Those who know me are aware that when it comes to sports, "seeing red" happens to me often--with the Philly thing and all--but now it’s happening for different reasons.
This town is going Blackhawks crazy.
And why not?
Any time you type that record, it must be bold and it must be followed by five exclamation points!
And for 10 of the last 12 games, they have been at home. So we have had plenty of chances to see them parading around in the home red jerseys at center ice after another win--nine chances in fact.
After seeing it live for once last week (see my blog last week about that special night), I’m totally hooked. This team is just so much fun to watch. The cynic in me would point out that watching any team that wins all the time should be fun. But it's not so much the wins, but the journey they take to each one. This team likes to make it interesting. 15 of their 24 games have been decided by one goal (six wins in regulation, four overtime wins, two shoot-out wins, three shoot-out losses.) There have been a lot of tight, taught struggles, with the team from Chicago almost always prevailing.
And the fans have noticed.
For the games on Tuesday and Wednesday, whole bar locals and out-of-towners alike were riveted by the action. On Wednesday night at the bar, the Bulls also were on, along with some college basketball. In another informal Frankie O survey, I was wondering how I was going to balance the 12 televisions at the bar. Well the customers spoke, and they spoke loudly. In a percentage that I found to be about the same as the conversations I have at the bar lately, it was Hawks: 9, Bulls: 2 and college hoops: 1. (And that was for one ACC die-hard, and you can guess what I would have been asked to put on if he wasn't around!)
Everyone wants to be part of it.
The country has noticed, sort of. Sideways.
The national conversation seems to have been taken over by blowhards at the four-letter network that want to compare the Hawks unbeaten-in-regulation streak to the Miami Heat winning streak. I get the fact that there is a difference between winning and not losing, but when your team does something that has never been done, or bettered by only one other team in history, that’s pretty impressive. As impressive as the Heat streak is, there are 23 other NBA teams they are tied with, or that have had more consecutive wins, led by a team that had 17 more, the ’71-‘72 Los Angeles Lakers. Now that’s impressive.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think today’s NBA is not full of what you would call “gamers” that show up every night. This NHL season was presented as a sprint, a sprint with no warm-up no less. The continuity of the Hawks team can maybe explain some of this, but the opposition should be up to speed by now. (NOT!)
At least LeBron James has noticed the Hawks. I was very surprised that he tweeted about the Hawks win on Wednesday night. While the stench of “The Decision” is not going to easily be removed, it was classy on his part to acknowledge the Hawks and say that he was more impressed with what they were doing than what his team has accomplished during their competing streaks.
That’s another cool layer about this. For a hockey fan, I understand nationally that the cold steel on ice is going to take a back seat to at least the three other major sports leagues, if not DANICAR, golf, college football, college basketball, the Little League World Series......But to constantly have a debate now about which streak is more impressive only brings more attention, from fans and non-fans alike, to the sport of hockey, which in the aftermath of a lockout is not a bad thing.
But of course, in a sign of why printed media is dying, Sports Illustrated isn't interested in it either. I remember, back in the day, when the cover of S.I. reflected the mood of the sports nation. It was what every sports fan was talking about. I still look forward to see what it is, but mostly it’s the same old, same old. (To their credit, the Musial cover to honor his passing recently was what I expect from a magazine that has represented informed sports reading for longer than I have been alive.) This week, though, it’s Roger Goodell on the cover of the inaugural “S.I. 50 Power Issue” in a “Game of Thrones” homage. Whatever!
Some people will do whatever it takes to suck up. I guess since they can’t get MJ to talk to them, even when they try to “honor” him on his 50th birthday, they feel they need to kneel at the altar of the 400 lb. gorilla! What better way to ensure access by making stuff up in one of the NFL’s two down months and giving them a gratuitous cover? Like we need more Goodell! What position does he play? (I’m going to bite my tongue here.) And it’s not even a unique angle since the four-letter magazine has a lengthy interview with him this week, but not on the cover! What does an NHL team have to do? Honestly!
The NHL even does it to itself. Is realignment a pressing issue right now? When you have a story that could potentially capture the imagination of a ticket-buying nation, why would you have people talk about anything else? Couldn’t this have waited? Don’t they understand for newbies this could be hockey overload? Is this what Roger Goodell would have done?
Of course the streak brings me back to the Flyers’ glory days. The ’79-80 team that set the unbeaten record with a 25-0-10!!!!!!!! (Sorry, it’s just a little better.) run that ironically started near the beginning of their season. They started with a win, then a loss, then went streaking. It was a fun time. The old record that they were shooting for was the Canadians’ 28-gamer in ’77-78. I loved when the Flyers could beat the old-guard Canadians at anything! Remember the Russian Red Army? Well, by the time the Flyers got into the twenties, every game had a playoff atmosphere and intensity. On the road, every team wanted to end the streak and they were cheered on by their rabid fans. At home, fans were reminded of the cup years, and wondered if it could happen again.
And that’s what really matters hear, since when I think back on how fun the streak was, the nausea from the Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 loss on a horrible freaking Leon Stickle blown offsides call, comes back in full force. Are you kidding me? (Again, should have known something bad was going to happen. With a name like Leon Stickle you knew he was due for infamy, and of course, why wouldn’t he take the Flyers with him?) Nystrom’s goal still ticks me off!
And this brings me back to the Hawks. This is nice and all, and no one wants it to end.
But this isn't the ultimate prize.
What the streak has shown to the team, the fans and the rest of the league, is that this team is good enough to go all the way. That expectation brings plenty with it, including the ability to shape a future memory.
When Hawks fans look back in 30 years, will this bring a smile? Or the Alka-Seltzer?