I’ve been lucky with my sports teams over the years. I’ve seen multiple championships from both the Cardinals and the Cowboys, to say nothing of Manchester United (the past several years notwithstanding).
But there’s one team I grew up following that has made me understand the definition of long-suffering fandom: The St. Louis Blues.
The Blues arrived in the NHL as part of the first expansion. For the first three years of the team’s existence, the expansion teams were in their own conference. The Blues made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in each of those years, and were promptly swept each time.
Since then, nothing. Only three trips back to the conference finals before this year. The Blues are almost always in the playoffs, but almost never able to mount a serious challenge. They have found enough innovative ways to steal hope from their fans that there were times I suspected they were taking notes from the Cubs.
Until this year. This year, they finally made it back to the finals.
For those who haven’t paid attention to the season, this is pretty much where a lot of Blues fans thought they should be headed at the beginning of the season. But on Jan. 3, when the Blues ranked dead last, most had given up.
I don’t mean the Blues ranked last in the division or the conference. They were last in the entire league and it looked like a lost season. And I’ll admit I was one of those who thought the team was toast. The only people who thought otherwise may well have been the ones wearing the note on their sweaters.
But now, after running through the San Jose Sharks, the Blues are improbably within four wins of their first title ever. The Boston Bruins will have something to say about that, of course. They played the Blues 49 years ago in the last of the Blues’ three trips to the final. The teams play similar styles of hockey. Neither one is going to be intimidated. It should be a fun series.
I know this isn’t my usual musing about history or events that fall more on the hard news side of the line. But give me a break. I have literally never seen this happen before. It still seems a bit surreal to see this team and the words “Stanley Cup Finals” used without irony.
I do want to make one serious point before wrapping up, though. Sunday’s commencement for Ottumwa will be the last one for our area for a while. Congratulations to this year’s graduates.
Graduation is a little weird. It changes nothing. You’re the same person after you receive the diploma as you were before it. But it also changes everything. Structures that played a major role in dominating your life are suddenly, irrevocably gone. Out of that paradox comes the transition from who you were to who you become.
Enjoy the moment. It doesn’t last. What comes next is largely up to you.