As 2010 turned to 2011, Charlestown, MA became our second home. Em received treatments at Dana Farber, and Kevin and Bradley’s guest room became our new home for one week out of every three. It wasn’t home, but it was a comforting second home nonetheless. It was here that I earned my degree (unfortunately not recognized by any governing body) in pharmacology. It was here that I saw first-hand the horrible side effects of the VAC (if you don’t know, be glad you don’t) and learned that the phrase “you’re fine” could cover a range of experiences far beyond what most would deem acceptable. It was here that I learned to have faith.
That winter and spring, the Bruins went from a team to cheer for to a part of our family – a fiber of our being that could not be removed by the simple act of removing a jersey. DFCI may have been a 30 minute (or, if snowing, 3 hour) drive from Charlestown (yes, it’s 4 miles away…), but the TD Garden was only a 15 minute walk. With Kevin’s season tickets, trips to the Garden provided a brief respite from reality - pain, suffering, and responsibility were replaced by the obnoxious hooliganism we’d never condone in any other setting.
When we weren’t at the Garden, Kevin and Bradley’s living room not only sufficed, but also fostered a culture of superstition usually reserved for early modern societies with a witch problem. In the pink chair and the Bruins are winning? You’re not moving. Wearing your Bruins jersey? No? You better put it on. In the pink chair, wearing your Bruins jersey, and they’re winning, but you’re tired from chemotherapy over the previous 4 days? You don’t have to stay awake, you just have to be in the chair.
Em’s treatments and the difficult times they presented may have brought the four of us to the same place, but the Bruins really brought us together. Through those trips across the locks and over to Causeway Street (or through mandatory viewings in the living room) all four of us escaped the troubling realities presented by the circumstances that brought Em and I to Charlestown.
The playoffs that spring intensified the stakes and the need for strict adherence to rituals. Proper seating and proper garb became articles of faith. Dogmatic routine saw the Bruins through three series and into the Stanley Cup Finals against Vancouver. Down two games to none, Kevin and I turned the tide at the Garden, Kevin’s yellow Chara Winter Classic jersey becoming mine along the way. Meanwhile, Brads and Emmy assumed their proper seats and garb, and with the Bruins opening up a can of whoop ass on Luongo and the Canucks, wisely stuck with what was working and continued to watch Gossip Girl when they saw the score and the irrefutable evidence that doing so was working in Boston’s favor.
Fast forward to game 6. I’m in Charlestown with Em while Kev and Brads are at the game (ritual – I’m at the first home game, Duddy the second, Brads the third). I’m wearing my Chara jersey, and Em’s wearing her black home jersey. She’s in bed, which is ok because she started the game there – it’s changing what you were already doing that would be unforgivable. Each time the Bruins scored, I’d come running and yelling into Em’s room and give her, tucked into bed in her B’s jersey, a high five. It was absurd, but it wouldn’t be the same without someone to cheer with. I’m sure she got tired of it (the Bruins scored 5 goals that game), but for some reason this is one of my fondest memories of a whole year spent in Charlestown.
June 15, 2011 – Faith rewarded. With seemingly so little going right, the Bruins winning the Cup takes on a whole new meaning.
We invest so much into our professional sports teams: We’ll schedule our lives around their games, drive several hours to watch games with friends, force our loved ones to remain in their seats through multiple overtimes as if it made a difference in the outcome of the game, and spend $9.50 for a beer in a cup that is 75 cents more expensive but even smaller than it was the playoff series before.
What rational reason could we have for all of these absurdities?
On the surface, grown men receiving millions of dollars a year to play a game seems a gross misappropriation of funds. Furthermore, as Em was always fond to point out, how is it that a team of Canadians, Slovaks, Germans, Finns, etc (Timmy “you can root for me if you ignore my politics” Thomas was the only American to make the line-up in 2011) is a Boston team?
And yet a ratty looking combat jacket, an homage to those who serve and put one’s team before one’s self, was the most recognizable fashion statement of the last year. Gregory Campbell’s 47-second stint on the penalty kill with a broken leg added a whole new dimension to the concept of “Boston Strong.” People with no common ground in terms of politics, education, race, or family, are no longer rich, poor, republican, democrat, black, white, ignorant, condescending, or in any way different from anyone else. For 3 hours, 82 times a year, the only thing that matters about the person next to you is his or her faith in a black and yellow spoked B.
It’s been 2 years since the Bruins lifted the Cup, but a new season gives us a new hope. 82 times this year, we’ll be able to forget the trials and tribulations we face. Looking for a job, making ends meet, and caring for loved ones will seem unimportant compared to the quest of complete strangers to lift a silver chalice.
Perhaps when it comes to articles of faith, reason and rationality can afford to take a back seat from time to time.