Friday, May 27, 2011

Victory or Loss - Game Sevens Drive Me Insane

I probably should have posted this up earlier, but I decided to head to Wrigley and freeze my cajones off at a thrilling Cubs/Pirates matinee. However, I’ve invested too many keystrokes in it by now to not post it. Congrats to the Bruins – they brought the pressure in Game 7 and deserved the win. No on with the regularly scheduled column….

No fan really likes a Game 7. If they tell you how much they enjoy one, or how much they are looking forward to one they are lying. Ok there is one case where a fan might say he’s looking forward to a seventh game. That’s the fan whose team is down 3-2 after Game 5.

It is in the aftermath, that their greatness is born. But that is only after the final whistle is blown ane the handshake line is through. Before that, it’s all nerves, tension and Alka Seltzer. Every shift is important, every penalty kill is breath stopping. Even goals are only momentary relief. Once the puck drops again the pressure is back on.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “Why didn’t Justin do a live blog, or a running diary of Game 7?” Well, concerned reader, allow me to explain. If I was to catalog my thoughts of a Game 7 they would all pretty much be the same:

In the defensive zone:

“Oh my god…ohmygod..getitout..getitout…GET IT OUT! Oh no a shot! Is it in? No it’s in the corner! GETITOUT….GETITOUT….GETITOUT!

In the offensive zone:

“Shoot it! No don’t shoot it, it’ll get blocked! Shoot it! Keep it in! Is it in? No it’s in corner! Pinch! No don’t pinch! How much time is left? Eighteen minutes. Too much time. No not enough time! Shoot it! Score lots! Oh god it’s going the other way!”

So instead of subjecting you to that for 60 minutes I’ll give you a brief synopsis of my past Game 7’ in order of enjoyment.

3. Game 7 2004 Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia. I’m sure this was a great game. How could a 2-1 win not be great? The truth is – I only saw about five minutes of the game. See I was on a quasi-date with my future girlfriend. To her eternal credit , she offered to cancel the date when she realized it would clash with the game.

I demurred and we went to see Casablanca at the historic Tampa Theater, and the rest is history. We did go for post movie drinks at The Hub (another Tampa institution) and celebrated the Lightning’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals with a host of eclectic bar mates.

It actually wasn’t that hard of a decision. Hang out with a girl I really like or drive myself insane watching a hockey game I have no control over. I really, really don’t like watching Game 7’s. I’m not good company. I set in front of the TV (or computer) hunched over staring intently. I don’t make small talk, I don’t eat. I am an ass. Sorry. I was glad she gave me a reason not to watch it, and for two hours it was out of my mind.

2. Game 7 2011 First Round against Pittsburgh. We’ve covered this game already in recent weeks. Tue Penguins had one hope – get a lead early and hold on. In my mind the Lightning were playing with house money having won Games 5 and 6 to tie the series back up. All of the pressure was on Pittsburgh and once the Lightning got the lead it was over.

1. Game 7 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. If you think I’m a mess for normal Game 7’s imagine what it was like for a Stanley Cup Final Game 7. Put this way, I turned down a ticket to go. It wasn’t a free ticket, but I had enough discretionary income at the time to afford it (unlike the Super Bowl ticket when the Ravens played in Tampa). Frankly I needed pacing room and didn’t think the fans in my section would appreciate that too much. So alone in my condo I watched the game. And I paced. And paced. I think I may have scared the neighbors when Fedatenko scored his first goal. Definitely scared them when he scored his second.

My Dad (living in Hawaii at the time) asked me to give him updates. I called him between periods to keep him updated. He was on the golf course, and I remembered thinking, “How can he be so care free during a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals?”

Oh yeah, he’s not a Lightning fan. I’m not even sure he’s a big hockey fan. But it was nice of him to show interest in his kid’s obsession.

Other than that I don’t think I spoke to anyone during the game. After the game, my somewhat intoxicated friends who did attend the game called and tried to have a certain Tampa sports celebrity talk to me. However, that’s a story for another time.

So now as I finish this up, I have to figure out where tonight’s game fits in the rotation. Unfortunately, it’s the first time they’ve suffered a defeat in a Game 7. I’m stuck between happiness because of a season no one expected and disappointment because they were so close to moving on.

I’m sure with time the disappointment will fade (an announcement of a long term contract for Mr. Stamkos would help as well) and pride will prevail. As far as the series on the whole it’s probably one of the better ones I’ve ever witnessed. It had everything a hockey fan could want and showed two evenly matched teams gutting it out to the very end.

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