As summer begins, and we reach that awkward month left before the draft, news is sparse on both the Thrashers and Blues. You probably won’t see any draft research here on prospects and who both teams need to pick and whatnot – I’ll leave that to the pros at Birdwatchers Anonymous and St. Louis Game Time. I’ve decided to be mildly lazy with the big articles for now, at least until some big stuff happens. I went back and scoured the 45 or so “Tuesdays With Hildy” features I’ve written for Game Time, and tried to find the ones that would fit best over here. Honestly, this one is a fantastic representation of the tightrope I walk when the Blues come to town. I figure it’s appropriate now seeing so many opposing fans in the other team’s barn during these playoffs. Enjoy.
It’s hard. You’re about 900 miles away from home. This new place you’re at isn’t a vacation destination. Actually, it’s become more of a temporary permanent residence. You’ve been there for a little while, and it’s a strange place. No one knows what the hell a real toasted ravioli is (you know, the kind with meat). People are fair weather fans who only show up to baseball games when the team wins… maybe. The oldest place to eat is the new Applebee’s down on the corner, and stabs at tradition usually involve fire and a pissed off Northern guy.
But one thing about your new temporary permanent but still temporary place of residence actually caught your attention. There’s something there that you like. It reminds you of something that you miss… something that you never dreamed that you would see for a very, very long time. You’ve, against your best judgement, fallen for another hockey team. They will never replace your hometown team. Ever.
But you still go to their games. You still cheer them on – know their players, know their stats, and know their quirks. You’ve been following them since the team’s beginning (or maybe not, depending on the town you’re now in), and you consider yourself a fan and emotionally invested in them.
And then the team that you’ve loved since childhood comes down to play.
Yes, this might only happen once a year, or every other year – if your new team is in the Eastern Conference and your old one is in the West. But mixed with the excitement of seeing your team, there’s a small sense of dread. Are you being disloyal to your new team? By even HAVING a new team, are you disloyal to your old one? Can you, in fact, legitimately have two favorite teams?
As everyone, their mothers and their third cousins 5 times removed, and their cats know, I live in Atlanta. I am not attached to the city (nothing bad about it, but it’s not home and it really never will be), but I love the. Yes, they’ve not played well for a while, but they have some really good qualities that make them an easy team to like.
However, obviously, I write a weekly column at Game Time – I’m from St. Louis. I have been watching thesince I was 7 – that’s over 20 years of Blues hockey. I might love the Thrashers, but I adore the Blues. I have no qualms about putting on one of my Blues jerseys once a year (or twice if preseason schedules align) and making the drive I make 41 times a year to Philips Arena, but as the dreaded “away team fan.” I’m cool about standing down on that side of the arena during warm ups, and loudly applauding every single one of our guys.
And while I respect my fellow Thrashers fans, when the Blues are in town by God do I cheer for them. If we score, I stand up. I yell. If there are any other Blues fans around me I’ll probably high five them. I am also not above banging on the glass like a spastic epileptic when one of our Blues reaches a career milestone 5 feet away from me – I was lucky enough to be on the glass for Walt’s 500th non-televised goal. Yes, it really did happen.
But as that fan of the opposition, I have to be aware that I’m in someone else’s barn. Away team fans piss everyone off by the mere fact that they exist. Heck, there’s even some heckling of people in the concourse in the other sweater, even if it’s a team as random as the Isles or Preds. How annoyed do you get when some Red Wing scores and there’s that guy standing up and drunkenly yelling at the Blues fans around them?
God knows other teams’ fans irk me by being anywhere near Philips, and it puts me in a weird position of self-evaluation. Do I have to be polite and considerate of Thrashers fans around me, since I’m in their barn? Am I morally obligated as a Blues fan to be as loud and supportive as possible since there are about 30 of us there that night total? What do I do if friendly smack-talk takes an unfriendly turn?
If any of you are in that weird position of being *that guy* in another city, what do you do? Does consideration of other fans and respect for the other team you follow win, or for that one night do you close your eyes (or drink a lot – our beers are $3 cheaper here – HA!) and pretend you’re in DrinkScotch?
And, if you’re pretending you’re in St. Louis, does anyone know of some place to get some imaginary toasted ravioli and Imo’s Pizza? I need some place to imaginarily eat after the game.