Two years ago, the St. Louis Blues were mere hours away from accomplishing what had long eluded them: a date with Lord Stanley.
Like a real date; none of this “long looks and short hugs” bullshit. They drank from it, ate from it, and celebrated the day like kings. For a summer, they were just that. I remember the night they won Game 7. The wife was out of town... like way out of town. She was on a cruise ship with her sisters, thousands of miles away from the promised land-which just happened to be a garden in Boston.
It was surreal. There’s no hyperbolic influence on that statement. When four seconds became three and then one snuck up, I wasn’t beside myself or getting ready to pop champagne... and a forehead vein. Instead, the couch I sat on moved not an inch. Somewhere inside me, a statement had already arrived: the Blues were Stanley Cup Champions. That’s all a fan asks when he signs up with a team for life: show me a few good times and win it all at least once. At that moment, I was complete.
Sure, I wrote a few months later-even quoting Blues fanboy Jon Hamm’s most known character, Don Draper-that all a fan could want when he/she/they suddenly found happiness... was more happiness. But it wasn’t the honest truth. That was classic usage of hyperbole. It’s where you try to take an ordinary statement and inflate it with the power of cool words. For a writer, it’s kettle corn and holding the bottle of water with glee at every mile of your article. Deep down, I was happy.
Compare it to meeting the love of your life. Right away-whether your brain is onboard or not-the heart says this is it. Seeing the Blues win THE Game 7 kind of felt like tying the knot with my wife. Maybe this hot weather is bleeding this older cynic back down to the young romantic he used to be. After all, baseball isn’t the only sport people get romantic about. I happen to know and actually love a lot of souls who treat this sport like cold water in a St. Louis summer. It’s everything to them. For me, it’s a great sport that I love. One that I continue to watch (as a fan most of the time) and learn new things about. Unlike other sports, hockey can give a fan homework for life. I’m game to the end.
I just don’t take losses that hard anymore. Maybe it’s a symptom of a game evolving from my point of view, or maybe it’s not exactly what I once loved and adored it for. The NHL simply isn’t the same as it was when I was growing up, and that’s both good and bad. But ever since the Blues won that game against Boston and made Brad Marchand cry, I haven’t reacted to rough defeats or painful losing streaks as harshly as I once did. You can’t fake passion-it comes and goes without asking.
Before that eternally swell night two years ago, I would carry a Blues loss with me all day at times. I would replay the power plays in my head, wondering just how many passes a team can make without taking a shot. It’s like passing the basket without giving at church. My wife would come into the room and check the score; more like she was taking my temperature from afar.
I love when Rachel sits down and gets into it with me. The game was tied or they blew a three goal lead, it didn’t matter; we were two peas in a pod for a couple hours. Adulting separates you more from your spouse than anybody. Time can be fleeting, so when she sat down and watched, I felt like Chewbecca just settled in next to me in the Millennium Falcon. She wasn’t pleased to watch the final moments of Game 7 on a giant ship so far away from St. Louis at first, but there’s no doubt she was smiling with her sisters when one second became none, and the Blues had won.
But even these days, she would get more wound up than me. As I sat silent like a pragmatic corpse on the nearby couch-with a head full of Bud Select, Christopher Nolan ending riddles, and skittles-she would shout “just shoot” or “come on” beside me. I smiled every time. I turned her into a hockey fan, folks. Score one for the man of the house there. Official score: Husband 1, Wife 85.
I don’t know how to describe it exactly. I stopped writing regularly about it as well as lessened my live watching of the games. Neighbors don’t mind a peaceful hockey fan watching a game at 2 a.m. I just didn’t NEED to watch the game as much. I could get it to later.
When the Blues won it all, maybe a tiny sense of fulfillment crept in. For a sports fan, it’s not uncommon to say “that’ll do” too often, but I was right there on June 13, 2019. Was one enough? Of course not. Vinny has to see one, just to understand how a sea of red can suddenly turn into a We Went Blue.
For now, though, I’m good.
Thanks for reading this extremely long version of me saying “I don’t care as much if the Blues don’t win it all.” I can enjoy the games and the time, something I will never find a few blocks east of the Enterprise Center. Also, it just reminds me so fondly of Bobby Plager. His overjoyed smile while on the ice hanging out with Stanley, a trophy it felt like the entire team won for him. We’ll never get that again, sadly.
As Bobby said that night more than a few times, thank you. Thank you for Jan. 2-June 19, 2019, Blues. It was better than most movies.
(quietly says “Go Patty and Reavo.”)