Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Watching Game 7 Against Toronto

Most nights I work in the evening, usually getting home between 9-9:30, which means, most of the time, I don't watch live sports. Before we got DVR with our cable package, for Sox and Bruins games, I would watch the two-hour replay at midnight, getting reading and writing done during the commercials. Despite my best efforts, over the years I learned how to triangulate time left in the games, time left before 2 a.m. and the score to know who was going to win and whether or not the game would go into overtime. And, of course, every now and then NESN wouldn't edit the relevant score out of the scroll and I would see who wins a few minutes into watching the game.

I still watch Sox in 2 rather than recording the game because the nature of a baseball game can be expressed in a two-hour version of itself, but generally, I record Bruins games, especially during the playoffs when they are not necessarily playing on NESN. The challenge though is that the games don't always show up in cable queue, making scheduling a recording a pain. Game seven against Toronto was not listed in the queue even the early afternoon of the day of the game (Damn you, RCN!), so I asked my partner to record the game for me. Having a life of her own that pretty explicitly involves as little sport as possible, I wasn't too upset when I got home from work to find she had started the recording late, roughly at the beginning of the second period.

As Game 7 was broadcast on NESN, I had a brilliant idea. I would watch the first period on Bruins in 2, set the replay to record in case my live recording didn't get the whole thing, and then watch to the end of my live recording, thus, enjoying the entire game. I thought it was a pretty clever way to watch the entire game. Then the NESN scroll during the replay advertised ticket sales for home games 1, 2, and 3 of Round 2, telling me the Bruins won game 7. Which marked the beginning of perhaps the strangest spectating experience of my life.

In some ways, it was nice to be able to watch the game knowing it wouldn't be the last of the season. Sure, the major emotional content of the game was removed, but I could enjoy it without stress. And when the Bruins scored first, I just sat back prepared for the Bruins to coast to victory over the over-achieving Toronto Maple Leafs. So when the third period with the Bruins down 3-1, I nodded my head at what would be an impressive third period. But, of course, the Bruins have been a strong third period team for the last four years, and the Leafs are young and Phaneuf had struggled all series. Coming back from two down in the third period seemed totally reasonable. And then...time ran, as it does. And then...Toronto scored again, making it 4-1. And then...time ran, as it does. And what started out as totally reasonable, making up a two-goal deficit, over the course of a third period, became unbelievable. At one point I even wondered if somehow, through some inexplicably absent minded mistake, NESN ran the wrong scroll.

It felt like perpendicular trains of thought running both towards and away from each other. The fundamental fact was being stretched by the particular facts I was watching as if it were on the rack. To be honest, and here is one of the stranger sentences I'm going to write, the only other experience I've had that has produced as strange a mental state, was reading poems by Cesar Vallejo.

Midway through the third period, Nathan Horton scored and I thought this was the beginning of the comeback. Remarkable enough to comeback from three goals down with less than ten minutes. And then the time just kept ticking on. Rather than being frustrated, discouraged, and a little sports-depressed, I watched an event go from remarkable, to amazing, to miraculous, to unfucking believable. Lucic with 1:22 left and Rask on the bench. Bergeron with :55 left to tie with Rask on the bench. And then it was just waiting for the overtime winner, which, because he is the best, had to be Bergeron again.

For all the intensity of emotion in sports, there isn't much of a variety of emotions. So not only was the experience weird in and of itself, its very existence was weird. A random arrangement of events made possible by modern technology, through the diligence and/or negligence of other people with an unprecedented event at its core. It is the kind of event you don't want to waste and for me, that means writing this post.

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