The Sabres are up in their first round series against the Islanders. If I say more than that, I risk jinxing another doomed Buffalo city team, but it sure is fun watching these games. And yesterday the first words out of my 6-year-old's mouth in the morning, still wiping the sandman sleep from his eyes and holding onto his little stuffed leopard were, "Daddy, did the Sabres win last night?"
"Yes they did, son. They whooped 'em."
The previous night's game took place on a school night, so he was only able to watch the first period. But, tonight, he can stay up and watch the whole game. We'll make popcorn, drink pop, play Memory in between periods, and root for our team.
It's fun rooting for your team, because it's one area of life that is simple and straightforward. When you root for your team, there is no halfway. Even when we criticize, we criticize because we wish they were winning, or shooting the puck better, or defending the crease better, or forechecking better, not because we hate them. All the hate, the only hate, is reserved for the other team.
In fact, for a story written for the Buffalo News by Tim Graham, Sabres forward Daniel Briere attributed the new 3-1 series lead to that kind of conflict.
"The first couple games everybody was nice to each other. Now there's more emotion out there, and that's to our advantage. With our team, when you get guys mad, we're pretty explosive. I think it's a good thing," said Briere.
Of course it's a good thing! The Sabres may be the fastest team on ice this year, and they may be as graceful as a shrooming ballerina, but they are still the blue-collar team of Buffalo, and their greatest appeal for their faithful fans is the emotion they bring to the game. Fans love it this way, because they understand that they, the fans, arent the only ones screaming about the game, during the game. The fans may be doing it at home by throwing beer cans at the television, but the players are doing it on the ice with hip checks and stick play, and true hockey fans can really appreciate that kind of thing.
Some people try to apply this paradigm to more complex parts of life, like war and politics and religion. But when that happens, all hell breaks loose.
The ballerina turns into a crackhead.
When Islamic terrorists threaten American cities, right-wingers want to (and do) lock up and torture and spy on anyone even remotely connected to suspicion, even if that connection is as mild as sharing a surname as common in the Middle East as "Smith" is in America.
When insane students threaten school campuses, left-wingers want to lock up all the guns. This would be like locking up all the airplanes after 9/11. And I'm more than mildly surprised that the right-wingers arent demanding that we lock up all the borderline cases in schools. If they were consistent with their philosophies, the left-wingers would have demanded that all planes be forever grounded and the right-wingers would already be torturing creative writing students at liberal arts colleges across America.
But in politics and religion and war, there are competing agendas even within different interest groups. Right-wingers want to describe in great detail the legal procedures of abortion, but they refuse to allow still photographs of flag-draped boxes to be published. Left-wingers go after every potential case of misogyny as if their radio dials are glued to the worst cases of free speakers, but they cry "free speech!" when right-wingers want to label CD cases with language warnings.
I'd love to see our deskchair warriors really battle it out on the ice. It would get more viewership than the VS channel can muster for the NHL playoffs, at least. But which team would they play for? How would we draw the lines? We cant be as literal as those who view death in perspective and those who dont, because groups divide death into different categories for their own purposes. We cant draw the line on free speech, for the same reasons. It's a great idea, but I just cant figure out which jerseys to put on which pundits.
In the meantime, I'm going to hope against hope that the Sabres are in the playoffs for a long time, because right now, I need the distraction. It's nice watching kids in their 20s or younger go after the puck with such direct vigor. It's win or lose, and each team wants the same thing, and everyone on the same team agrees about what they're going after.
It's the kind of conflict that makes me throw cans of pop and beer at the television, but it's nonetheless the kind of conflict that makes sense, which is a welcome change these days.