Saturday, June 7, 2008
Boys to Men
Apologies for the long silence, but truth be told, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the Stanley Cup playoffs (that's hockey, girls) so Second Edition was glued to the cable channels, biting her nails and shouting things like, "I can't fucking believe that wasn't a penalty." I take it as personal point of pride that I nearly waited till the second sentence to use the word fucking. See Mom, things are looking up.
Now, admittedly, I was never a hockey fan until I met the Ranger. I thought hockey was for suburban men who quietly beat their wives while chewing tobacco. And I'd even attended a few games at Madison Square Garden while living in New York, escorting happy clients who downed Miller Lites while I read a book or worked my way through my in-box. I was not impressed by all that brute force. And I got tired of the guy behind me spitting on my neck every time he screamed, "Kill 'em. Kill 'em."
But then last fall I was given an ultimatum: "Watch the Steelers with me or the Penguins." To which I replied, "Steelers? That's football, right? Have they ever won a Super Bowl?" It's shameful to make a grown man cry, but there you have it.
So, I opted for hockey. I heard the MomTape in my head. Once, when I refused to go fly fishing with the X for like the hundredth time, she furrowed her brow and said in her deep mom voice, "You know if you don't start taking an interest in your husband's activities, he'll find someone who will." Well, of course I laughed at her 1950s logic.
But as is so often the case these days, I find my mom was right about a lot of things. The need for fiber. Making sure that bikini top stays put even when wet. Laughing at jokes that aren't funny, especially if it's your boss that is telling them. And keeping your husband entertained and/or feigning an interest in professional sports.
Then something happened right around January. I got interested. I really started paying attention instead of squinting my eyes so that the TV screen went blurry. There was strategy and finesse. Stick work. Agility and speed on short blades. The bounce and weave of the puck. The well-planted elbow to the ribs or shoulder check into the boards. Suddenly, I was jumping off the sofa shouting, "Kill 'em. Kill 'em" or hiding in my cashmere sweater as one of my guys got pummeled.
The kicker came when we traveled to Pennsylvania together. Moments after getting off the plane, instead of dashing to Steel Town to meet the parents who were anticipating either Mary Tyler Moore or a Cougar with a boob job, we went straight to Mellon Arena to join a sold-out crowd cheering the home team while they thrashed Toronto. As white towels twirled in the air overhead, I joyfully added my Chanel handbag to the mix. Woo Whoo! Go Pens!
After that, I started reading up on the players, a mix of Canadians, Americans, Russians, and Eastern Europeans. Boys, really, in a big man's game. At the start of the season, team captain Sidney Crosby was 19 years old. A teenager, for Godsake. He can't even order beer in a bar, although I guess with a 8.7 million dollar contract, he could probably buy a brewery. Evgeni Malkin, the second highest scorer in the NHL, 21. Kris Letang, the master of the shoot-out, 21. And Marc-Andre Fleury, the goalie that kept them in the finals, 23.
Okay, so we lost Game 6 and the Cup. Fair and square. The Red Wings played better, faster...and their defensemen were everywhere.
But let me tell you something about Game 5. With the score 3-2, the Red Wings were tasting victory, all the sweeter because they were in their home arena. Detroit fans were already on their feet ready to give their championship team a standing ovation. The officials unpacked the 32 pound Stanley Cup and began polishing it, the presenters slipped on their white gloves and bottles of champagne were set to chill in buckets of ice. With 30 seconds left in regular play, Penguin Maxime Talbot, 24, swept the biscuit into the basket, and suddenly a sure victory was not so sure.
Unfortunately, the hustle it took to get the puck in came at a high price. Malone took a slapshot to the face, but stuck a tampon up his broken nose and kept playing. Gonchar suffered a concussion from sliding head first into the boards, yet returned for all three overtime periods. The boys were exhausted, injured, out-gunned by an older, more experienced team with a dozen Cups under their belt. Between OTs two and three, the Red Wings ordered more ice for the now warm champagne and the Penguins ordered Domino's Pizza. As every woman knows, boys always perform better after pizza.
So the game went on. Pittsburgh played their hearts out. And won.
Mom was right about that, too. Never give up.