Friday, May 28, 2010
By Frankie O'
Well, its here. The day of reckoning! It was bound to happen. Ive been here 15 years now, having moved from one sports mad city to another. So far there hasnt been much conflict since that while both cities have had good sports teams, they either havent been good enough to matter or havent been good enough at the same time. Of course the Eagles did play the Bears here in the playoffs in 2001, but this city and its teams were still kind of new to me and I honestly did not think that the Bears had a chance in that game. That was the luckiest fraud of a 13 win team that I ever saw and the game and subsequent play of that team proved that out. Of course the Eagles lost the next week and have continued to torture me in many new and old ways since, but I digress. The week before and after that game were a whirlwind for me. Rooting for my Birds was never in question, but the impact that game had on this city was something that stayed with me. No stranger to rooting misfortune, I recognized the feeling of despair in the city as the local heroes had once again let them down. I was also struck by the fact that just about everyone I knew here, all of whom were Bear fans, wished me and my team well. That was kind of cool and introduced me to the minds and hearts of Midwesterners. If it was the other way around I would have been so ticked off that I would not have been able to see straight, let alone remember my manners. But time and age and many of the other things that happen in life have a way of changing that.
Which brings me to the cross-roads where I find myself: A Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals. It feels weird even typing that. What? As Ive accumulated my time living here, the sports fan in me has become immersed in the local pro sports scene. (Like I ever had a chance not to be!) Being behind the bar affords me ample opportunity to watch and talk about everything that is going on here. The difference about the teams here though is while I follow and root for them, I dont have the connection of a lifetime of devotion. While others are miserable about the plight of the locals, I can observe at a distance. No pain. I especially enjoy following the White Sox, the Bulls and the Blackhawks, for many different reasons, but the main one being they would never have to play a Philly team when it matters. Right? Uh oh!
The connection for me to the Flyers is that they were the first team that I grew up rooting for that won a title. Considering that I grew up in a city with a considerable chip on its shoulder,(Just about sports, I swear!) they were a team for the ages and has been loved accordingly since then. I will always be a Flyers fan. In addition to that though, Im a big NHL fan, and with that there is a certain nostalgic connection with the Original Six teams, especially if you move to one of those cities. As Ive often said, I was shocked at the level of disinterest in this team, by this city when I took residence here in 1995. Not to beat that one to death, because I have, along with many others here, I was as excited as anyone else when Rocky Wirtz took over the team and began their transformation three years ago. There is something about being around something as it is built and being able to watch it grow and prosper. I have developed a strong interest in this team and Im excited for what they have accomplished, until now that is. For as much as Ive watched and rooted, there still isnt that attachment that I have with the Flyers and there never will be. You can only have one first love. But I do understand what they mean to everyone else here. They are IT! This team has taken over like nothing I have seen here. There is an incredibly strong bond with the locals, all of them. This is a team ready to write its story that is going to be told for generations.
Of course it has to be against my team, which is on a once in a decade roll, creating a match-up that I will be dealing with for generations. In some ways I feel like I cant win, well almost. This has been a strange time for me at the bar and with my friends. We both want something very badly but getting it means the other cant have it. Its making my life awkward. Consider it Sophies Choice, with playoff beards, mullets and pucks to the face. Its cool to know that one of the two cities I care for the most is going to have a parade in two weeks. It is going to create untold joy. But as I have learned being a sports fan in two different tormented cities, its also going to create untold heartache. Either way, I guess Im going to have to put the Flyers gear away for a while, no need to rile up the neighbors, Ill accept my fate quietly. Better to be under the radar than over the top obnoxious. Have I become a Midwesterner or what? These next two weeks are going to drive me Cup Crazy, judging by what I just wrote, Im almost there. God help us all!