Okay, so here I am, hungry, tired, and slightly bored. So started thinking about how I ended up doing this whole blog thing. I mean…this time last year I wasn’t even watching sports. Couldn’t have cared less: Roger wins another Grand Slam? Who’s that again? Habs come back 5-0 and beat the Rangers in OT? Oh… that’s lovely…*yawns* So, how exactly did I end up here? I’m sure no one really cares but I’m bored so you’re about to get treated to a long lecture that comprises mainly of paper I wrote earlier in the year for school.
I have often heard that part of being a Canadian means that you have to like hockey. The problem is, for most of my life, I never got the hockey bit of being Canadian. Maybe it was because I was born in a generation where kids spent their winters indoors in front of the television or the computer. Hockey was something that you watched a bunch of guys doing on the television. You didn’t go out and play it yourself. Or maybe it was because the team from my city didn’t do particularly well after last winning the Stanley Cup in 1993 (which I did not see). As much as that sounds like a bad excuse, it’s not all that much fun to watch the playoffs when your team isn’t doing very well.
Whatever the reasons, I have spent most of my short life completely ignoring hockey, except for maybe the odd Olympic gold medal game which almost always featured Team Canada. Okay, correction, the first time I actually sat through a hockey game was when Team Canada beat the United States in Salt Lake City. I couldn’t even tell you who was playing in that. But moving on…Hockey was never really interesting. Never having watched a regular NHL season, I didn’t know who the players were (the only player I could remember was Saku Koivu and he wasn’t even Canadian) and I didn’t know how the game worked beyond the obvious “the team with the most goals wins”. The only thing I knew about hockey was first of all, Canada was supposed to win all the time and second, for a game that was supposed to last only an hour, it ended up going for over double that amount of time (which was frustrating when you wanted to go and do something else but everyone insisted on watching a stupid game).
That all changed pretty quickly.
The flags started coming out about a week into the month of April. I had seen a lot of flags waving around on people’s cars during the 2006 World Cup, but this was different. Instead of everyone displaying flags of their respective (or favourite) countries, these flags all bore the same logo. I have to admit when I first saw the flags supporting the Montréal Canadiens, I was not particularly impressed. Who wants to advertise which hockey team they are cheering for anyway? So what if they had made it into the playoffs? Didn’t these people realize how silly they looked with the flags fluttering around from the tops of their cars? In my defense, I had a bad experience with flags and cars when the Ottawa Senators made their run to the finals. And I still refuse to spend money on an overpriced piece of fabric.
As the Habs geared up for their first game against the Boston Bruins, people began to get more excited. More and more flags began to appear on people’s cars and in front of people’s houses. I tried to ignore the whole thing but my parents put the first game on the family television and I snuck a couple of looks in-between commercials of other shows. Not that I understood what was going on. I had no idea who any of the players were or how the game really worked. I tuned in back to the game in time to see the Habs’ third goal against Boston. “Hey, that’s neat. We’re probably going to win. Cool,” I thought to myself before changing the channel back again.
If you don’t like hockey or if you don’t want to get into the whole thing and you live in Montréal, you have a problem. The people here are very passionate about hockey. The next morning the Habs’ game was all over the newspaper. In spite of myself, I ended up reading most of the sports coverage (after digging out the newspaper from the recycling pile), and from that point on there was no going back. I watched the rest of the series between Montréal and Boston with great interest. I cheered every time the Habs scored and groaned when someone from Boston managed to get a goal. I followed what people said in the paper the next day while I downed breakfast. Even the flags which I had previously took to be an over the top way of showing support for a team were looked at in a different way. When I saw a flag on someone’s car I thought “hey, look, that person’s a Habs’ fan too. Cool!”
I always thought that all cities with teams in the playoffs were like my city. I thought that every city had a bunch of very passionate fans who screamed their heads off through the entire game. I was proved wrong when the Habs next played the Philadelphia Flyers. I could not help but notice how quiet the fans were, or when they did cheer, they seemed to be cheering at all the wrong times (why are you people cheering when your team is about to get called for icing? Duh…). I thought it rather strange, especially after witnessing just how crazy Habs fans were when they played the first two games against the Flyers in Montréal. I had heard about a player for Philadelphia that seemed to be particularly unpopular in Montréal for a few reasons. When I first watched the Habs play the Flyers I had no idea which number this guy was. I quickly noticed, however, that whenever number 48 for the Flyers touched the puck Montréal fans booed him. It didn’t take long to put two and two together. After watching other playoff games, I have never seen other fans consistently boo a single player before. Of course I’ve since learned that Habs fans are not limited to showing their emotions during the playoffs. We like to boo people during the regular season too (anyone hear how noisy the crowd was during that game against the Hurricanes?). And we still take special exception to Daniel Briere.
