Clark Street after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013.
years ago when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, my girlfriend said
she’d never seen me so excited. Among the many ways people might describe me, outwardly
expressive is not one of them, and I guess it took a sports championship for
her to realize I was capable. When probed into my burst of excitement, I
explained that you simply never know when you’re going to get a chance to
celebrate this again.
In April, the two of us celebrated our engagement, and last night, we celebrated
as the Blackhawks took the Stanley Cup for the third time in six seasons,
finally – finally – on home ice. I won’t risk asking her on which occasion I
seemed the most “excited.”
truth is that sports championships are a lot like simchas – you have to enjoy and relish them when you can.
Stanley Cup is often described as the most sought after and difficult to obtain
trophy in all of professional team sports. Look no further than the first
person Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews passed the Cup to last night, Kimmo
Timonen, a 16-year veteran set to retire at season’s end, winning his first cup
at age 40, his best chance since 2010, when as a member of the Philadelphia
Flyers he watched the Hawks skate off with it … their first Stanley Cup win in
nearly 50 years. Teams in hockey-crazed cities such as Toronto (no Stanley Cups
or appearances in the last 45-plus years) and Vancouver (no Stanley Cups
period) were once in the Blackhawks’ shoes … skates. Vancouver even demolished parts of their city over losing the Cup
to Boston in 2011.
to win three times, to even feel comfortable uttering the word “dynasty,” is a
sports fan’s greatest privilege.
grew up knowing two extremes of sports fandom. I was 4 years old when the
Chicago Bulls won their first ever NBA championship and 11 when they won their
last. Watching the Bulls win championships was likely a family pastime. That’s
just what they did -- I never knew any better until they stopped.
that to my life as a Chicago Cubs fan. I inherited a championship drought older
than my grandparents, and in 2003 experienced my first chapter of what it means
to suffer with your team. My college years were particularly brutal with the
Bears losing the Super Bowl in 2006 and the Cubs getting swept two straight
years in the playoffs in 2007 and 2008. Somewhere in that time, as the Bulls
and Blackhawks began crawling out of the depths, I must have vowed to never let
a championship go underappreciated.
I endured the extreme heat of the Blackhawks’ 2010 parade and got myself to the
people-swarm on Clark Street in 2013. This year, seeing as I have yet to see
the Cup in person, that’s on top of my summer to-do list.
a die-hard sports fan is like voluntarily locking yourself onto a roller
coaster. You agree to subject yourself to the ups and downs and highs and lows
no matter what. It sounds pointless. Why care so much about sports? Why give
yourself hypertension over something that in the grand scheme of things means
devoted sports fan understands the thrill of it all makes life more exciting
and, frankly, meaningful. Free of any real-world consequences, sports fandom
teaches us about what it means to make an unwavering commitment, to persevere
when it hurts the most, to savor the victories big and small. All of these
things teach us how to live fuller, more meaningful lives.
Lately, a good chunk of the advice I’ve gotten is to “enjoy being engaged.” At first I wasn’t so sure how one enjoys a basic “status change,” but I think the applicable sports fan lesson is not to get ahead of yourself; take it one game/day at a time. So I’m trying to appreciate the moment more – and come our wedding day a little over a year from now (and definitely after next year’s Stanley Cup Final), I’m sure she will never have seen me more excited.