Do you have a favorite picture that you took this year? What was the story behind it?
My alarm went off at three o’clock in the morning, and I boarded a train by five. Every passenger was like herded cattle, where all the seats were taken up and I had to brace myself up against a wall in order to stay standing. The train ended up making only three stops afterward due to nearing capacity, so I made it to the city a lot quicker than expected. Right away I knew that this was one of the few days that Chicago collectively woke up before dawn. And being that this was my first time at any sort of sports-related championship celebration, I knew I had to be somewhat cautious. My mom had spent the days beforehand fretting about my safety, in which I reassured her that I had bopped around enough to where I had some idea of what I was doing. After meeting my friend inside the train station, we began making our way through the already-crowded streets toward another’s apartment.
“You look like a woman on a mission!” She was referring to the determined look on my face.
“Well, it’s not every day we get to see the Blackhawks raise the Stanley Cup!”
Granted this was the third time in six years, but not until now was I motivated enough to stand among thousands and cheer for it. The parade would take place first and then follow with a rally shortly after (we would only attend the second part because we had highly coveted tickets for it). Regardless, I felt like a little kid at Christmas, and was determined to be there even if danger was a possibility.
By the time we made it into the stadium a little before noon, both the temperature and humidity had risen a bit, and I was a little bit desperate for water. I’d chosen to forgo alcohol for safety purposes, and because I wanted to experience this with a clear head. I can’t remember how long we waited for it to actually start, but we did pass the time with people watching and eating french fries.
It didn’t take long for the atmosphere to electrify, so much that at one point I simultaneously had goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes. It wasn’t just about winning or history; it was about being surrounded by well over thousands of people who rooted for and were passionate about the same team. Not to mention we were all crazy enough to be here in the first place.
I felt happy. Alive. Absolutely alive is the only way to really describe it. And I knew right than and there that it was something I would always savor.
Call me a fair-weather fan or bandwaggoner, though I only avoided watching the playoffs because I get way too anxious. I’d like to think of it in the sense that sometimes you don’t appreciate something until you open your eyes and really look at it.
I was beyond exhausted by the time I got home, but couldn’t even take a nap because of the excitement and adrenaline. I’m fortunate to have been able to experience something as incredible as that, particularly in the midst of such a crazy summer.
My grandfather and I now have tradition of watching the games together (and yelling at the TV a lot). It’s one of those little things that make me light up. It’s competitive, it’s aggressive, but it’s also something that I can share with people that I care about.
And that’s the best adventure of all.
Four months later…..
I was too nervous to even have the TV on; despite my best efforts, I had resorted back to avoiding anything related to the game for a fear that I might jinx it. I put on the same jewelry that I’d worn for game six, poured a glass of wine, and held on to the rally towel as if it were a blanket. Please let them get past the first round, I prayed, at that moment realizing how much the Hawks-Blues rivalry made my blood boil. But unfortunately by the time it was over, our season had come to an end. When Mom yelled,”now it’s time for the Cubs to win a World Series!” I let out a string of curse words. I was that upset.
It was definitely a messy roller-coaster of a season, and one can wonder how I went from a lackluster hockey fan to acting like a complete nut every time they played. One of the things I remember after last summer was that I wanted to know and be present for literally everything involving the team. I tried to watch every game (along with wearing Patrick Kane’s jersey and drinking Angry Orchard), and had multiple apps to keep up with everything that was going on. I cried when they raised the banner, when I watched Hat Trick, for the first time, and couldn’t contain my emotion during every “What’s Your Goal?” video that I’ve seen thus far. (And the National Anthem at the United Center always gets me sniffling, regardless of how hard I try not to.)
As it goes with most sports I keep up with, I don’t quite understand the logistics of hockey, but don’t feel the need to frequently ask “what just happened?” like I do with football or baseball. I can tell you where I was when they won each of the three Stanley Cups in the last six seasons, but never paid attention to the names of the players that frequently came and went during salary cap trades. Feel free to argue what constitutes true fandom versus jumping on a bandwagon, but the bottom line is that I didn’t learn to appreciate the Blackhawks until this last year.
Winning is a highlight, but breaking records and dancing to “Chelsea Dagger” is only a small part of it. Through witnessing all the ups and downs, I saw something that is often hard to pick up on with other teams I root for: passion. The players are obviously passionate about what they do. The organization is involved in the community. The fans can be downright crazy. And being that I have BIG feelings and experience things on a deep level, is it any wonder why I became so invested? Sports in itself is what often motivates me to chase after my goals and dreams, more often than any pep talk from family members or mentors. And It is possible to admire athletes and still recognize their humanity.
I’m grateful to have something else to add to a growing list of things that I love; something that embodies a place that I love, and connects me to people that I love. Despite the abrupt end to the playoff run, I’m grateful to have been there for it.
One Goal. One City.
Do you want to know what mine is? I’ll let you figure that out…