Saturday, 25 April 2009

679 words that change your life forever

Let us being with a flashback to May 30th, 2008.

Luc Bourdon died yesterday. Kris Letang did that heartbreaking interview this afternoon. You can't stop crying because it seems so stupid and pointless that young, talented people always seem to die whereas the sour old hags you work with cling so limply to life that you wonder how they keep going since they clearly don't enjoy life the way they could.

The Pens are down 2-1 in the Stanley Cup final against what, realistically, is a much better prepared team of Detroit Red Wings. You still think Marian Hossa is a gift from the gods (but WHY did we have to trade Army to get him???) and you wish that you lived in Pennsylvania so you could go watch Game 5 (because there has to be at least a Game 5 now that we've won a game) on the big screen outside Mellon.

You wish you had an excuse, someone to crash with, or a friend impulsive enough to go in on a hotel room in downtown Pittsburgh. But you don't.

You know you will sit alone in your dining room, watching the Game 4 broadcast on on your laptop, wishing there was more you could do. You wear your Malkin shirt. The one you bought one morning during the third round; Malkin made something of a heroic comeback that night. You pray you don't have to buy another t-shirt for the Pens to do well.

You watch yet another off-day interview with Sid wherein he repeats his stock phrases "we just need to execute" and "we're just going to play our game" irritatingly often, and you want to know what the hell he's smirking about.
You go to the only place where people will understand your obsession.

And you wonder if anyone else is feeling the way you are...

Bloggermer said...

okay, back to ACTUAL Pens-related musings...

has anyone else been a little creeped out by Sid's unwavering confidence in the face of adversity? I'm still not not sure whether to admire or fear his "we're not going to change anything, we just need to execute" attitude. I mean, sure he pulled it off for Game 3 (man DID he EVER pull it off!) but we need to see that same attitude and more importantly, confidence, from the WHOLE team, not just Sid.

May 30, 2008 8:10 PM
Blogger michelle said...

I think it's great
And I think it's also great that he really IS leading by example

May 30, 2008 8:29 PM
Blogger mer said...

oh i find that confidence INTENSELY attractive, it's also just a little creepy, like he knows a secret he's not letting anyone else in on it...


May 30, 2008 8:32 PM
Blogger snoopyjode said...

it's a total cliche, but it really is true that if you hear something enough, you'll believe it. i think that sid is (as michelle pointed out) leading by example and saying those words over and over and over again so his teammates believe it, too. someone (maybe you, mer?) said earlier this week: he's wearing that C for a reason!

and i gotta tell ya, i'd only be creeped out if he was like, "man! we just can't figure these freakin' guys out!" O_o

May 30, 2008 8:38 PM
Blogger michelle said...

I'd be creeped out if he ever uttered the words, "I'm just going to give up."

Then I'd be all, ok who are you and what did you do with the real Sid???

May 30, 2008 8:56 PM
Blogger Stephanie said...

I wish I had half his optimism in my own life! I'm a pessimist/realist...but I'm workin' on it :)

It is contagious though. He is so genuine and sincere that you can't help but believe him!

So if Sid says it's so, then who am I to argue... :)))))


May 30, 2008 9:22 PM
Blogger snoopyjode said...

HAHAHA, anyone who reads 2 or 3 posts on the show HAS to figure out that i'm a glass-is-half-full kind of gal! :) i always try to find the bright side of things - life's way too short not to.

May 30, 2008 9:30 PM
Anonymous Maria said...

I don't think his "confidence" is a bad thing.. Too much of it might turn in to something else though.. But for now, i think Sid and the Pens might need it.

May 30, 2008 9:32 PM
Anonymous Val from M. said...

Let's go boys!!!!
Live from Montreal, with my BEAUTIFUL penguins' t-shirt, I going to spread the good news : They are going to win..... write it down in your mirror, all over the wall, it's call positive perseption of life..... I believe in their victory!!!!

May 30, 2008 10:08 PM
Blogger PensFan_87 said...

I have a good feeling about tomorrow and cannot wait for it =]]. I might not be home though to catch the first period and that's gonna kill me but hopefully there will be that slight chance I can get home in time.

On another note, not sure if anyone else read it but the wings' Holmstrom might not be playing in tomorrow's game due to an injury after colliding with Hal Gill (that's what happens when you mess with our Pens haha). But according to the article he's still sore and might have to make a game time decision. And if he doesn't play we wouldn't have to deal with his defensive play at the net (he's a wings key defensemen at the net).


May 30, 2008 10:18 PM
Blogger michelle said...

I like Val's enthusiasm :)

May 30, 2008 10:19 PM
Blogger Anna :] said...

The thing that gets me pumped is thinking about the feeling a got when the Pens scored goal 1. It was the feeling I have been waiting for this whole series. It just took my breath away.

The other thing is thinking about Orpik's sweet hits. Those made me jump up and down and my brother and I went insannnnneeee.

