Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Walking the Walk

The Boston Bruins took a 3-1 series lead about half an hour ago, and I'm guessing the hours to come are going to see a lot of people clogging the interwebs with their expressions of anger and disappointment in this team, as is their right. But before those messages get out there (and before I have the chance to be sucked in and corrupted by them) I wanted to make sure this message gets out there, too.

Quite long ago in time, but just a scroll of the mouse away in space (see "I'm a Horrible Blogger" tag) I talked a big talk about not letting your expectations ruin the ride. About 3 minutes after the final buzzer of game four, I was feeling upset and let down and frustrated and (yes, I'll admit it) on the verge of tears, when I suddenly realized I was practicing exactly what I had preached against. I had to take a step back to consider.

It seems everyone (myself included) went into this series expecting the Sabres to win it. Maybe not in a cake walk, maybe in a nail biter, but the standings and the numbers and the rosters all seemed to point to Buffalo being the better team. Were we wrong to expect this? Time will tell, and it certainly seems likely, but I can tell you where I made my mistake. In my head, I'd already moved past this series. I was looking ahead, past Boston, praying that Pittsburgh would beat Ottawa so we would have the assurance of not having to face the Sens. I was doing exactly what I had said I wasn't going to do in that previous post: I had turned the Bruins into the opening act, before I was even assured of a headliner. I was ruining all my fun before I'd even had any.

Once I realized this, I decided I had two questions to come to terms with. The first was: Do I stay hopeful? I know this is going to seem naive, but I genuinely still have hope that the Sabres can win this series. Why? For the simple reason that it's more fun than the alternative. Also because it's not totally outside the realm of possibility. It's cliched to say "if they can win three in a row, so can we," but really, so can we. The games have been so close, and there still seems to be fight left in them. Now, I doubt I'm alone in this terribly optimistic view, even if the people who agree with me don't have blogs, but this next one I'm not so sure about:

What happens when there's no hope left? Does that mean they've let me down?

In dealing with this question, I've been thinking a lot about the phrase "one and done." It was thrown around pretty freely before the playoffs by many a Sabre doubter, and at the time I took it at face value as something fundementally gross and disappointing, but now I find myself wondering about it. Does "one and done" have to mean "failed to meet all expectations"? Does it have to mean "rolled over and died"? Does it have to mean "heartless," "gutless," "lazy"? Well, if the Sabres do end up being one and done, and this is their one, I'm going to have to say no.

One and done can be a battle, and it can be thrilling, and it can even be fun, if you let it. After re-evaluating my priorities and expectations, I decided that all I really, absolutely expect the Sabres to achieve this postseason is showing me some playoff hockey. And folks, that, tonight, was some bonafide playoff hockey. That wasn't the Sabres giving up, or getting steam-rolled, or being out-muscled. It was them being unlucky, being momentarily stupid, being unfocused at the wrong time and having to pay for it. They clearly did not play a great game, but still, that was a great hockey game, and it wasn't all because of how well the Bruins were playing. Obviously it would have been much, much better if they'd won, or not given up their two-goal lead (again), or not taken stupid penalties, etc., but I'm not going to expect perfection, even perfect outcomes. I just want to see some good hockey, and I saw some great hockey tonight. I'm not convinced I took a single breath during both overtimes, and really, what else is the postseason about?

The bottom line, for me, is that this is the Sabres' first playoffs in three years, and if one series is all I'm going to get, I'm going to enjoy the hell out of it. And really, losing aside, there's been a ton to enjoy. (Granted, losing aside, there's still been quite a bit to hate, and I'm sure people will.) I'm not here to tell anybody how to feel (rage and heartbreak are perfectly legitimate and understandable responses), but for the sake of sanity, I invite everyone to keep this in mind:

One and done can be a million times more fun than 9th and 10th place.

If I wanted to be really controversial, I could argue that this series has been more fun to watch than any single series in the 2007 playoffs (or even all of them combined), but it's late and I have to work in the morning. (Moreover, I don't think something can count as controversial if no one bothers to read it.) So instead I'll just close with what I said to my mom about this series the other day: Sure, this series could be a lot less frustrating, but it could also be a lot less fun.

No comments: