It is the Playoffs.
Let me start by apologizing to all of you non-hockey fans because today is the beginning of what will hopefully be two months of endless stories about the Vancouver Canucks. Not just from me, but from all corners of the media world - radio, television, newspapers, Twitter and Facebook. Not to mention conversations to be overheard at the water cooler, on the bus, Skytrain, restaurants, elevators and my personal favourite source – politicians.
Yes it’s true. At some point there will be some shameless pandering via the donning of team jerseys at various photo-ops. Because apparently the great-unwashed electorate cannot make decisions based on political platforms or policy but a jersey makes the difference. “Well I don’t really like some of the things her party is doing and it seems like scandal after scandal, but she does like the Canucks so she can’t be all bad.” Or conversely “He says he’s all about the province and doing right by B.C. but I don’t know if I can really trust a guy who doesn’t even support the ‘Nucks.”
There is also the fact that thanks to the very long and slow process in prosecuting last year’s rioters, the ghosts of playoffs past still hang over the city. Giving strong legs and multiple sidebar stories to the news media. This means that along with the usual stories of school children making some team art, bars and pubs doing great business, local residents vying for most outrageous fan - there will also be a plethora of stories concerning the city. What preparations is the city taking? Do the police have a better plan? Will fans be more respectful?
So why all the hoop-la? How come the city loses its mind over what is just a game, right? Well for me it breaks down to the fact that people are essentially a tribal animal. Humans have always divided themselves into groups, but as the world or at least this part of the world becomes more diverse these division no longer fall squarely on country, religion or colour. For whatever reason there has always been a mentality of us against them, if you’re not with us you’re against us. That my side is better than your side, whether it be Coke vs. Pepsi (Coke) or Kirk vs. Picard (Picard). When you add all that to a natural desire for competition, a want to be the victor, to be better than the other guy and toss in a healthy dose of wanting to be entertained you get this hectic sports mania.
Since it is no long acceptable to join together in roving bands of looters and warriors, to go from town to town and pillaging to satiate a thirst to be number one – professional sports seems a great way to appease that yen. It is just a way to unite people, to bring them together to cheer for a common cause. That’s why it doesn’t matter whether you’re from a family of long time hockey players, sports fanatic, new immigrant falling in love with the game or even a politician trying to curry favour with the voters.
It is in the vein that I along with so many thousands of others have bent a knee and sworn allegiance to banner Canuck. To cheer loudly for our armoured champions as they head out to battle the enemy. To prove that our city is better than your city because our local sports team beat your local sports team. Which to me is a whole lot saner than any actual war.
So to those non-hockey fans I mentioned earlier be warned, the playoffs are here. Allow yourselves to be swept up in the wave. At the least you must have a friend or two who are fans, so go and join them for a game. Gather in a crowd at a bar or a room full of people to share in the joy and excitement of playoff hockey. Wave a towel and lose your voice cheering for our chosen champions as they battle these invading men who would call themselves Kings.
Nucks be with you.