Any heterosexual male that has grown up in Western civilization over the last half century has endured the same gauntlet on the way to manhood. Puberty. Tripping over absolutely nothing, usually in front of 20 or so people. That awkward first time you have to shower after gym class in high school with 20-30 other embarrassed teenage boys. Inexplicable and uncontrollable fits of rage over utterly minor transgressions. The first time you accidentally see down a girl’s shirt, see her bra and are instantly robbed of the ability to speak, move or do anything other than gawk stupidly. It’s also usually the same time most boys decide to switch from briefs to boxers.
Yea, growing up in America can be difficult when you have a steady diet of steroid soaked red meat and corn syrup. But we all went through it. All endured our share of humiliation. There is strength in commonality of failure.
But no event or experience is more life changing than the Kryptonite Chick.
Every guy has had a girl that could rob them blind, simply by asking for the money in their wallet. And like love-struck mutes we gave it to them, without question. The girl that we are powerless to reject, hopelessly dedicated to for no logical reason. Sometimes it’s in high school, sometimes it’s in college, but we all went through the period in which our will wasn’t our own. It belonged to HER. More often than not she was a girl that rejected and dismissed us, which made us want her all the more. Every guy has known the pain of the Kryptonite girl. The girl that can turn the most dominant Alpha male into a poetry writing, sobbing embarrassment of masculinity.
This really never stops. Men are by nature topic obsessed creatures, and we are still ingesting vast amounts of Roidstrong cattle. We simply transfer the focus of our obsession from vapid high school girls to things far more important. Like our careers, emotional growth and lawn care.
Yea, fuck that. We obsess over sports.
Box scores and lineups, Fantasy rosters and draft projections, Free agent rumors and endless statistical analysis. All this, even though the teams and players don’t even know we exist and couldn’t care less if we ever watched another game. Despite what every player says, they could not care less about the fans. Not even a little. Like the Kryptonite girl they feign interest only so long as we feed them every penny of disposable income we have. People who mock the rabid sports fan have no idea how heart breaking it can be. It’s not easy being hopelessly in love with an entity that never acknowledges your existence and disappoints you 50% of the time.
It’s pretty obvious for anyone who has read this blog before, I’m from Pittsburgh. Now as far as Kryptonite chicks go, Pittsburgh sports is one of the more forgiving mistresses. 6 Super Bowls, 2 World Series and 3 Stanley cups….and that’s just in my lifetime. Sure the Pirates have been an abomination upon the landscape of sports for 20 years (soon to be 21), but for the most part it’s been as successful as such a relationship can be.
Now, as for the folks in Buffalo, well, that’s a wholly different story. Not only do they have to suffer the indignity of living in Buffalo (a town so devoid of life you could film an entire episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ without makeup or extras) but they are the only North American Sports team with two professional franchises and no championships. Think your heart could handle the Buffalo Bills heart wrenching failure from 90-94? Scott Norwood and wide right? Beat downs to the 49’ers and Cowboys? To make it all the way to the pinnacle only to be crushed 3 TIMES IN A ROW? That’s like getting pantsed in front of the entire girl’s gym class.
That’s nothing to the feeling of utter rejection that comes from having the team you love pull up stakes and leave. I cannot even fathom what it was like in Cleveland in 1996. Now, let’s be clear, I’m a Steelers fan. I loathed the Browns with a primal hatred normally reserved for Nazis. But even I felt some empathy when Art Modell moved his team to Baltimore and completely shit on the hearts of the fans that had made him rich for 40 years. I hated the Bernie Kosar, Marty Shottenheimer and Gerald “the ice cube” McNeil more than a pack of 80-grit condoms. But moving the team out of Cleveland seemed almost inhumane. That’s like chopping off someone’s arm because of a bad rash.
At least the Indians were good. In the mid-90’s the Indians were arguably the best team in the American League, and made it to the World series in ’95 and ’97. If the Indians had performed at their usual level of ineptitude it is entirely possibly that today there would be little more than a still smoldering crater along the shore of Lake Erie.
