When the Blackhawks scored the game-winner not 5 minutes into overtime tonight in Game 4 against Vancouver, I blurted a few f-bombs and punched the couch cushions.
My wife told me I should go for a walk, and she was right. I threw on a sweatshirt, grabbed my iPod and stormed out.
I hit shuffle, and the first song, the very first goddamn song, was Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis. That was the song the United Center played when Chicago won the game not 10 minutes earlier.
Of course it was.
I was furious. The series was tied 2-2, and the Canucks still had home ice advantage, but it might as well have been over. The Canucks blew a 3-goal lead in Game 1, and barely won. They blew a 2-0 lead in Game 2 and got blown out. They finally dictated the pace of Game 3 and got a relatively easy win.
Then came Game 4 tonight. The Canucks had a 1-0 lead in the third period, but were just hanging on. Chicago had all the momentum, and the Canucks were scrambling. But they were hanging in...15 minutes left...10 minutes left...9...8...In one-goal games in the playoffs, every minute feels like 20. It's awful. 5...4...then it happened. It was inevitable, really. Chicago tied it.
I turned to my wife and said, "This changes everything."
The Canucks were 3 minutes away from going up 3-1 with Game 5 coming up at home. They'd have 3 wins when they really only deserved one. But that's what championship teams do, right? Find ways to win when they shouldn't?
But this is the Canucks. When Chicago scored in overtime, I was furious, but not surprised.
So I went for my walk to clear my head, but it wasn't working. Every Canucks fan knows this is the year. The Sedins can walk after the season, and there might not be enough room under the cap to re-sign them. Ohlund's all but gone. Luongo, the ethereal goalie we've been waiting our whole lives for, has one year left and may not re-up if he thinks the team is going in the wrong direction. Which, without the Sedins, is a certainty.
It feels like now or never, and that sucks. The mind starts racing. Why does Tampa Bay get a Stanley Cup, but not Vancouver? Anaheim and Carolina get their parades, but not Vancouver? Where's the justice in that? There is none.
And here they were, 3 minutes from putting a stranglehold on a series they've been mostly outplayed in, and they pissed it away. It felt like there was no way to reconcile that.
I kept walking. I was thinking about what it would take for one of my teams to win a title. My two favorite teams in sports are the Canucks and Seattle Mariners. They have no titles between them. The Canucks have all of two appearances in the finals in their 39 years, the Mariners none in their 32. The Mariners aren't anywhere close. The Canucks might not be after this year.
I know it shouldn't bother me as much as it does. They're just games. Why does it matter this much? Why do I need to storm out for a walk after a loss? Is this what I want to pass on to my son? Should I steer him away from being a sports fan? Should I just make him a Lakers and Yankees fan so he doesn't know what this feels like? When the hell does it get to be my turn?
I kept walking and wondering. Wondering why I do this to myself. Wondering if I even enjoy it anymore.
After an hour, it was getting dark outside, but finally I was starting to snap out of it. As I came around the corner and started walking home, there was time for one more song.
This time, my iPod delivered. It was "Challengers" by the New Pornographers. That song has a line that's perfect on so many levels when Neko Case sings, "Whatever the mess you are, you're mine, ok?"
That's what it is to be a sports fan - what the mess they are, they're yours, ok? It wasn't so bad after all. The series is 2-2. We have Luongo.
Game 5 is Saturday at home.
Screw it. I'm in.