’t allow it. So I’m walking to my folks’s place to watch Game 2 while they stay at their friends’s and watch Game 5.”

…that was the plan, anyhow, but I decided to change it up: to eat my burger at the bar, hang with new people, watch the beginning of the Hawks game, and watch the whole second half of the basketball.

My burger was perfect, and while Toews lined up for the face-off, I asked Definite Hawks Fan: “Among smart hockey fans, is there a consensus on Toews and Kane? Is one seen as clearly better, like Jordan and Pippen?”

“They’re complimentary,” DHF answered. “Toews is better at puck control. Kane is more of a skill player. I mean, Toews has skills – he can score and pass. He’s terrific. Kane is flashier, and can absolutely fly.”

“They are both damn fine players,” said Todd.

Yer darn tootin. Maybe it was Joel Quenneville’s pre-game line change, or maybe they were grooving on a charged-up at-home tied-series can’t-lose vibe. Whatever the case, the Hawks played a brilliant first period. Three goals – Seabrook, Bolland, Versteeg – on 13 shots on goal.

Bolland’s score was a deft little beauty; to the goalie Leighton’s right and an inch away from the goal line, Bolland snuck behind Leighton and poked a Sopel miss off the back of Leighton’s skate. It reminded me of Scottie inbounding the ball to himself off of Ainge’s back and collecting the easy dunk…

Todd, Definite Hawks Fan, and the recently-arrived Stu loved this goal. When the puck flashed in, the three of them belted out the Hawks’s official celebration diddy on cue: “Da, duh-da-da, duh-da-da, duh-da-da da-da-da!” One line of the song, and then heads tipped back and shots poured in, the three glasses hitting the wood bar in unison. Pop! And there was Todd, back on the refill.

“I’ll take that! Thank you!” Todd said while watching the slo-mo side-angle replay of Bolland’s goal.

DHF shook his head with joy. “God damn beautiful.”

When my burger was gone and the period over and the Hawks resting during the first intermission with a 3-0 lead, I said goodbye to my new hockey friends and hustled over to my parents’s place. That first period was everything I love about sports: the splendor and stimulation of watching great play, and of course the fusing of strangers into companions.

As it turns out, I still would have preferred to watch the basketball, even if it meant losing access to The Scene.

Because while I was yucking it up at C.J.’s and duh-da-da-da’ing for the Black Hawks, Ray Allen’s Avatar was generating three point buckets with stunning accuracy.

By the time I was settled on the couch, Ray had 20 points on six of six threes. It was a Terminator moment, and I’d missed it.

Fortunately, I saw three-pointer Number Seven, a wonderful, leaning jumper that seemed to equally thrill and terrify the Lakers fans.

Trailing by 13 with two minutes to go in the first half, the Lakers made several daring plays of their own. The gangly Gasol converted a one-handed baseline reverse dunk, darting past Kendrick Perkins and ferociously flying out of the dunk chute with the And One in his back pocket.

And then, to close the half, Kobe channeled his inner Dwyane Wade in Beijing, Deion Sanders’d a careless Perkins outlet pass, drilled the pull-up three, and rode into the half with his teammates, down only eight.

I was expecting a full-on Ray v. Kobe showdown in the second half. Didn’t happen. Ray scored only five points the rest of the way, (though his lone second half trey set a new Finals record for three-pointers in a game), and Kobe was dulled by the Celtics’s defensive mastery. The Great Bryant had but 21 points, and the Celtics won going away, as the fellow says.

…though it was still close as the teams galloped the final stretch. With Garnett, Perkins, Big Baby, and Sheed in foul trouble the entire game, the L.A. bigs of consequence dominated: 25-8-6 blocks on 7-10 for Gasol, 21-6-7 blocks on 6-10 for Bynum. They even combined to knock down 20 of 25 free throws. Just incredible.

Ultimately though, Rondo was the difference: he patrolled the court with flawless grace and tenacity, and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of where the ball would be, where it should go, and how to get it there. Trailing 89-90 with 3:20 to play, Rondo snatched a loose ball off another Gasol block, snaring the ball away from an off balance Kobe, changing his direction with a quick dribble to his left, and then using a Perkins screen to raise up for a righty layup.

The Terminator knocks down another smooth jumper.

Rondo then made two terrific defensive plays to seal the game: a blocked shot from behind on a would-be game-tying Fisher three, and then, with the Celtics up six and 40 seconds to play, a poke away steal on Kobe, also from behind.

The Boston backcourt mattered more than the two L.A. seven footers, and that was that. Rondo, Ray, and the Celtics now return to Boston with the series tied. T-1000 Kobe will be there too, hunting for revenge.

I’d been flipping to the Hawks game on commercials. They were still skating as the fans exited Staples Center, and I considered returning to C.J.’s to close out with the guys. But the Hawks were leading seven to four, and that takes a toll on even the strongest drinker.

Copyright 2010, jm silverstein

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