To pay the bills, one of my jobs is to drive around the Newport Beach/Irvine area and take a cooler full of boxed lunches (sandwiches, salads, spring rolls, your occasional quesadilla) into various office buildings and businesses, and sell the food. It kind of sucks, but it pays alright and gives me half of the day to do whatever else I need to do – you know, productive stuff, like reading Puck Daddy. One of the legitimately cool things about the job, however, is interacting with so many different people from so many different walks of life. People are generally happy to see you (you are, after all, bringing them food), so they’re almost always going to strike up a genial conversation, and over the course of a few months on the same route, you can really start to develop relationships with these people – it’s actually kind of cool (even cooler: this is how I met my awesome, hockey-loving girlfriend).
However, after about 9 months on this same route (basically, the entirety of the hockey season), without so much as an inkling that any of the people involved in the story about to unfold were even remotely into hockey, I walked into the break room of one particular office yesterday (the day of Game 4) and was greeted with a strange sight.
That the office in question just so happens to be a dentist office, is almost too perfect.
But I was very confused. Not exactly because of the inflatable Stanley Cup sitting on display on top of the break room table, no, this sort of thing has happened at least once before…
What was so confusing to me is that, despite the fact that the Kings having been playing near-perfect hockey since the beginning of April, I’d heard not word one from any of the dentists, hygienists, or office staff, re: the Kings, their incredible playoff run, or how utterly insane Jonathan Quick has been playing. And I’m an excellent eavesdropper. But now they’re “Cup Crazy?” Convenient. (I wonder whether it was the ridiculous “two half-times” ad that finally won them over?) Now they’re walking around, saying things like, “Oh, I hope they close it out tonight,” and “Well, if they don’t, they’ve gotta go back to New Jersey,” and “But it’s not like they’ve been having trouble winning on the road.” Hmmm…I think I hear a band wagon, and it’s awfully squeaky under all the weight.
Full disclosure: I really like these people. I do. And maybe one of them really is a huge hockey fan, and I don’t know it. But, while I don’t mean for the above to have a spiteful-sounding quality, you must excuse me, because as a lifelong hockey fan, I’ve seen this before. Specifically in 2007, when the Ducks won the Cup. All of a sudden, people who you’ve never seen watch hockey, much less talk about it, can’t seem to get enough of it. And, as hockey fans, we get our jocks all in a twist because…well, because we’re all somewhat snobbish when it comes to our fandom. “Oh, you’ve only been a fan since [insert local team here] won the Stanley Cup? I’ve been a fan since before [insert local team] was even here!” We’re kind of like the hipsters of the sporting community in that regard. I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is – years and years of loving a sport that rarely gets it’s due can’t help but to inform one’s reaction when a new person tries to join the group.
And wouldn’t you know it, regarding those new people, there is actually something positive to take out of all of this:
While the vast majority of these band wagoners will go back to not giving a sniff about the Kings, or hockey in general, there are always a small amount that catch the virus for good. And that’s fantastic! Fantastic for them, and fantastic for the sport. These new fans may not really “get” it yet – that takes time – but the important thing is that they want to “get” it. It isn’t necessarily their fault that they weren’t already hockey fans. They were just incredibly unlucky to not have been properly exposed to this beautiful sport. I’ve always said, if you’re pre-disposed to liking awesome things, all it takes is watching one game to fall in love with hockey. And while most of the people on this Kings band wagon are only on it because a potential championship is involved, there are undoubtedly people who have legitimately started to fall in love with the sport. So, welcome them. And be gentle.
And remember: if they keep yammering on about some stud goalie named ‘Jonathan Swift,’ blame FOX News. Bunch’a band wagoners…