And I enjoyed it.
With it, though, another long and edgy season is finished. Considered a fifth by some Canadians, and as the commercial purports.
It was thrilling, finally being from the city whose team a whole country gets behind in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Starting with a relatively easy meeting with the Wild which led into a beautiful, head-scratching, back and forth, give and take series with the Predators that, in turn, gave way to an abysmal and heart-wrenching dismantling and expulsion at the hands of the newly minted Golden Knights.
I won’t pretend that that one didn’t sting horribly. Ready to write off the rest of the playoffs, I cut the broadcast immediately after the last buzzer of our season rang through not only Bell MTS Place, but the city as a whole. That collective displeased groan of bewilderment that I had heard of through vignette and anecdote, but never with my own actual ears— intuitively, of course.
We were pumped. With the beast of the league vanquished, we all could only then start seriously adding “Stanley Cup” into our discussions concerning the Jets. And even then it was like one of those ‘I don’t want to say too much because I know better than to get too hyped, but golly-gee, I think we can do it and I can’t contain my excitement.’ kind of things.
Now, while I’d like to go on more about what I think happened, or didn’t happen, for our Winnipeg Jets, I will refrain. It still hurts a little. Mitigated, thankfully, with the championship being crowned on the heads of the Washington Capitals— Alex Ovechkin especially. I’d never get the taste out of my mouth had the Knights won. That black malignancy that could only be treated with an injection of headlines coming from the local papers that read : They Did It! The Jets Are Champions. (from this sim, or another)
It is a pity that because of the times we live in, with all the scandals and outings of cheating and doping athletes, some of us can’t help but call the whole thing rigged. It is an easy out for the dejected. Granted. Not so much a healthy one, but nonetheless a court to air complaints.
Now, had Vegas won the Cup I would be forever unreasonable in my adamance that it was all fixed. Done in order to solidify interest and faithfulness in a fledgling market towards a new team in a weird, tales-told/not-told town. Having not won the Cup, however, I rest mostly easy knowing Ovi finally has one, and that he won’t be one of those superstars who retire really deserving to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug, but that never do.
I say, “rest mostly easy” with heavy and weary emphasis on mostly, mind you, as it all still looks a mite staged to me.
The way it all ended was perfect for hockey in Las Vegas : Beat the second place team in the league. Get to the final. Lose. But at home. Put the cup on display. Roll out the pageantry. Bob in front of all those tentative fans, both domestic and passing-through band-wagoners, that flood the city of the sinful— a backdrop and muse for everything and their flip sides from the beauty of ‘A' to the toxicity of ‘Z’— the barbed fishing hook that so many loyal sports fans have gone for over the years. I mean, shit, did you hear the reception Gary Bettman got? He was actually able to say his paid-for bullshit bit without being consumed by the unanimous booing well-seasoned hockey fans are used to him receiving. And if that doesn’t stand as evidence for the case against the majority of Knights fans as nonplussed, uninitiated greenhorns, I don’t know what is.
I mean, if the interest and buzz hadn’t’ve been as instant and Cinderella’d, I wonder if the Knights would’ve ended up surviving. The Jets were one of those teams when they were the Thrashers— an experiment in an iffy market that wound up falling apart and getting sold. It had to be on the mind of William P. Foley, owner of the Golden Knights. No one likes to lose in Vegas, but it is a definite component that makes that city run. And what kind of following would you get by riding another loser into town AND try to profit from it. It seems like a common sense thing to me, but what do I know?
So, now that the lid is off, and the theories, inane or otherwise, can breathe, I’ll have at the damp-basement, moth-eaten ones that I can never prove. At least not by fact, but with personal conviction and fresh cynicism.
Statistics drive me mad. I don’t have a mind for them. What gets me even tighter in the neck is how superstitions play so well with those dirty blurbs like the team who scores first wins 95% of the time, or something about road and home records. Can’t a new day just be a new day? Can’t a new game just be a new game? No psycho stats. Just an anything-can-happen event. No. There’s always a Hollywood storyline to be exploited or created. Humans have always loved that kind of shit. I don’t care if you’re a small-town talker or a big-city blabbermouth, everyone loves tension on some level, sadistically or masochistically— there’s a table to sit at for everyone— just not necessarily in the same room, or building, from which to feast with gluttonous appetite.
Superstition in Sport is nothing new. Laps around the ice. Not shaving. Sexual abstinence. Rafael Nadal’s self-molestation before a serve (could be considered tics of a grand slam OCDer). A can only wear the number four, or multiples of it player. Talking to goalposts, or tapping them. Pissing on one’s hands to harden them before taking the field. Or perhaps just in the corners of a stadium to ward off evil spirits. Listening to Anvil of Crom before each period. Wearing the jersey only on game days (a couple of mine, freshly added to the throng).
Now, while I know, thinking critically, that these are all dumb, pointless, incapable of really changing an unwritten conclusion for something, but I still abide them. Praying in my own way, I suppose. In the pews of some personal church few, if any, join me in. There are other churches with other customs. And just because my superstitions failed doesn’t mean all superstitions failed. While most were ultimately assailed, a lucky few worshipped and barked with glee that theirs won out and held true. And I’m glad it isn’t those from that place in the desert that holds mythical and bona fide stature, simultaneously.
I’ve never been to Las Vegas. Well aware of it, though. And now, if ever there was a chance going to see it for myself, stalk those attractions painted warped and psychedelic by Hunter Stockton Thompson, or sung about with such depressed excitement as was done by King Elvis Aaron Presley, it has now been executed. I would not last as free man, telling Vegas patrons where I’m from, and hearing whatever cavalier spew trash-talk they got loaded up like a pair of shady dice that’re ready to be thrown.
Where other teams and their fans would lament the oh-so-close-I-hate-this-trend-when-will-it-be-our-time? finish to the season, it was the best runner-up finish Vegas could hope for— their fans not ever knowing heartbreak and struggle, or appreciate what is involved in building a team out of immature and semi-steady wood that’s not ready to burn and is in need of support work.
And you want to know what? I had my jersey off, and didn’t play Anvil of Crom before the third period of Game 5 between the Jets and the Golden Knights. Did I botch the season, not being there when they needed me the most? Not at all. But that doesn’t stop the stupid superstition from scratching at me like branches from a spruce tree in a dense forest.
Fuck the Beloved. Any way and all ways.
Dedicated to HST & KEAP