Cities like Hartford had no other franchise to supplement the loss with when the Whalers were moved to Carolina. In Winnipeg not only is there no other franchise, there is no other ANYTHING. It’s the in the middle of the frozen prairie lands of Manitoba. It makes Buffalo Look like Miami. From the outstanding article written just before the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes:
Dejan Kovacevic on April 28, 1996 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Gil Stein, a former NHL president, once said: “There is so much Winnipeg in what hockey represents. The moral backbone of the game is kept strong in a city like this.”
If that is true, then hockey now is pulling up its own magnificent roots.
They date to the 1800s, when teams traveled by dog sleds across Canada to battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup, professional sports’ oldest prize. There is the long duel between the nation’s English and French sides to produce the finest talent, one that persists today in the Mario Lemieux vs. Wayne Gretzky debates. The sheer passion of the people for the sport has never dimmed, and it extends beyond just their NHL team, to all levels, mites to senior citizens’ leagues.
While one generation of Canadians now mourns, the next may look somewhere other than frozen ponds for heroes.
“As a kid, watching the NHL gave you something to play for,” said Randy Gilhen, a Winnipeg native who grew up to become a center with these departing Jets. “We didn’t feel like we were a million miles away from everyone.”
For a people that revere hockey above all else, losing the NHL is nothing less than a tragedy.
…Last summer, when the team was put up for sale by the local owners, more than 35,000 gathered in front of the Manitoba legislature building, the province’s largest rally of any kind in 50 years. They sought government aid, but many also contributed. They left money on the doorstep.
“I don’t have a job yet, but I took down $10,” said Sean Jones, a student at the University of Winnipeg. “That’s not much, but it’s all I could do. Everyone had to do something . . . there were so many people.”
Winnipeg is not among the NHL’s smaller cities, but it is the smallest market.
“It’s not like there are suburbs here,” noted Gilhen, a member of the Penguins’ 1991 Stanley Cup championship team. “That’s the thing that makes what these people did so unbelievable, how they all rallied. I saw kids crying while they were emptying their piggy banks, carrying jars of pennies. You can’t imagine how that touches you, how it hurts. …How do I explain to him how we had all this and lost it?….. The kids are the big losers. They don’t understand business. They just know their Jets are leaving.”
If the idea of a 10 year old emptying his piggy bank onto the steps of a Government Legislature in the hopes of saving his hockey team doesn’t stir some empathy in your heart, well then quit reading my blog and fuck your blackened heart, Kim Jong-Un.
Seriously if you can’t feel for the fans of Winnipeg and how the one thing they loved more than anything was ripped away, then seriously, quit reading my blog and go club some baby seals or something.
Nowadays the Sacramento Kings are bound for Seattle, a city that had their NBA team leave some years ago for the same reasons. Every NFL team that finishes with fewer than four wins becomes the next team rumored for relocation to Los Angeles. With a new stadium being built, someday that will happen. Hockey failed in Atlanta (again) and thankfully a team was returned to Winnipeg, but what few fans there were for the sport in Atlanta were a ravenous bunch. It’s hardly their fault Dany Heatley is such an assclown.
Sports is a cruel and unforgiving whore of a mistress. They are the ultimate Kryptonite Chick. Shrugging it off as “just part of the business” does as much good as telling some heart broken slob that “there are other fish in the sea.” In high school all she could get was lunch money and your dignity, as an adult they get $4,000 for a ‘seat license’ and what’s left of our sanity.
The teams couldn’t care any less about their fans. If football can leave Cleveland and hockey can leave Winnipeg, then no franchise is safe. And don’t give me that big market bullshit either, because the last time I checked there hasn’t been an NFL team in LA for 17 years.
Players don’t care. They would just as soon stab you outside of a nightclub. All those self-named foundations are tax-shelters and monuments to their own ego. They don’t exist for charity but a place for them to complete their inevitable 1,000 hours of community service. Sure they feign affection for their fan base but let’s be honest: these narcissistic gladiators care more about how many twitter followers they have than your emotional investment. At best we can hope that someday we can meet our favorite player and exchange a half-full can of soda for a sweaty jersey without being punched in the face.
We can call ourselves fans, and that would be the correct branding I suppose. But in any other iteration of life we would be stalkers hiding in the bushes with night vision goggles and duct tape. Checking ESPN twenty times a day isn’t much different than trolling your Kryptonite Chick’s Facebook page.
In college, girls file restraining orders. In sports they sell you tickets.