The crowd was amazing. I love how it took a good minute to start the National Anthem because the fans wouldn't stop the "Let's Go Pens!" chant.

It all makes me smile.
Let's Go Pens!!!!

May 30, 2008 10:22 PM
Blogger michelle said...

@ anna --

Yeah, Orpik put new meaning in "live every shift!" haha

May 30, 2008 10:30 PM
Anonymous Ali said...

Orpik's shift was's even crazier how "the shift" now as a sort of cult following. You should check out over at the's nuts. haha. But, hey, I totally agree that it was pretty incredible!

I'm feeling optimistic about tomorrow...I just don't want to get too optimistic...I have to find that "line"...

AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! I'M SO EXCITED!!!!! (0kay...random, but true)

By the way, I like the new format on the commenting...I keep checking back to follow along...

Blogger mer said...

** this is UNBELIEVABLY long**

I am SO sorry to everyone not following this thread - and to Snoop for being so darn verbose on your comments page today, but I think I need to explain what I meant a bit more explicitly because clearly my choice of words was inadequate.

snoop & michelle - On Wednesday night, I DID say that Sid's wearing the C for a reason, and his unwavering confidence is exactly why I said it. I agree, Sid IS leading by example, and if you believe something hard enough it CAN come true (iwillmarryryanwhitney
iwillmarryryanwhitney - okay, maybe I can't believe ALL things into existence :P)

“Creeped" was the wrong word. I’m just not sure there’s a word to sum up impressed- absolutely-floored-bewildered-nervous-freaked-out-with-positive-connotations; I definitely didn't mean it in a negative way.

Needing something to aspire to, people are often quick to create heroes of ordinary people. In doing so, they often ignore the flaws and exaggerate the strengths of their exalted figure, forgetting that we are all human in the end. When those heroes then prove themselves to be merely human, we are left somewhat broken-hearted, not because our hero failed, but because our hero proved to be fallible, just like us.

There have only been brief moments where I was able to muster the indomitability Sid has shown this week. It's blind confidence, it's singular focus, and it's unbelievably rare. But Sidney Crosby is a rare bird (pun COMPLETELY unintended, but totally acknowledged). He is living up to the expectations people have created, and it now appears that we may have actually under-estimated how high his expectations for himself are, and how determined he is to excel. I supposed I am simultaneously relieved and unnerved that every hint of Sid's strength has been just that, a hint.

The more he shows this strength, however, the higher the expectations rise. And the higher expectations rise, the further they have to fall if it all comes crashing down.

It’s about faith (in God, true love, the Pens' ability to win the Stanley Cup; take your pick): some simply have faith because they do and they always will, some start out with faith but lose it after a few too many disappointments, and then there are some who want to have faith but want proof before they can – which actually completely contradicts the idea of faith, but we’ll ignore that because they Want to have faith, and that’s worth something.

I would consider myself someone who falls into the first category, but that does not mean that I don't sometimes wonder if I'm an idealistic nut-job. I have faith that Sid can lead the Pens to victory, but I feel a bit crazy for having that faith.

There is a feeling stirring in the cockles of my heart that we are about to see Sid prove that all of the hype that has surrounded him for the past fourteen years has been deserved, that we (the media, the fans, the hockey world in general) have not simply built him up because WE needed a hero. It’s unbelievably selfish, but I want Sid to be as strong as he seems, I want him to keep the surprises coming, I want him to keep rising above the adversity. I want him to be that guy that kids can look up to not just as a hockey player, but as a role model of what a leader truly is. I want him to inspire (more) people. I want to know that I’m not crazy for thinking that people that incredible can exist, even if they are equally as rare.

I want him to be (almost) larger than life.

I want him to be a real-life hero.

And that scares the living daylights out of me, because if he actually IS that person it will prove that people that strong exist, and I may never be able to settle for anything less from myself ever again.

May 30, 2008 10:57 PM

You have no clue writing this that, less than a year later, you will be counting down the days to a flight that will take you to see at least two of the people (again) who were a part of this comment-section conversation.
* * *

I never intended to start a blog (let alone more than one). I had a diaryx journal back in 2000 and 2001. (If anyone else remembers this site -other than my lovely C.K.- please let me know!) I had that before it was called blogging. Maybe I was ahead of the trend? Maybe I'm just a big ole' geek and I've liked writing for longer than I'd like to admit to.

I stopped writing in that diaryx thing on June 15th, 2001. It wasn't really a decision, just a result of things that were out of my control. The last post I wrote was sickeningly, frighteningly prophetic, and I think part of me was scared of that. I honestly felt like a modern-day Cassandra, only without the added bonus of knowing what it was we were supposed to be afraid of. I just knew we should be afraid. And we should have been.

Suffice to say, I had other things to deal with than writing a blog at that point.

... seven years pass...

