Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hockey...and Nashville?

My son, along with 683,999 other Nashvillians, have suddenly been transformed into unhinged, frothing at the mouth, delirious hockey fans. This odd juxtaposition...Nashville and hockey...has been brought on by the shocking rise to fame of the local franchise, the Nashville Predators, and their inexplicable presence in the Stanley Cup finals. Because of his enthusiasm, I have watched more hockey in the last couple of weeks than I have since the 1980 Olympics. A few thoughts...

To the untrained eye, hockey is hard to follow. The puck is small, the game played at such a pace and with so much attending violence, that half the time I find myself searching frantically to find the thing amongst all the sticks, skates, and very large men. But, like anything, the more you watch, the easier it gets. Still, not being knowledgeable about the game means that I am ignorant of the strategy, only partially aware of the rules, so I spend much of my viewing time being baffled by events. In this way, I am not unlike most Predator fans. However, as a lifelong fan of athletic prowess, I am mesmerized by the skill set required to play this game at its highest level. These men have to be dressed in uniforms that resemble the Michelin Man, because the combination of size, speed and the presence of long wooden sticks and metal skates, and a playing field made of freaking ice, make decapitation a real possibility. When you consider the fact that up until the late 1970's, professional hockey players didn't even wear helmets, one must allow for the fact that these guys are probably somewhat mentally imbalanced to start with. This would explain the fact that the players go about their business on the ice with a simmering hostility towards each other, that is always bubbling just underneath the surface. It is for this reason that the old joke exists about the guy who said he he went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.

But, I must say, watching these Predators has been a hoot. But watching the city of Nashville's adoration of them has been even better. There is something magical about sports in this regard. Nothing unites an otherwise diverse crowd like fandom. The full throated chants of the crowd at Bridgestone arena have been incredible. Leave it to a city full of musicians to be able to pick up on cues well enough to thunder, "YOU SUCK AND ITS ALL YOUR FAULT!!" at the opposing goalie after a Predator goal.

So, after last night the series is tied up at two games each. The heavily favored defending champs, the Pittsburg Penguins are probably still favored. But with each game, the Predators seem more and more confident, allowing their fans to dream that their 16th seeded team(out of a 16 team tournament) just might win a title. I'm pulling for them, if for no other reason than to watch the city of Nashville celebrate!