The Chicago Blackhawks revolt me. The fact they won the Stanley Cup last month (is there a stronger word than revolts?) me. So when I found myself in Chicago this weekend, surrounded by Indian Heads, I tried to suppress the rage by gritting my teeth and pursing my lips. I’ve gotten over their Cup win to a certain extent. But still, seeing so much red and black was like watching someone next to you on a train or bus pick their nose. It’s disgusting, and you don’t want to acknowledge you saw it; you know it’s there, but try to convince yourself it’s not.
At Wrigley Field, before Saturday’s Pirates-Cubs game, Joel Quenneville took the Cup out to the mound, hoisted it and then threw out the first pitch. Of course, you probably expect that I’d almost have a stroke, if the mere sight of the logo caused me so much distress. Not to mention, it was our (the Blues’) former head coach. I didn’t have a stroke, nor did I boo. In fact, my response was mild and contemplative. At that moment, with Coach Q standing in a sacred place, fresh off a second Stanley Cup win in 4 years, the thought that overcame me was “Respect the Cup.”
In stride back to my seat, I stopped in my tracks. Immediately, I found a picturesque view of the field, “Because it’s the Cup.”
I know how hokey that phrase has become to us puckheads; it’s an easy punchline. But in this case, it rings true. That trophy, year after year, inspires such passion. Bergeron playing through the injury gauntlet. Niklas Hjalmarsson doing the exact same thing as Greg Campbell and getting 0% of the media coverage Campbell got. And on and on.
Not to mention the scores of fans the Cup consumes for 2 months every year. The memories we make and the fun we share as fans, in pursuit of it, are the ones we hold nearest to our hearts. It commands respect, no matter who won the Cup.
So I stood for a moment, stopping short of applauding (for the Blackhawks), and admired that any group of men could dedicate itself to something so thoroughly and passionately. No, they’re not dedicating their lives exactly, but we do get to watch their sacrifice play out on national TV, so it’s the best drama we got.
I declined to touch the Cup when I was at the Hall of Fame. A superstition, perhaps—the Blues have never won it— but a deference to the sheer effort poured into that Chalice. It’s called the greatest trophy in sports, but until Saturday, I had merely accepted that as fact. It wasn’t until I saw my rival hoisting it again that I understood why it’s the greatest trophy in sports.