I’m not a bandwagon fan. I love the Green Bay Packers because my dad hails from Wisconsin and I grew up around cheese heads and Brett Favre jerseys.
Hell, I’m still hanging in there with the L.A. Dodgers, even though it might have been far less heart-wrenching to switch my loyalties to the Giants when I settled in the Bay Area.
But this April I discovered that many of my friends followed a niche sport known as hockey. What’s more, all of them were San Jose Sharks fans.
Needless to say, this fanaticism intrigued me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I immediately jumped the Sharks bandwagon. These guys are absolute beasts. And this sport is ridiculously awesome.
How to describe this sport? If the almighty sports gods were to combine the main objective of soccer with the intensity and violence of rugby, the resulting love child would be named hockey. It’s basically a baptism by fire experience that puts a simple objective — score goals — at odds with brute force and Spartan-like endurance.
The greatest (dis) advantage: ice. The players aren’t gamboling in the grass on their own two feet — they’re skating around a frozen rink and trying to maintain perfect balance across three 20-minute periods.
And unlike its conventional parents, this wild child doesn’t allow the use of hands or feet to control the puck. Nope, you need a stick to get that job done. Oh, one last thing: once a player has the puck, anything goes. Meaning it’s perfectly legal for a player to body-check his opponent into the boards.
Like I said, hockey is awesome. As those playoff commercials promise, it’s the place where history is made.
The Sharks continually fulfill that prophecy. Look at their first-round fight against the Kings in game three: who else could come back from a 4-0 deficit to score five goals in one period, plus a game-clinching overtime goal for good measure?
As the second biggest comeback in playoff history, that’s one for the record books. Will this be the year the Sharks hoist that elusive Stanley Cup in the air? In the short time I’ve rabidly followed the team, I still say they have what it takes.
There’s Patrick Marleau, the veteran who has outscored every Sharks player (current or retired) in his 1,000-plus games with the franchise, and owns 10 game-clinching goals this season alone.
Then you have Antti Niemi: he may not have begun the season as the team’s starting goalkeeper, but with a .900 playoff saving percentage he’s certainly ending it that way.
Don’t forget my personal favorite (and future husband), Devin Setoguchi, who can keep up with the likes of Marleau and Thornton when it comes to consistent assists and goals. Someone slap an “A” on his jersey, already.
These guys have talent, but they also have a history of falling short and leaving diehards disillusioned. This team is a wild card, a roller coaster. For every epic trounce of the Kings, there’s a 7-3 routing a month later at the hands of the Canucks.
They can lead a western conference semifinals series 3-0, give up the next three games to the Red Wings, and with one glorious slap shot in the third period banish any fears of an early exit.
Here’s to hoping the Sharks can rebound in the next week against those whales from Vancouver.
But win or lose, I’m in this one for the long haul.
Share your tales of Sharks disillusionment with Annie.