Stanley Cup Finals
begin tonight in New Jersey
, with the Devils
of the Garden State taking on the Los Angeles Kings
, a hockey team we Blues
fans are all too familiar with.
I've actually watched a ton of the playoffs this year, even after the Blues were eliminated, which is a little unusual for me. When it comes to baseball, I'm all in no matter what, but for the most part, the other sports don't work quite the same way. When I have a team knocked out, be it the Rams or Blues or whoever (I don't really have an NBA team, but I do occasionally adopt a squad for one reason or another), I generally kind of drift away from those playoffs for awhile. When the Blues were eliminated back in 2009 by the Canucks, I didn't watch the next couple rounds. I finally came back around, just in time for the finals to start, but it took a few weeks before I was past that grieving period.
This year, though, I haven't stopped watching the Stanley Cup playoffs for even a second. I'm not sure why, but this particular edition of the playoffs has been fascinating, to the point I haven't really been able to look away.
That's why I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Kings will be crowned. I'm not going out on a limb there, of course, but as a fan of one of the teams eliminated by what I feel will be the eventual champions, I do have a couple things on my mind.
First off, the brass tacks: the Kings are just a much, much better team right now than the New Jersey Devils. That's not to say the Devils aren't a very good team, a very worthy team, a very deserving team. But the way the Kings have played this postseason, I don't think there's any team on the planet that could take them right now.
The Kings, in winning three playoff series, have lost exactly two games, with the sweep (sob) of our Blues sandwiched between five game sets. They're 8-0 on the road. Jonathan Quick is on one of those magical runs great goalies -- and not so great goalies; I'm looking at you, Cam Ward -- occasionally go on in carrying their teams deep into the playoffs. They've scored five short-handed goals in fourteen games. What was one of the league's weakest offenses in the regular season has suddenly caught fire in the postseason, scoring at least four goals in seven of those fourteen games. Dustin Brown is playing like a man possessed.
All of it adds up to a team on too much of a roll. Both of these teams are very good, but the Kings are better, and the Kings are impossibly hot. The one and only worry for LA should be that the longer layoff for their team following their easy win over the Coyotes in the Western Conference finals (compared to the much longer series played by the Devils in eliminating the New York Rangers), might have managed to kill off the momentum through sheer inertia. But, I don't think so. I think the Kings win, probably in six games -- always picking six games is one of the very few things I totally agree with Barry Melrose on -- and I think they hoist Lord Stanley's Cup for the first time out in La La Land.
All of that, though, is really just background for the question I want to ask any of you who might be reading this today: are you rooting for the Kings, or against them? (Or, I suppose, maybe you don't care, but that's not a particularly interesting discussion to have.) By which I mean, when your team is eliminated, do you want to see the team that beat you succeed or fail?
I can see it either way, and really, my opinion has kind of evolved over time. When I was a younger sports fan, any time my team was knocked out I wanted to see bad things happen to the team that did the knocking out. I wanted them to lose. No, not just lose. I wanted to see their player injured. I rooted for the morning news to bring a story about the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of every player on the DeSoto High School football team. (Why they insisted on taking a plane back to DeSoto, which is roughly seven miles south of my hometown of Hillsboro I don't know, but in my head they totally took a plane instead of just driving back on a school bus.) In short, when a team beat my team I wanted to see them lose as soon as possible so I could feel better about my own loss, since those jerks were out of the tournament too.
As I got older, though, I kind of started to see things the other way, from the perspective of, "Well, if we had to lose, better to have at least lost to the team that eventually won the whole damned thing." I'm not sure why losing to the eventual champ is somehow less ignominious than losing to Miss Congeniality, but it feels a little better somehow.
To be honest, since I started writing about sports on a more-or-less professional basis (I say more or less because I am paid to do this, ergo professional, but let's face it: there isn't a whole lot of professionalism going on in what I do), I've found my rooting interests have kind of moved beyond either viewpoint. Nowadays, I still root for my teams. I still live and die for them. But when it comes to sporting events I don't have a direct rooting interest in, I just look at them in a different way. I'm always looking for an interesting story, or an intriguing angle, and actually rooting for one team or the other based on other stuff kind of goes by the wayside. There is something about this fact I find moderately sad.
But anyway, all of this is just my long way of asking you, Dear Reader, the question: when your team is knocked out, do you root for or against their vanquishers? Would you rather be able to say that the only team you couldn't beat was the team nobody else could beat either? Or would you rather see the team that ended your season beaten and bloodied and knocked out as soon as possible? To see them driven before you, and the lamentations of the women, and that sort of thing.
I'm really curious as to how other people look at it. I think, in the end, I would root for the team that beat mine in most cases. If it's a big rival -- say, the Blackhawks or Cincinnati Reds or something along those lines -- then I don't think I could do it. Those guys can all eat a bowl of dicks.
What about you?