The blog that got me into this whole blogging thing? None other than Jodie's ever-fabulous blog, The Sidney Crosby Show. I came across this lovely corner of the universe while I was doing research for my book. It was probably the most incredible outcome ever of googling Sidney Crosby. (In the long run, it's led to so many more ridiculous and wonderful things than reading his wikipedia page ever did.)

For a month or two, I just read TSCS. Then I started commenting. Then playoffs started, Jodie removed comment-moderation, and the site became something of a mecca for displaced Pens fans who would have otherwise had no one with whom to share their unbridled excitement.

Playoffs do something to us (us being hockey fans/Canadians, because a lot of Canadians are unabashed band-wagonners come the post-season). It's like going to war, only in a completely non-serious manner. It's better than nationalism; less people are likely to die in a hockey game than in a conventional war.

But playoffs do breed the same kind of impassioned call to arms. You pick sides. You choose colours. You raise banners. You don uniforms. You chant battle cries. You have a Captain in whom you hold complete faith; a leader you follow willingly into battle. And you have what, for four to seven games, becomes a near-deadly enemy.

I have issues with war. I have studied it too much not to hate it unequivocally, and hate people for doing stupid, horrible, unforgivable things within the context of it. I know very well that any analogy I make comparing the NHL playoffs to war is facetious and, in some way, trivializes the horrific realities of war. But war has a few, intermittent upsides.

As much as it divides people it also brings people together. As much as it pits two enemies against one another, it creates heroes on both sides, people to believe in, to cheer for, to idolize. And, frankly, it gives us something to be fiercely loyal about, to fight for, a campaign to get behind, a cause to support.

Sports are sort of the same way: they give us something to live for, without the risk of having to die for anything. It's war in the post-heroic age. And, frankly, it's safer (in most cities, with the exception of maybe Glasgow and Porto) to pledge allegiance to a sports team than to a guerilla army.

We used to fight for land. Territory. Natural resources. For trophies and riches and the spoils of war. We don't anymore. Well, not us. Not directly. But a huge portion of the world still does.

Perhaps in the post-heroic age we need porfessional sports, because there is a latent instinct in us to fight for something, to take sides, to chant, to go to into battle and compete for something. Within the world of pro sports, we're still fighting for most of the same things as we've always fought for.

We fight for trophies like the Stanley Cup and the Superbowl. We fight for Olympic gold and IIHF medals and championship rings inlaid with diamonds and rubies and words in foreign languages that mean dedication, and perseverance, and strength. We fight for honour and pride and the right to call ourselves champions.

People can call professional sports 'just another industry', they can claim that athletes are over paid and franchises charge too much for tickets, but at the end of the day I think everyone in North America is happy that the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Battle of Ontario, and the Battle of Alberta refer to rivalries between hockey teams and not real battles over coal, or silver, or oil.

I've always toyed with the notion of writing a treatise (19th-century-style) on the potential impact of professional sports in developing nations, in terms of their ability to decrease the incidence of domestic political turmoil and, possibly, even international involvement in conventional (or unconventional warfare). It brings people in a community together. It helps people find common ground. It becomes something of an identity. And it's healthier than the LRA or the Tamil Tigers. I'm not suggesting that Uganda can support a soccer league like the UK can, and I am well aware that a certain amount of infrastructure is required to support something like the NFL, but you don't need to be a G8 country to support sports teams: NHLers used to have day jobs.

I can't help but wonder if maybe other countries would benefit from the emotional outlet pro-sports provides. And maybe they will, someday, when they're done fighting real inter-state wars.

Tonight, no matter the outcome of Game 6 of the Pens-Flyers series, some small part of me that isn't cheering like a hellcat for Pittsburgh will be quietly thankful that Sidney Crosby, and not Joseph Kony, is the one leading us into battle, that I have the liberty to pledge loyalty to a sports team rather than having to pick sides in a real war.


ali said...

The days before I had a blogger profile page...

Sid never ceases to amaze me, not only with his superb hockey skills, but they way he deals with everything else...

The Pens are more than blessed to have Sid as their captain...


Val said...

@Ali - I agree 100% with your comments re: Sid!

@Mer - you right that treatise, because you know what, I think you are right - sports brings together community and that can show some really surprising results in terms of people getting along for a common cause...

I am so glad that you write this blog - the common interest of sports has spawned so many different friendships, ideas, etc. from this and W2TBL...oh, and it is really cool to see people's responses from almost a year is historical evidence of the impact of your writing :)

lauren said...

Great post, Mer. I was kind of thinking along those lines the other night, when a bunch of us got together to watch Game 4. I hadn't seen some of them since high school, and I hadn't liked a handful of them then. I still don't like a couple of them. But we were too busy watching the game and yelling at the TV to yell at each other.

I'll be in Uganda for the Finals... maybe I'll distract myself from not knowing the outcome by researching the possibility of a soccer league? ;-)

Jessclub7 said...

Glasgow could also be extended to Belfast - Celtic/Rangers is as much a potentially harmful choice there as in Glasgow.