Once the Habs were off golfing or going on vacations to Mexico, it was impossible to go back to ignoring them. Of course I had to watch Pittsburgh run over the Flyers and then I had to watch Pittsburgh attempt to beat Detroit. And once that was over all the post season stuff happened (can we say “the overlong saga of Mats Sundin”?). The thing is, once you’re a Habs fan, you can’t go back. For good or bad, you’re stuck cheering for them.
Like I said, I had no idea what I was doing but surely my chances of at least one of these teams making at least the quarter finals was good? Well… In my defense, I don’t know why I picked Portugal. I didn’t even like Christiano Ronaldo then – still don’t like him now. But surely a team with one of the best players on the planet has to have something going for them? I picked the Dutch because their names sounded cool. I went with Croatia because Slaven Bilic is very fun to watch and I loved the Croatian announcers. And I picked Spain because…. I dunno why. It was almost an after thought in all honesty. But I liked them.
Of course things didn’t seem to be going my way in the quarter finals. Michael Ballack finally got revenge on Ronaldo for that Champions League Cup thing win – which I didn’t know about at the time – as Germany downed Portugal. Turkey outclassed Croatia in shootouts which was depressing. Russia ran over the Dutch in extra time – before which the Dutch went on record as saying that didn’t actually like winning all that much anyway. Only Spain got through in shootout against the Italy. And no one expected that to happen. It was the first time in… a long time that the Spanish team had beaten Italy.
So here I was in the semi-finals of the Euro Cup finals with only Spain to cheer for. At the beginning of this tournament Spain was definitely not pegged as a favorite. They hadn’t won the tournament in over forty years and the last time they made the finals they were beat by an amazing Team France who hadn’t lost a single game in the entire tournament. The irony of their last appearance in the Euro Cup finals would soon be apparent as Spain ran over Russia to make their third Euro Cup finals.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when the finals rolled around. I was really hoping for Spain but I knew how tough Germany could be as well. It didn’t matter if Spain looked better on paper this time, the Germans were still a very dangerous team. It was an agonizing 90 minutes which was only briefly abated when Torres got a really nifty goal. Even in football though, one goal is often not enough. Especially not with the Germans peppering Casillas with shots. I sat on the floor (having rolled off the couch in a fit of anxiety at some point), holding my breath. End the game! End the game! I couldn’t watch… it was too much to take. The Germans were really trying for another goal now.
Finally the last seconds ticked away. I couldn’t believe it. Spain had won. Spain had WON! It was amazing. Even my sports-hating sister was happy (though she will deny that now).
A month later I was back and this time I was more interested. I had heard about Nadal and was curious about him. Wimbledon being Wimbledon and the finals consisting of Roger and Rafa was now a big deal. And then there was this whole “Is Federer finally going to lose here?” thing.
By the time I caught up on the action it was the semis. I did see a replay of Nadal running over Murray but knowing the outcome, I didn’t see the whole thing. I did catch all of one whole live match before that Sunday. It was Nadal running over Schuttler. And he really did run over him. I skipped Federer’s trouncing of Marat Safin completely.
And that that Sunday happened.
Nothing could have prepared me as I turned on the TV at 9:00 in the morning my time, that I would still be in the same spot 7 hours later. Throughout the course of the match I learned a pile about the sport and of course I had to listen to the announcers going on and on about Nadal and Federer too. I think I was almost as happy as Nadal to see the match finally over. I could finally move again! Yes! And my horrid losing streak with hockey was finally broken with the Spanish!
After that final I said that I wouldn’t watch any more sports until the hockey season took up again. That lasted all of two weeks when the Rogers Cup came to town. Well, more or less. You have to watch that even if the guys were playing in Toronto this year, right? Right. And from then on there was no turning back.
So as you can see, one thing lead to another and then to another. I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t get into any more sports and it’s working so far… I mean, liking the Habs is a full time job in and of itself *g*