The Gnashing of Teeth

submitted by Alex Summers

I allow films, particularly sports movies, to inform my perspective of the world. The hopeful optimism of believing the underdog stirs great emotions is an optimism I carry over into my fandom. Because of this fairy tale optimism, I wholeheartedly believed my St. Louis Blues would get comeuppance for last year’s four-game dismissal at the hands of the L.A. Kings.

I wanted the happy ending, a shutout for a shutout. I looked forward to watching the Blues progress and the Kings fall into shadow on my NHL Bracket. I even got greedy, after two victorious games anything seemed possible and I started to hope for the Cup.

At a St. Louis hockey fan, hoping to see the team hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup feels like believing in the existence of unicorns, or Santa, or a good Star Wars prequel. After 25 postseason appearances, the boys in Blue have held the Cup aloft a sum total of zero times. Nearly always competitive, it doesn’t matter if the names on the roster are McInnis or Backes, Hull or Oshie, Gretsky or Tsarasenko, the St. Louis Blues never convert our city’s relentless optimism into postseason success by joining the annals of Stanley Cup winners. As the Kings started to gain traction, gaining a home victory and then another, I steeled my reserve.

In sports fables of the silver screen, everything is darkest before the dawn. When Ken Hitchcock insisted that the series shifter, a barn burner Game 5, was the best work the team laid down on the ice all season and if they kept up the effort they would bring it home for Game 7, I bought into the optimism. I know better. Professional sports aren’t PeeWee Hockey. A hard fought loss in the playoffs is still another hard nail in the coffin of championship dreams. Good effort is better than a pro team phoning in a performance, but a loss is a loss. My optimism was repaid with a Game 6 loss, and dismissal from the playoffs.

After Game 6, the St. Louis faithful turned sour. We lamented that we should have expected less and expressed the requisite shame for putting all of our eggs in the same broken basket. We turned our attention several blocks east to a different stadium, trading sticks for bats, goals for home runs–salving our wounds with faith in a team that has from time to time paid us back with a Championship. After the summer heat subsides and the ice goes back into Scottrade, how do we return as fans?

Our enthusiasm might be slow. First find solace in the familiarity of our particular goal horn, and then smile wide at the antics of ubiquitous scoring mascot Towel Guy. We’ll soon turn our favor easily to the ice when Elliot makes a brilliant save, Reaves goes after someone with the fire of a thousand suns, and Steen delivers a beautiful shot on goal. St. Louis will believe again, we always do. Being a fan of a team is more than walking away a championship–it is burying yourself in the sweat of battle, screaming your throat raw, and never letting go of the hope that next season will be the one.