Late Arriving: Worldly Perspective in Defeat

Late last night I saw something I’d never before seen in all my years following sports. Members of a sports team, showered and nattily attired for travel home after a game, having spent the preceding 6 or so hours in a secure area, were being stopped by arena security personnel — interrogated, almost — and then individually inspected with hand-held metal detectors before being allowed to board their team bus in the bowels of an arena. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated our Capitals again last night, but their exit from Washington almost certainly was unlike anything they’d ever before endured. Washington, joined by the rest of the civilized world, celebrated late last night, but Washington also went on high alert. That’s the world we live in. Although this morning it’s a much safer world.

The sting of potentially another sour spring for Washington’s hockey fans seemed so inconsequential late last night. And this was the way last night’s world-transforming news began to unfold for me: I spent about 5 minutes watching this peculiar inspection of hockey players before a bus ride. I thought: for some reason, Verizon Center security personnel thought it possible that members of the Lightning could pose a security breach in the nation’s capital. For nearly 5 years at Verizon Center I’d watched visiting hockey players stop to pose for photos with their fans in a small reception area before boarding the team bus, and it was all so routine. Until last night.

Minutes later, I walked into the press lounge and saw a mass of reporters who ought to have been filing to meet deadline huddled around a television screen. Breaking News, they were attuned to. World-transforming news, I would soon learn. Seriously putting a playoff hockey game’s outcome in perspective news, to be sure. Although, I was more than a little late at getting that perspective.

I spent the next 30 minutes chatting with bloggers and print and television reporters, all of us exchanging notes and reflections about another stunning sting for the Caps in spring. I discussed video shooting ideas with my bloggermate Andrew. I looked over quote sheets from postgame press conferences. I scanned the evening’s event summary and pointed out to my new media colleagues that Marcus Johansson took 15 draws on the night and won a grand total of 5 of them. In our country’s most important moment in 10 years, I was looking to lay blame for a game’s loss partially on a rookie hockey player from Sweden.

About 20 minutes later Andrew and I boarded a Metro train at Gallery Place and continued talking hockey. We trashed the Caps a good bit. We expressed disgust with the power play, the coaching, the team’s leadership. We wondered if Varly should start game 3 to try and change this series’ momentum. Andrew exited the train after a couple of stops, and alone with my thoughts I began forming an outline of post mortem on what sure looked like another postseason’s demise prematurely fast upon us.

When I got home I turned the TV on and realized, at last, that I didn’t need my game notes for the file I needed to pursue. I felt stupid and wretched for taking 90 minutes plus to realize that whatever the hell I felt about Sunday night’s outcome on the ice it mattered not in the least relative to what was going on in the world. And here’s rich irony: a good many reporters I call friends spread their talents covering multiple Washington team sports, and often they seem to me immersed in games — in sports journalism — rather myopically, to an unhealthy degree, so as to be, to me, deficiently briefed about what really matters in the world. I had this thought much of last week as media outlet after media outlet gorged on the NFL draft with coverage befitting President Kennedy’s assassination.

Sunday night, it was I who harbored a myopic view of the world — adhering to the meaningless world of sport when word of the arrival of a vastly better world was dawning.

I’m just beginning to realize why. Over the course of 10 years now I have gradually developed a tone deafness for news of conflict and military engagement overseas. Big money we’re spending over there, for big messes, costing precious American lives and  — and! — look at the conditions in our airports for it all, my cynical sensibilities sneered. And so I turned to sport — our sport — for more than pleasant distraction, divergence.

On the TV late last night word arrived that at Sunday night’s Mets-Phillies baseball game the public address announcer shared word of Osama bin Laden’s death and residents in the birthplace of our democracy began chanting ‘USA! USA! USA!’

Of course they did. And none of them last night or this morning are much worried about the Flyers’ goaltending.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher last night told the media that so desperate was his hockey team for rest that he didn’t believe they were literally physically capable of meeting the obligation of a second overtime session in last night’s game, had it been warranted. He then said that he told his team that he didn’t want to see them again until Tuesday, when the series resumes. I don’t think we love hockey — and our Capitals — any less if we take a page from the coach’s playbook, and turn our thoughts away from the rink for a day. This is a historic Monday in our republic. Let’s forget about hockey for a day, give thanks for the arrival at last of justice, remember the men and women who wear our uniform and the courage and sacrifice they daily make, and when next we meet at the rink and we are told to cast our gaze and appreciation at the members of the military then under spotlight, well, we’ll double our applause and the duration of our ovation, won’t we?

