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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Irrational hate

It was a gray morning, Thursday. The darkness of my soul matched by the winter weather outside. It was empty inside. What to do when you’ve decided that the team you hate isn’t worthy of your hate anymore? Although I am a Chicago Wolves fan, some time ago I decided that I hated the Wilkes-Barre Penguins. It wasn't an easy decision in the first place. The Wolves and the baby Pens hardly ever play each other for one thing. And the other thing is there is a lot to admire going on in Wilkes-Barre.

For one thing, I think they have the best fans in hockey. I really mean that. I’d met a few of these poor souls in Milwaukee several years ago when the Sadmirals made their Calder Cup run. They were so down-to-earth, regular folks. And they were not wealthy at all. I mean they were camping out, following their team to Milwaukee in May. It couldn’t have been easy for them.

They were just regular folks: coal miners, moms with their daughters and wage earners. They were committed fans and a real joy to talk to. Milwaukee fans were playing the usual meanness on these poor people.

They explained how the team had allowed them to fly with them to Milwaukee. The coach had insisted they not talk to the players. They spent their own hard-earned dollars to follow the team to Milwaukee, were camping out in the cold, wet Wisconsin spring and they weren’t allowed to talk to the players? Oh, puleze!

They were from Wilkes-Barre. There’s not a lot of money in that town. What type of creep would do that? That was the moment I decided to hate the baby Pens.

It ran against the grain of Chicago Wolves fans. We hate the Admirals. Well, to be frank we hate the Bucks, Brewers and Marquette too, so anything from Milwaukee… Well come to think about it some more, we hate the Badgers and the Packers, cheeseheads in general and anything from the dairy state… Hmmm… Okay, let’s see, we hate the Admirals. That much is clear. And, we hate the Griffins. Okay, I hate the Griffins. Although they have a nice arena and their fans are pretty nice… They are from Michigan… and the only good wolverine is a dead wolverine…

Look… I’m getting lost in the entire hate thing here. The fact is that it is easy, so very easy to hate your traditional rivals. I wanted something mythic, I wanted the unreachable. I wanted a rivalry which would only have a full and complete consummation when the Wolves met their rivals in the Calder Cup. And the Penguins fit the bill nicely.

Beside for the great fans, it is obvious that the baby Pens have these great players, and it is one of my dreams to see a game in the Wachovia Center some night. They sell out practically every game. The place must rock!

It is a big commitment to hate something. Sports fans know. If the Yankees left New York, would Boston hate them as much? Would Cubs fans hate Cards fans as much if they were in different divisions or even leagues? I grew up in a family of White Sox fans. I hardly knew there was a team playing baseball in St. Louis. The answer is no. NO! Stop insisting the BoSox fans will never give up their storied hate of the Yankees. NO!… Okay, yes.

It’s a commitment thing. You commit your soul to the hatred of another team in sports. You see evil ooze from the other team and watch their victories with envy and defeats with glee.

So, on Thursday morning, the world changed. It was crooked. When the Pittsburgh Penguins took every person without skates on from Wilkes-Barre, every person including the Zamboni driver, the organist and the peanut vender, the world became askew. I didn’t realize it at first, but it was crooked. I didn’t hate the players. I can hardly name them. And I’ve already admitted I like the fans and would like to attend a game.

It was the management I didn’t care for. And they were in Pittsburgh. I immediately transferred my hate to the Pittsburgh Penguins. But I don’t follow the NHL. What do I care about the damn big Pens?

Life, as I knew it, had lost its meaning.

I need help. I could call Dr. Phil. Apparently he helps hockey players, coaches and managers, at least there is a blogger who says he does. But, really, I need help. Maybe… maybe my fellow fans understand and will help. I need to rethink this entire hate thing. Maybe the baby Pens are still worthy of my hate, as my wife, who hates the Crunch, says.

Why I should continue to hate the Pens or another team. The Moose or the Amerks (Opps, can’t hate the Amerks, the wife is from Rochester) might fit the bill. Who would you suggest I hate now?


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