What a year. For me it has been rough. Not my worst year on record at all, but one of those crisis-to-crisis years that makes the phrase “no rest for the wicked” echo in your head. I don’t feel especially wicked, but I guess folks assume that the universe acts with intent, and if life is hard, it’s because you did something to deserve it. I don’t believe that but catch phrases have a way of infiltrating your consciousness.
It’s like the song lyric “Carry on my wayward son” that keeps echoing in my head. Yes, I watch Supernatural but I haven’t seen any this week. I keep thinking how the Sharks need to carry on and it sort of rolls into the lyric. I would not call the Sharks “wayward.” They are quite the opposite this season. They have been diligent as always but more steady and task-oriented than ever. No, they are not wayward. They are very much on target.
I don’t believe I was able to get to a single morning skate or practice this season. The way things have worked out, now I’m afraid to go to one even if I do have time. I’m wearing my lucky socks on game days, and my lucky hoodie driving to games. Superstition is creeping back in, just like in the beginning.
I don’t exactly believe that my actions influence the outcome of games. For a while, the Sharks would not score until I got to my seat, and then they would score promptly. That pattern has not held up through the playoffs so I can stop worrying about that. Still, I have this aversion to changing anything more than necessary…. just in case The Universe is watching. And gives a hoot. Who knows what The Universe cares about? It could be very fickle or just know things on a level we cannot.
I worry that my manner or my odd questions might put people off. Maybe I am toxic, maybe I should stay the hell away from the team. That is not superstition, that is just plain self-loathing rearing its head again. But it isn’t all crazy talk either. More than once I have asked questions that get a completely nonplussed expression, from guys who know how to answer dumb or off-point questions. Maybe I was accidentally speaking Czech but I don’t think I’m that nervous and I’m sure I have lost most of my Czech words. Maybe I was just mumbling, or maybe I was sending brain viruses through the air to baffle and confuse. It makes me hesitant to speak.
I was happy when the Sharks won on Wednesday. I was happy but I was not exuberant. I did not know if I would be able to cover the final games. Credentials had not yet been confirmed so I honestly thought I might be watching the whole thing on television. That was not the worst thought in the world to me. I started watching this team on television, it would not be unthinkable to watch them take this final step that way.
I remember early in the year I was planning a trip with college friends. We were picking dates. Some of the dates were May and June. I remember thinking that, if I left the dates open, the Sharks would miss the playoffs. But if I scheduled the trip during these final rounds, the Sharks would still be playing. At the time, I was only kidding The Universe. I did not really believe it and so I left the dates open, scheduled the trip for July and did not think much more about it. So I can tell that back in the Fall I was starting to think about superstition, but not really, not seriously.
It turns out that yes, watching the Sharks play for the Cup on tv was not what I wanted to do. Finding out that I would be there was a big deal. I’m so full of it, and still such a victim of crap self esteem. I was checking email and texts late into the night Friday and by the time I got the news I was so tired that I expressed my joy by going to sleep.
Crap. The other night someone complained that a quote had been edited to say “stuff” instead of “crap.” I transcribe my own quotes so I didn’t know what he was going on about but when I heard him say that he had not recorded the coaches or players. I offered to share my recordings with him, if he wanted to make sure. He seemed pretty shocked and declined. I guess you are not supposed to share or help people out. But apparently you are not supposed to do your own work … maybe the team is supposed to do it for you while other reporters can’t be bothered to hold the elevator door for you. I don’t get it. No one is getting rich off reporting about hockey. Not rich enough to justify being rotten to each other.
It turns out I was offering him the wrong audio anyway. I thought he was talking about a Thornton quote when he must have meant DeBoer. I can’t overhear loud complaints very accurately while trying to transcribe my own stuff.
Enough about me. This Sharks team. Since they defeated St. Louis, I have seen people write how they may be Cup finalists, but they’re still not an “elite” team. I have seen them say they are not the sort of championship team that the Kings or the Blackhawks were. Most people still give them the edge over the Penguins, but grudgingly.
From the start of these playoffs, the Sharks have not been popular picks. Most of the big media writers did not have them going past the first round. Then they still did not want to pick them to make it out of the second round. Finally, in the conference finals, those writers were evenly split, so the Sharks had half the votes. Maybe the Sharks are wayward after all. They keep refusing to live down to expectations, they are stubbornly going their own way.
I think it’s because many hockey writers don’t pay attention to the Sharks. I say that because if they had been paying attention, they would see that this is not some fluke. I think that this team has won because they finally became all they can be. They are hardened by experience and buoyed by talent and really, this version of the Sharks is all that. As Sutter said after the first round, they were the better team. They went on, continuing to be the better team through rounds two and three. Why it took seven games to beat Nashville I’m not certain. They had a couple of bad games in that series, maybe they got it out of their system. Will they keep it up now? Suddenly the favorites (albeit grudgingly so), will they carry on as they have or get tripped up by overconfidence?
Yes, the Sharks are kind of wayward. They might be doing exactly what a hockey team is supposed to do: succeed, win. But that is not what they have done in the past, and while people bitch at you to do better and get your act together, once you do that they get all huffy like you have intentionally confused them by not continuing to fail they way they expect you to fail…. even while they tell you to stop failing. You can never win so long as you try to do what other people want you to do. The biggest shock of my life was when I realized that people don’t care half as much about what you do as they lead you to think they care. Really they are just projecting their own anxieties onto you, trying to sort out their own problems through you. They want you to stay the same so they can have stable reference points. But they won’t be as happy for your success or as dismayed by your failure as their vocal objections imply. It’s your opinion that matters, and how can you be wayward to yourself? You can but you should try not to.
So yeah, I guess it fits for the Sharks. Carry on, wayward Sharks.