I jumped onto the Bruins bandwagon at some point during the Lightning series, partially because it felt harmless to root for a team while having no real emotional investment, but mostly because, well, what the hell else was I going to do?
The NBA playoffs still held my interest, and I watched those ritually, but I couldn’t root for any other basketball team once the Celtics went down. The Bruins represented my last chance to cheer for a winner this summer, and I figured joining the bandwagon was entirely benign—either the Bruins would win the Stanley Cup and I would enjoy the spectacle with the other semi-fans and diehards, or they would lose and I would feel slight disappointment then completely move on with my life 15 minutes later. A win-win situation, or so I thought. I did not figure hockey would lash at me with its talons and leave my scar tissue torn apart and dripping with blood.
The run the Bruins completed so magnificently last night was the run the Celtics came so close to completing so magnificently last season. The comparisons probably didn’t slap many people in the face last night, but the two playoff runs were eerily similar:
- Team enters playoffs far from the favorite.
- Team grits its way through early hardship (Bruins went down 0-2 to Montreal, Celtics lost Game 3 to Cleveland—in Boston—by 29 points).
- Young, tough, unorthodox players shine (Rondo, Marchand), but veterans provide the backbone (Big Three for the Celtics, Chara, Thomas, Recchi for the Bruins).
- Team enters the championship series as an underdog, and in the championship series meets a team known more for style than for physicality (Celtics-Lakers, Bruins-Canucks).
- The series drags on to a 7th game, with the easiest narrative becoming the Boston team’s passion and heart vs. the opponent’s overwhelming talent.
If I wanted to, I could even note the voo-doo tricks used by the respective Boston teams. During Boston’s final regular season game against the Lakers, Doc Rivers asked for $100 from each of his players, assistant coaches and team managers, hiding their money in the Staples Center; the players would receive the money only if they returned to the Finals (and only if the Lakers joined them there). Last night, Nathan Horton took a water bottle filled with Boston water and spread it on Vancouver’s ice; he felt the Bruins could use some of their home ice at the away rink.
Do you see yet? The Celtics were supposed to win Game 7 last year. They led by 13 points and could have, should have, held on. The Celtics were supposed to receive the Larry O’Brien trophy at the Staples Center. Kevin Garnett was supposed to hold it over his head while the Lakers fans, or at least those who stayed, booed him with the most beautiful boos in the world. Bill Russell was supposed to present the NBA Finals MVP trophy to a Celtic, not to Kobe Bryant. Kendrick Perkins was supposed to emerge from the bench after the game like Horton did, unable to play in the clincher but a champion nonetheless. The city of Los Angeles was supposed to set itself ablaze with angry riots, and the city of Boston was supposed to rejoice with the sweet crunch of victory.
Instead, the lead fell apart. The Lakers overcame the deficit and tears, rather than champagne, dominated Boston’s post-game locker room. Los Angeles partied happily (and rioted happily), while Boston breathed sharply, mourned immediately, and wondered what the hell just happened to its Celtics. The Celtics were supposed to drink from the Larry O’Brien Trophy as the Bruins can now drink from the Stanley Cup.
When I nonchalantly joined the Bruins bandwagon, I never thought watching hockey–and especially watching winning hockey—would hurt so bad. Yet last night took me for a ride down memory lane, to places in my past I never want to visit again.
Congratulations, Bruins. But damn you.