I have a long personal history with being immersed the world of American professional sports, a history not always congruent with my other passion for underground music. There was a point in my life where I forced myself to choose: sports dork or music dork? I chose the latter, and for most of the late 80s and almost all of the 90s I barely paid attention to even my local teams and certainly never read the sports page. This followed a period of off-the-charts baseball obsession from about 1977 on, as well as being a San Francisco 49ers season ticket holder during “the glory days” of Montana/Clark/Rice/Young etc. Until about 1999 or so, I hadn’t felt the call of the armchair athletic in many years – that is, until I re-discovered hockey and the NHL. I say re-discovered because like many patriotic ‘Mericans, I got deep into the NHL following the 1980 Olympics “Miracle on Ice”, in which we vanquished the Ruskies and created at least two awful subsequent filmed melodramas that I know of, but I lost that again after a couple of years for baseball and football fever.
But about 7 years ago, I found that hockey, especially on the West Coast, is sort of an insider’s club, one with the same sort of chip of its shoulder that underground/garage/outsider rock has. Naturally that sense of insecure superiority worked for me, as oxymoronic as that sounds. Hockey fans out here, myself included, perpetually carp on how poorly our sport is covered, how it has a total East Coast/Canadian bias when it is covered, and how everyone thinks it’s just a bunch of toothless skating goons bashing into each other, when it’s in actuality the most graceful and exciting sport known to man, one with almost total action and more dramatic highs & lows than anything else. I think that sense of insecurity helps to deepen fans’ allegiance to the sport, and I’ve found the parallels with the way me & my pals approach music strikingly familiar. In fact, the number of underground music freaks who’d cite hockey as their favorite sport is likely far higher per capita than if a similar survey were done with non-freaks. It’s true, just trust me on this anecdotal fact.
I don’t have time or enough interest to follow any more than 2 sports faithfully, because I believe that if you’re going to “follow” a sport, you need to go deep. Therefore I’m all over the NHL and Major League Baseball, but I bet I couldn’t name any more than 6 or 7 active NFL players right now. I picked a good time to get into the NHL and my hometown team, the San Jose Sharks, because they’re just about the hottest thing going in the sport – ESPN says so! In my six years of Sharks/NHL freakdom (six because there was that one year they went on strike, the one year I paid some attention to my family), they’ve missed the playoffs just once and are arguably the team with the biggest “upside” for the next 5 years or so in the whole of the game. I should probably give a shout-out to my friend Danny P, who is singularly responsible in coaching me from mild, slow-burning fandom into full-blown maniacal fandom. Back in the eighties if I’d expressed this sort of enthusiasm for a sport to a hottie punk chick or some dude in a band I’d run the risk of being called a JOCK, god forbid – but now I’m a boring dad, and I don’t care! Come with me. Come with me into the light, and watch an NHL game on TV this week. Come be a sports dork with me.