By Mary Paoletti
Being one of few is usually a good thing. It makes you special.
The Bruins are just one of three teams in NHL history to lose a playoffs series after going up 3-0.
This is a bad thing. It's like, rare-type-of-disease-that-gets-you-in-a-medical-journal (and then you die) "special."
The B's are back in Boston for Game 3 against the Flyers tonight. This morning, I was thinking about a text I got from a friend Monday:
Seems kinda backwards, right? This guy is a huge Bruins fan and has been for years. But I get the feeling that if Boston wins again tonight, he'll be downright nauseous. He and others lovers of Hub hockey will get cold sweats, and suffer flashbacks of 2010's loss to Philly.
Wait, I'm sorry. You're supposed to say it like this: "2010's HISTORIC POSTSEASON COLLAPSE!!!"
Broadcasters and analysts have mentioned Boston's "EPIC DEFEAT" all season long. Fans would mute the TV, throw things at the screen-- the remote, candy, small pets -- and yell.
"HEY. I'D REALLY LIKE IT IF YOU MENTIONED THE CATASTROPHIC FAILURE ONE MORE TIME? FOR A MOMENT, I FORGOT ALL ABOUT IT."
Today, at the middle-ish point of conference semifinals, I wonder what the percentage is. How many fans would feel good about a 3-0 series lead for Boston? And how many, in some dark and twisty part of their sports fan brain center, would be okay with a loss tonight? Would maybe be a teensy bit relieved, even?
It's funny that it matters.
Last season's wins and losses have nothing to do with this year's results.
But sports aren't about rationality.
The enormous sweaty dude in an authentic Cam Neely jersey tossing back beers before puck drop won't want to admit it, but he loves hockey because he connects with it emotionally. When Shawn Thornton repeatedly punches someone's face, he gets up out of his seat and sprays beer on people as he screams because he's moved. He's blood-lusty in some primal way.
More obviously, that connection is why he cradled his soggy beard in his hands last year and sobbed like a four year-old when Boston, again, earned an early exit from the playoffs. It made no sense for Boston to blow that series with such a commanding lead. The slide couldn't be rationalized.
But every time you've worn your Tim Thomas jersey, sat on the right cushion of the couch with your legs slung over the arm, and ate ice cream during second intermission, the Bruins have won. That becomes hard evidence. It is fan science.
So people get superstitious because sports are unpredictable and sports fans are emotionally unstable during the playoffs.
It's like any relationship: Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice? Well, that's not gonna freakin' happen. The 3-0 series security innocence is lost; Boston will have it's expectations cautiously lowered. Just like before Game 7.
Ask the guy in the Neely jersey (any of them) at the bar. He's more than ready for the Bruins to be the right kind of "special," but he'd never bank on it.