When The Magic Runs Out
There's nothing like watching your team do exactly what you hope for. Until they don't.
Three weeks ago the New York Rangers traveled to Raleigh to play the Carolina Hurricanes in a Game 7 of the NHL playoffs.
Me? I traveled about half of a block to my new neighborhood bar.
A few days before the game I had moved into my new place (and out of the loving embrace of my longtime roommate), and I did not yet have internet or TV set up to watch at home.
It was a Sunday night and I was plagued by worries of all the other miscellaneous tasks I still had to do to get truly settled in. All I wanted to do that night was stay in and relax in my barely-decorated new home.
But it was a Game 7 of the NHL playoffs, the most purely distilled instance of manic stress and adrenaline professional sport has to offer.
I’d already experienced one Game 7 this year just days earlier. When Artemi Panarin scored the goal that eliminated the Penguins, I yelped so loudly that the cat that had been sleeping at the foot of my bed hit Mach 1 running out of the room. There is truly nothing like Game 7s.
So I wasn’t sure I had the fortitude to watch another one. I began reminiscing about a magical night I had seven years ago watching another Game 7.
I was getting ready to head out for my second trip across the Northern Tier, and a bunch of friends and I went to claustrophobic bar to watch the Rangers and Capitals play one of their seemingly 10,000 Game 7s of the last decade.
Because my nerves weren’t tightly wound enough with a months-long trip around the corner, the game naturally had to go to overtime. It was one of those instances where you start to think what you’re watching in front of you is an analog for something else in life. If the Rangers can just win this, then this summer will go smoothly and I’ll come home, find a job, and really get my life moving.
Time seemed to slow down in the moments after Derek Stepan buried the game-winner. Matt and I jumped in the air, beers in hand, and hugged while screaming “HOLY SHIT” over and over.
So a few weeks ago I decided I needed to dig out my old Ryan Callahan jersey-tee, throw it on and walk over to the shabbiest pub in my delivery zone on a Sunday night.
And I am sure glad I did. The Rangers took the lead early and ran away with it. The nervous apprehension I felt quickly turned to excitement as I sat alone at the bar, cheers-ing a very confused bartender after every goal and recieving texts from Matt that read, “WHY NOT US?!”
The Rangers were the first team I remember falling in love with as a kid. The reason I wore number 9 playing hockey growing up was because of Pavel Bure and Adam Graves, the two somewhat obscure stars I idolized for years.
I dream of watching Virginia Tech win the College Football Playoff, or the Mets win the World Series, but seeing the Rangers lift the Stanley Cup would bring me nonpareil joy. (I do not fantasize about the Knicks winning the NBA title because that is impossible and I don’t suffer foolish ideas gladly.)
On a recent episode of Men In Blazers, John Oliver described how he felt watching Liverpool string together win after win in their pursuit of Manchester City and the Premier League title over the latter half of the season.
“Belief,” Oliver said, “it comes incrementally.”
In the ensuing days I continued unpacking and moving into my place, while the Rangers moved on to Tampa Bay and took a 2-0 series lead over the two-time defending champion Lightning. Belief was coming. Everything is coming together.
I went to bed one night, fixating on the idea that the Rangers were only six wins away from winning the Cup.
But then the magic ran out.
The Lightning did that thing they’ve become annoyingly good at and won the next four games. I watched time run out on the Rangers in Game 6 at a different bar, but I wasn’t swallowed up by the deep sadness I suspected I’d be.
I mean, to come so far only to watch them get picked apart like a med school cadaver by the Lightning was crushing. But I’m still so aglow at how many ridiculous memories the Rangers gave me this year.
“There are too few trophies, too few titles for everybody to enjoy,” Oliver later said on MiB. “So it really is about how many lifetime memories can you give people. And boy, oh boy, that team gave me a lot this year.”
Some of my favorite teams have a truly remarkable fount of magic, and while the Rangers haven’t reached the mountaintop since I gained consciousness, damnit if they haven’t been the protagonists of countless amazing nights in my life that I’ll never forget. The magic of those memories will never run out.
HENRIQUE!! ITS OVER!