As the puck drops on the Stanley Cup Finals, fans of two hard working teams will be hoping for a championship. Both clubs can make a case for a title. Those without any loyalties, however, may be thinking less about hockey and more about recent events. As strange as it may sound, many will be rooting for the Bruins in this highly anticipated best of seven series because of the Boston terror bombings two months ago.
Americans rallied around Beantown after the unspeakable acts of terrorists at the Boston Marathon. We were all Boston Strong. People from all over the country continue to reach out to Boston. That’s what we do in this exceptional land. Allowing these real, raw horrors to cloud sports, however, is a bit curious, though not unexpected.
We’ve seen this before.
In 2006, the Chicago Bears were a likable team led by players who by all accounts did things the right way. When the Bears reached the NFC Championship however, they were suddenly pariahs. It was nothing they did wrong. It was completely out of their control. But it was clear. No one wanted the Bears to win outside of the Windy City.
The reason? Their opponent was the New Orleans Saints. The Saints, fresh off of Hurricane Katrina were the nation’s darlings. A team that had very little success throughout its history was on the verge of a championship and they were playing for the victims of an unprecedented storm. The Bears had home field and they were favored in Vegas, but prognosticators far and wide were picking the Saints, perhaps going with their heart over their heads. The Bears were painted as villains, and they should not have been.
Barry Melrose and many other “experts” are picking the Bruins. Judging by Melrose’s predictions of the past, this may be great news for the Blackhawks. Still, it makes you wonder if some of these analysts are afraid to seem anti-Boston.
Baseball is no stranger to this line of thinking either. In 2001, barely a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Arizona Diamondbacks met the New York Yankees in the World Series. Usually, there is plenty of anti-Yankees sentiment to go around. This would seem especially true in this match-up. The upstart Diamondbacks were playing in their first ever fall classic, anchored by fan favorites Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, against the evil empire. Surely the nation would back Arizona over mystique and aura. Many did. But more than expected held their noses and pulled for pinstripes for the first time in their lives.
September 11th trumped any baseball rooting interests.
In a way, you can understand this. The hope is for sports to lift up a city that’s hurting. No final score can really remedy these types of horrors, but the concept is admirable. On the flip side, it seems the opponent in these cases is always a deserving, stand up squad with players that embody professionalism.
These Blackhawks exemplify hockey. They have work ethic and pride. They don’t blame others or make excuses. They are clearly worthy of the backing of any hockey fan outside of New England (and probably Detroit). Anyone who takes this for what it really is, just a sporting event, may very well choose Chicago in this Original Six showdown.
If you are rooting for a team based on what city ‘needs’ it more, Boston is likely your choice. That’s your prerogative. But, don’t paint the Blackhawks as bad guys. They didn’t have a hand in this. They merely are the Bruins’ opponent by coincidence.
It was bad enough the Bears had to face Drew Brees, let alone the ire of a nation. The Diamondbacks had to contend with not just Mr. November and friends but fans who under any other circumstance would have been decked out in purple. Now, along with a physical, talented Boston team, the Blackhawks will have to face a unique kind of adversity in this series. In the end, they’ll look to overcome it all just like the Bears and Diamondbacks attempted to do before.