Friday, July 20, 2012

I'll tell Gunnar Stahl you said hi. And that we won.

Before I start writing this I'll give another one of my heartfelt apologies about how I haven't written in two weeks. You see, I don't know what's come over me -- or maybe it's just that I didn't want to talk about Zach Parise leaving the Devils or the Mets losing six in a row in brutal fashion until yesterday's almost-blown win in Washington, but I haven't had too many opportunities to write in the last few months. Much of this has been because I've been tied up with personal or family obligations -- also I had a birthday last weekend and the effects of aging another year are, er, prevalent -- but most of the reason I haven't written has been because I'm going on vacation tomorrow for quite some time, and that requires some planning.

What kind of vacation you ask? Well, to explain that vacation, I will need to take us way back to that magical year of 1994 when a scrappy junior team from Minneapolis teamed with other prime prospects from around the country to face off with the mighty competition of Iceland at the Junior Goodwill Games. Typically that would be a daunting task for a bunch of goofy childlike scrubs on the rink, but the team representing the U.S. was plenty mighty as well. One might say they were Mighty. Mighty Ducks. See while Charlie Conway, Connie Moreau, Kenny Wu, the Bash brothers and Greg Goldberg were knucklepucking their way through such international hockey powerhouses as Italy and Trinidad and Tobago, we all knew that Iceland, the elite hockey nation that it is, was laying in wait for the Mighty Ducks in the Gold Medal Game.

Well, when the chips were down in that final showdown, the Ducks quacked their way to a final shootout and it was there that Julie "The Cat" Gaffney made the save that all of us will tell our children about.

So why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, it's clear that even 18 years later, this is a film that still resonates with my generation, but perhaps more importantly, defeating Iceland in a fictional movie where the entire Icelandic team was played by American child actors is one of the great youth hockey triumphs in U.S. history. After all, Iceland is a global hockey power, what with its all-time high No. 35 ranking in the IIHF standings this year, it's incredibly competitive 3 (or 4)-team national ice hockey league and its impressive 2-5-0 all-time record against the world's greatest hockey nation: Israel.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sometimes the Mets can be pretty damn uplifting

I know, I'm as shocked to see those words in that particular order as you are, but sometimes it's nonetheless true. This is what I found around 10:07 p.m. tonight as I sat in my office watching the waning moments of the ninth inning after what had been a dour 36 hours. See I know I haven't written here in a while -- I had a visitor, sue me -- but much of my life since July 1st has involved the inherent anxiety that was Parise Watch 2012. For those of you not quite in the know, Zach Parise, light of the New Jersey Devils fan's life, was an unrestricted free agent and despite being sought after by well more than half of the League, it seemed that he was completely and totally serious when he had said that he was intending on re-signing with New Jersey, which is not exactly a major player on the NHL's free agent market.

Well, after four days of anxious waiting, he didn't sign. Instead Parise will spend the next 13 years playing for his hometown Minnesota Wild while the Devils attempt to pick up the pieces and scrape together another contender after what had been a miracle season. I won't go into all the salient details about my emotions here -- it would be too depressing and this seems to encapsulate most of what I've been feeling -- but the short of it is, I am extremely depressed and in many ways feel as if my team just lost the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three weeks -- only this time the pain will linger.

It's not a pretty sight.

For the uninitiated in the hockey world, I equated the loss of Parise, a singular two-way player with maturity, leadership skills, production and enthusiasm out the wazoo with the hypothetical loss of David Wright from the Mets. They are similarly mature and talented players with similar injury histories, similar production and a similarly received amount of adulation from the fan bases they play for. They are surprisingly strong parallels and so it might seem poetic that as I sat in the office mopey for most of the day, it would be Wright who played a significant role in making me remember why I love sports in the first place.

We watch sports to be happy. We watch sports for the exhilaration. And we watch them to be lifted when we need it. That those lifts happen so rarely is a part of the joy, and that those depressing moments whether they be losses of games or losses of players to closely identified with occur is not to make us feel drab but to make the great moments so much better by comparison. It is an effectively necessary yin to the desired yang that comes from sports, and tonight, a team perhaps more than any other that has given me so many moments of the yin delivered the yang in spades.