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7 Responses to Late Arriving: Worldly Perspective in Defeat

  1. Eric says:

    I always appreciate your blogs and analysis of the Caps, and although it is a morning of concern for Caps Nation, your perspective on this event and where hockey stands in comparison to it are spot-on. Thanks for your post!

  2. Well done. I lost a family member that day in 2001 when one of the airliners crashed into the World Trade Towers. I was told it was her first day of work at a new job. She never made it home to her family. The news gave me a brief moment of solace, but the pain and sadness will always be with me.

  3. Scott says:

    An amazing night indeed, but not for the Caps. By the way, starting Varly for Game Three is a terrible idea. If we lose this series, it will have nothing to do with Neuvirth’s play. Stick with the guy you started with. Pulling Theodore last year was pointless. Pulling Neuvirth this year would be a much bigger folly.

  4. MadCap says:

    I don’t understand why one can’t both acknowledge the big news of the day (Bin Laden’s demise) while lamenting the loss of a hockey game by the hometown team. Few will argue that the former isn’t more important, but the latter is still gnawing at me today regardless of the news from Pakistan.

    BTW, I noticed that you still managed to get in a dig at MJ90. Here’s hoping he bounces back with a big Game 3 (similar to his Game 4 against NYR).

  5. Mia says:

    I know, here I pop-up again to challenge perspectives. I’m sure some would prefer I just leave my comments to myself. Alas, self-expression is also my right, so here I go.

    I do take time to read as much from OFB as my life will allow. We are all hockey fans after all. The writing is always well-crafted and errors are rare.

    For this post, however, I’d like to caution those who believe the world is a safer place. I lost a family member on 9/11 (the same flight Boudreau was slated to fly, but did not). I also have worked for the Dept. of Homeland Security. I am relieved that those who needed closure may have that today. To me, no destruction of life or justice can ever replace my niece. My life has been as it has been, so this is how I am personally feeling today. Perhaps that will change.

    We are not necessarily safer by any stretch of the imagination though. It’s a sad fact that for those who are determined to hate and terrorize, the death of their most renound leaders will only feed the fire that fuels their cause.

    Just as the Washington Capitals need to stay vigilant, reduce the margin of error in their game and push themselves and each other to succesfully get past this playoff round’s challenges, we should probably keep alert. Much like game of ice hockey, the moment we let-up on our defenses is the moment one get by us.

    I’m still keeping a positive outlook for the CAPS and chose to BELIEVE they are a better team with a good group of guys who do indeed care about winning and love the game. Let’s hope steady, solid improvement is a “team” notion and effort right from the start in Tampa Bay for game 3.

    I may not share the same perspectives often times, but I do appreciate the hockey-passionate and OFB always has something for those who love hockey and our Washington Capitals. Thanks.

  6. OvieTracker says:

    All perspectives are welcome, and I thank all who posted here to share theirs.

    I sincerely hope that those who suffered personally on 9/11 will be given some peace and solace knowing that justice has been served for the loss of loved ones. But really we aren’t safer now that Osama bin Laden is dead, because there are fanatics everywhere willing to sacrifice themselves to avenge his death. We must never lessen our vigilance.

    And keeping things in perspective, following sports teams is both cathartic and vicarious. You experience joy when they win and sadness when they lose, and this is no less true for the Capitals and their fans. In some ways, it’s even more true.

    And now in this dark hour, I continue to believe in the Caps, although I have issues with some aspects of their game, most notably leadership or rather, the lack of it. The focus is on Ovie most definitely, but the responsibility for winning in Tampa isn’t just on him. It’s going to take complete effort and commmitment from all the players, to unite and play for themselves and each other. They have to believe in themselves, and then execute. They can do it, they know they can. Now they just have to realize and fulfill their destiny.

  7. Pingback: Was That the Last Time? |

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