While the Washington Capitals, on the brink of this post-season's extinction, are likely doing a lot of soul searching, I did a lot of fan soul searching myself last night and this morning.
This team has shown more promise, and has been more hyped, I daresay, than any that I've ever followed during the last two decades. That makes the prospect of such an abrupt playoff collapse, a train wreck right out of the station, particularly painful. This is not your historically typical lunch pail bunch of Caps playing above their abilities. This was supposed to be (and maybe still is) a real contender.
So now we're left with nothing but blind faith.
I admit to having struggled with the decision to attend Game 5 tomorrow. For me up here in Gotham, that obviously involves a roughly seven-hour round tripper, and an overnight stay. Significant time and expense, testing my devotion.
I went so far as to craft a plan to sell my ticket (ideally to a Capitals fan) which, given the manner of distribution to me, proved difficult. At that moment, it was as if the divine breathed new life into me, willed that I should make the pilgrimage to our D.C. temple of hockey one more time.
We should not quit now. There's nothing to be gained from giving up early. Life is best lived exploring and experiencing, taking some risks, and holding fast to that faith. Steeling oneself against disappointment will not make it any less upsetting.
If it happens.
I wrote earlier this spring about what would make this Caps season a successful one. Many of us envisioned a level of success far beyond winning the first round. Even that modest accomplishment is very much, at least statistically, in jeopardy.
My mind wandered into a thicket of repetitive, poisonous thoughts, ones which worked at convincing me that such a playoff collapse as this team squarely faces would be an ultimate, irreversible betrayal, a sweeping eradication of everything celebratory and worthwhile which is derived from Caps fandom -- certainly during this campaign. A vicious rebuke of all of the investments that I've made as a blogger and as a fan. (And I don't think that this delusion was caused by the rotgut whiskey I was initially served at our game watch bar last night, under the guise of Maker's Mark.)
And then I realized just how much fun it has been to follow this team to this point. And how much fun it still could be. How many games I attended and watched this season, savoring victory. How many third period, and overtime, game winning tallies. How many stunning individual accomplishments achieved by our heroes. Records broken. NHL debuts made instant classics. Those were wonderful memories, and nothing that happens tomorrow can take that measure of success away. And, of course, all that talent assembled is still here . . .
But more importantly, I don't want to cast away that feeling of hope that tingles my spine and fills my heart. The sun still rose this morning. Our team is still alive. We love sport, and this sublime game of hockey, because anything can happen.