Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Learning the hard truth about being a Chicago sports fan


Last night we were flipping channels when we landed on the Chicago Blackhawks game. The announcer said something about the referee talking to Coach Q about Patrick Kane. We watched for a few minutes, but the announcers never said anything else about Kaner. Someone from the Florida Panthers was in the penalty box; we didn’t know why. I called my Mom to see what happened. As luck would have it, this was the game she wasn’t watching live. She had no idea what happened. At the intermission we finally saw the cross-check to the back and Kaner’s crash into the boards. You could tell when he got up that it was bad.
This morning we found out that Patrick would be off the ice with a broken collarbone. I just sighed. It’s not that I don’t feel badly about his injury. It’s just that this is the way so many Chicago sports stories end up.
There is a strange mentality to being a Chicago sports fan. We want success, but we don’t expect it. We know there are so many crazy ways for things to go wrong. This feeling is ingrained in us because we’ve lived it.
Oh there have been moments when we broke the spell. The Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox each won a championship. The Chicago Bulls won six titles. The Chicago Blackhawks won two. Still, Chicago fans never really expect our teams to win.
To some extent you have to sell the idea that we might win it all. Chicago sports fans always have one foot off the bandwagon when a team achieves success. We want to commit, but don't want to get hurt when the big win doesn't come.
After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in dramatic fashion against the Philadelphia Flyers, Patrick Kane said something about he had to “sell it.” I thought that pretty much summed up the Chicago sports mentality. He scored the winning goal. The refs didn’t call it right away because they didn’t see the goal clearly. Rather than celebrate with Patrick, the team – and fans – waited for official confirmation. Kaner was celebrating on the ice all by himself. Eventually his teammates joined him. It wasn’t that fans didn’t believe he knew he scored the winning goal. It was that we were sure something was going to go wrong and the refs would call back the goal. It’s the Chicago way when it comes to sports.
This morning I told our girls that the Hawks won, but Kane broke his collarbone. Grammie just broke her collarbone, so they knew exactly what it meant that Kaner broke his collarbone. The girls looked at each other and tears started rolling down their cheeks. They started asking a lot of questions about his future hockey skills, which I couldn’t answer.
They were upset that I wasn’t more upset. I didn’t want to tell them that I’ve had my hoped dashed so many times that these things didn’t even surprise me anymore. There will be plenty of time for them to learn that lesson later. For now, it’s better for them to keep the faith for as long as possible. Once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back.

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