Wednesday night, as I saw the minutes tick away in the third period of Stanley Cup Game 7, and the score continued to escalate into what became a complete rout, I felt my stomach completely sink into disappointment that, as a Jets and Mets fan, I was all too familiar with. I was trying to figure out why I was rooting so hard for Vancouver to win this game. It's true that as a New Yorker, I'm not the biggest fan of Boston.
But regardless of my animosity toward the New England Patriots, the Bruins are an Original Six team, and they have one of the most dedicated hockey fan bases in all of America. I always respect, and root for, fanbases that are truly devoted, who put blood sweat and tears into every game, who understand that rescheduling your wedding to coincide with a major game of your team's is completely reasonable. Fans who endure heartbreak and turmoil and see the sport as something bigger, something that brings a group of people together and stands for a unity of not just a city, but a country. And while I thought about this, I realized that the fans of the Bruins fit most of that description. But they're not running around the streets of Boston celebrating the victory while draped in American flags and belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Boston didn't need this championship. It has seen every single one of its sports teams win a championship in the past 10 years. I'm sure they loved this Bruins win, and the Bruins deserved it. But was it a necessity like the Red Sox 2004 World Series championship? No. Vancouver needs the Stanley Cup. Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton -- they need it. Because here's what remains in Vancouver after the travesty that was Game 7 of this Stanley Cup Final: Heartbreak, destruction, shame, anger and deafening chants of "Bettman Sucks." Because for Canadians, as long as Bettman continues to Americanize a sport that everyone truly knows belongs to them (and all you have to do is watch reactions in Canada to Crosby's "Golden Goal" in the 2010 Olympics to know that hockey belongs to Canada), the heartbreak and anger will continue to be an inevitability.
Here are the facts: More than half of the population of the entire country of Canada watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night. There were 18.45 million Canadians who watched at least some part of Game 7. Meanwhile 8.54 million Americans tuned into NBC to watch, which is still record-breaking and still impressive. Still -- 111 million Americans watched The Super Bowl (which is still less than half of the population,) 23 million watched The Royal Wedding and 14.3 million watched the 2010 World Series (which was tied for the lowest rated World Series ever). The ratings this year broke records in America -- but it's still hardly a phenomenon. Cut to Canada, where a recent Canadian study says that Canadians put off going to the Emergency Room to watch an important hockey game.
I've spent the two days after Game 7 trying to explain to people why Boston is not happier than a Canadian city would be for this championship. The only way I can effectively illustrate it is to create a fictional situation to try to put Americans into the shoes of Canadians. Let's start with the most American sport we can think of. Baseball. It's America's pastime! Apple pie + Baseball = America.
So let's take a baseball team. The Los Angeles Dodgers, maybe. And now let's say a Canadian commissioner comes into the MLB and takes over. Hypothetical Canadian Commissioner wants to give Canada more love than just the Toronto Blue Jays. So he moves the Dodgers from Los Angeles to ... Edmonton. Then he puts a few more baseball teams in Canada, even though it's a well-known fact that Canadians don't watch baseball, they watch hockey. If their respective city's baseball team wins the World Series, it will be awesome. But they'll forget about it instantly once hockey rolls around. (In fact, with hockey starting and baseball ending at the same time, they might not even watch the World Series -- why would they miss the first few games of the NHL season?)
So say this Hypothetical Commish keeps moving teams to places in Canada that baseball has no right being in-- not even the Northeast where it belongs -- but in ridiculous places, where no one cares about baseball at all 'cause they're way more into college sports. And then, after years of New York Yankee domination and American dominance, all of a sudden the remaining American baseball teams get to the playoffs and lose to one of those many Canadian expansion teams. They lose again. And again. And again. Treasured, beloved American teams like the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Cubs --- they start losing to the Saskatchewan Sasquatches, (where, by the way, it's way too cold to even play baseball) and the Newfoundland Newfies.
Every single year, we Americans will watch our beloved American players win championships on Canadian teams. And soon, our teams, the teams that used to dominate in the country that used to own baseball, will have gone 19 years without winning a championship. Our own country's sport, our own national pastime, our own guys, will become another country's prize. And yeah, there's that devoted group of Blue Jays fans, and that devoted group of Newfie and Sasquatch fans. And yeah, they deserve it and they celebrate as hard as anyone when their team wins that World Series. But in the end, baseball is American's sport. And after a 19-year drought, Americans don't just want to reclaim it as our own. We need to reclaim it as our own.
One of these years, a long-suffering Canadian team will finally get their Cup. And when it happens, and people run the streets draped in Canadian flags and singing the "O Canada" in unity, we'll all understand that it's exactly what they've not only wanted, not only rooted for and hoped for and dreamed of, but exactly what they've needed. And that's why I was rooting so hard for them, and will continue to root for Canadian teams until they can bring the Cup back where it belongs.
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