This past Thursday was one of the worst days of my life. I was tired. I was broken. My stomach was trying its absolute hardest to void all its contents so it could then, very unceremoniously, murder itself. I was sick and hungover and dying, right there, right in a desk chair that was, of course, situated in an open office, just so everyone could watch my body as it decayed. Around 1 PM I left work for a run through Jack In The Box, so I could consume an unhealthy amount of tacos I KNEW my digestive system would be unable to process, and a quick nap at home. I returned to the office later that afternoon a skeleton. My life had become an unending cycle of physical pain and psychological torment. It sucked. It was worth every second of it. Because, finally, the Blues had brought home the Stanley Cup.
No title, no moment in a lifetime spent immersed in St. Louis based athletic fanaticism, has ever meant more to me. I have documented this relentlessly, but some 3.5 years ago a thief named Enos Stanley Kroenke came for my innocence as a sports fan, ruthlessly demonstrating to all of us that professional sports is nothing more than a transactional marketplace where all your emotional dedication and propensity to give a shit can be tossed aside, lickity split, if it will help some toupee-wearing gasbag add a couple of digits to his already astronomical net worth. This year, this Blues team brought me back. I cared, really cared, cared more deeply than I had in a while, cared more deeply than I had in my entire life.
I cared just like I did when I was a little boy, back when I discovered hockey from a seat at the Old Arena, back when I perched myself on my father’s shoulders and, before the drama tore them apart, watched Janney and Shanny light up the lamp at the Old Barn. This Blues team reminded me of everything I used to feel then, everything I felt when I fell in love with sports in the first place. The butterflies in your stomach before puck drop. The permeating tension. The 3-hours spent standing up and yelling your face off, feeling like you might cry, either way, win or lose, because, for some reason you can’t explain the outcome of this game you’re not playing in matters to you, matters in the darkest, most cavernous corners of your soul, matters in the places that define what it means for you to live and breath and wake up in the morning and be happy or sad or disgusted or fulfilled. Matters in the places that define what it means for you to exist as the person that you are. A native of St. Louis. Once and for all, a winner of Lord Stanley’s Cup.
In my completely unbiased opinion, pound for pound St. Louis is the best sports town in America (this can be debated I guess…), and the Cardinals, with their 11 world titles and self-proclaimed “best fans in baseball,” are our gold standard, the representation of how St. Louisans want to be seen by the outside world. The Blues, on the other hand, represent who we, as St. Louisans, truly are. Blue collar. Tough. Good, oftentimes very good, but it seems never quite good enough. St. Louisans have as much civic pride as anyone in the country for the same reason we have the best hockey fans in these United States. Hope. The willingness to get up every day, and push past the imperfections of our home, past the snarky snears and mockery of the coastal elites, and love our city and our team anyways. Love them both for what they are, as well as for what they one day could be. Love them warts and all.
That hope paid off, because the Blues are no longer perpetual playoff chokers or Stanley Cup wannabes. On January 2 the Blues were the worst team in the NHL, and now they are the best, the champions, the ones that get to take the Cup around town as mythical paladins for a city that needed this title, that needed them to win it for us, more than human life needs water; more than Brett Hull may or may not need a stint in court-ordered rehab. The Blues have triumphed with and for this city, not just its sports fans, but all of the people who are invested in it. We were always proud. They gave us something to be proud of.
I am proud of this Blues team because they won, sure, but there is more to it than that. I am proud of this Blues team because, to paraphrase the greatest radio voice in all of hockey Chris Kerber (this point is undebatable), they picked the entire city up and put us on their shoulders. They made us all feel like we were gliding with them down the ice, like we were lighting the lamp at Enterprise ourselves. They blurred the line between franchise and city to the point of non-existence. We all collectively, team and town, millionaire pro and joe blow fan, persevered. We are champions together.
So play fucking Gloria, on a loop and ignore the Internet trolls when they tell you to stop. Chug Busch Light from Lord Stanley, real or makeshift. Both the St. Louis Blues and the city whose name they carry, we have our communal validation. We finally are good enough. We finally got The Cup.