After all, I've really only enjoyed hockey in person, never on TV. When the subject of the Red Wings came up, I'd always make some sarcastic comment about how hockey sucks. In fact, I've usually rooted against the Wings just to piss off everyone else. It's not nice, I know, but it made me feel better. I felt that the worse the Wings were, the worse it was for hockey fans. But, I think the tide may be changing for me. After watching more hockey in the past week than I have in the past 3 years, I feel like a born-again hockey fan. I'm not ready to call myself a Wings fan yet. I would never jump on a bandwagon like that. I've seen enough girls in pink Red Sox hats to know differently. But, I can certainly be a hockey fan, can't I? Maybe I'm overreacting, this could just be a high from watching the Finals with a large group of friends.
I watched Game 6 at a friend's house before heading to downtown Royal Oak for the celebration. The streets were lined with people, horns were going off left and right, and I think I gave more high-fives than I care to admit. A couple of my buddies and I just set off down the street and took it all in. We stopped to have one drink at a bar, but that turned out to be fairly anticlimactic. Simply going up and down Main St. was more exhilarating. Mind you, this wasn't a weekend night. This wasn't the victory parade. This was simply a bunch of sports fans gathering to celebrate a Stanley Cup together. I ran into people I hadn't seen in years, including, Steve Feeman, with whom I played baseball when I was about 11. He was nice enough to remind me of the MVP Award I should've received in our travel baseball league. That was around the peak of my athletic abilities apparently.
Whether it's hockey, baseball, football, whatever, this is what sports is all about. Which is why I'm confused now as to why I always hated hockey. It's low scoring, but I enjoy watching the World Cup. It has a lot of foreign players, but then so does every sports league now. Maybe I was just being stubborn, my little rebellious move to be different. Yet, there I was last night celebrating with everyone else on Main St. When people ask why I love sports so much, the scene in Royal Oak has to be near the top of my list. Granted, the numbers and analysis are pretty darn compelling, but when it comes right down to it, there's not much better than the people.
I don't mean to get too preachy here, but sports can bring people together from all walks of life. I'm sure most of you have sat a bar or sporting event and talked with someone you've just met about the game. When the team does well, you celebrate together. When the team does bad, both agree that you could do better than any of them. All of sudden, you're arguing with complete strangers over who should've won the MVP or whether the ref made a bad call in the first period. I've argued with a 300 lb. Puerto Rican at 3:30 am in South Bend over how many points Scottie Pippen averaged in 1994. Of course, that's a tad extreme, but you get the point. When you have nothing else in common, sports will give you something to talk about.
Last night proved to me once again how great sports can be, even the ones that I don't necessarily love. I may not know exactly who Jiri Hudler or Brett Lebda is, even if I can name the entire Pistons roster from their Bad Boy teams or who won the World Series in 1926. But, it's something I'll work on for next year in hopes of adding hockey to my arsenal of sports knowledge. Lord knows if I'm going to be celebrating with the real hockey fans, I better start acting like one as well.