Sunday, November 11, 2007

And now... hockey

That’s right, the Chicago Blackhawks. We entered the United Center at the Michael Jordan entrance – easy to spot because of the giant bronze statue of Michael Jordan. Our party was a party indeed – us three lovely ladies and one loquacious five year old. After going through the labyrinth of hockey fans and special VIP entrances, we reached our box seats.

The first thing we saw was a woman putting the final touches on her free hotdog – sesame bun and all. We were living large. Aside from hotdogs, there was a sweet buffet of free food and beer. Budweiser products in cans. I felt the event merited Bud Heavy.

Though it never would’ve occurred to me, my roommate warned that it would be cold. Even in our fancy seats, it was pretty chilly in that iced United Center. In case it isn’t clear, this was my first hockey game. What better way to spend a Friday night than at my first hockey game?

The Blackhawks played the St. Louis Blues, and everyone got a free Blackhawks ballcap as they walked in. When you looked out at the crowd, you could see a series of bright red heads clapping and cheering as the players did their warm-ups. After warm-ups, the sea of red disappeared for the singing of our national anthem. I have never heard a national anthem cheered so loudly or emphatically before. The stadium used its many light-up signs to display waving red and white stripes, and stars of white on fields of blue. It was pretty amazing. I’m surprised I didn’t see anyone crying.

The game started soon after that – 3 periods of skating and scoring attempts. I took to asking my neighbors to the left, St. Louis fans, questions about the hockey. I was really curious about why the referees weren’t announcing their penalty calls over the loudspeaker. Also, unlike football or even baseball, there was little-to-no narration. Most of the other fans didn’t seem to mind, and I soon found myself as involved as the next person. Much like football, hockey is a full-contact sport, and it’s pretty exciting to see those guys smack up against the glass like a bird who didn’t see it coming.

I have never seen such perfect ice as this was after the zamboni machines cleaned it between periods. I bet that well-maintained ice wouldn’t look as good if it weren’t for the shovel girls. Instead of cheerleaders, it would appear that hockey teams have a set of scantily clad, able-bodied young women who skate out in their leg warmers and their bikini tops with shovels, to remove ice debris. Our five year old companion looked at these girls, then turned to me and said, “They must be freezing!” Freezing indeed. My friend’s nephew is wise beyond his years.

In fact, the attendance of this tiny wise man made the game much more exciting for me. His enthusiasm was contagious, and we had many a good laugh at his interchanges with Tommy, the Blackhawks mascot. I sometimes wish there were more funny five-year olds running around in my life. If he hadn’t been at the game that night, my friends and I would’ve drank a lot and made fun of everything. As it stood, we drank plenty, and made fun of more than a few things, but I also felt like I was more allowed to get excited about what was going on around me. We could cheer without being mocking, we could see the game through the eyes of a five-year old who played his slide whistle (think like a clown has) each time something got exciting.

In addition to the slide whistle, I was expecting to hear a lot of Journey and the like blaring over the loudspeakers, but I was surprised to find quite a mix. At one point, my friend pointed out that they were actually playing the Arcade Fire. I caught two snippets of Elvis Costello at various points throughout the night, too. It just goes to show, hockey is full of surprises.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pigskin, anyone?

I sat down to write a post about football, and ended up writing a poem. Let's try this again:

This weekend, we drove 8 hours to KC all for the sake of football. My ever-generous friend had her dad's amazing Chiefs tickets, and we meant to capitalize on them. (I also meant to wash the three loads of laundry I brought home in the trunk, saving myself $6. Yes, I'm to that point.)

Gameday (Sunday) dawned sunny and bright, with an extra hour of sleep due to Daylight Savings Time. The high was 71 degrees, and I had my red t-shirt and red bandanna, ready for action.

It's funny, but ever since graduating from college, I've been more of a football fan. I limit myself to professional football, though this year it's been fun to keep up with MU's record, etc. When I moved up here in September, I found myself watching Chiefs game feeds on, cursing our lack of cable. Though those Chiefs are really struggling this year, I'm more determined than ever to be a fan.

Back to Arrowhead. We arrived in the parking lot at about 11am, with plenty of time to drink a beer and take in the spectacle. I watched the over-sized cars streaming across the lot, parking and unloading coolers and grills. You could hear music from people's stereos, and smell their grilling meats. The people next to us let us use their chairs, and people threw footballs between the cars. I looked around me at the astronomical spending power of America, and it didn't bother me one bit. I was too excited to get into the stadium and spend $7.25 on a lite beer.

The game started, and my friend and I screamed and cheered with the best of them. We befriended the toothless man who would yell, "Move the chains!!!!" each time the Chiefs got a first down, and scowled at the loudmouth Packers fan behind us. We ate nachos and drank beer and cheered for touchdowns. The weather was perfect, and the Chiefs almost won. On the whole, it was a great day. For some reason, I can't get enough of watching those giant men run into each other, sling passes down field, or run as fast as they can to jump on someone and stop them in their tracks. Go Chiefs!!