When it comes to winter sports, I've spent most of the last several years focusing on teams that we don't have, and I know I'm not the only one. In the effort to bring back the NBA's Seattle Supersonics and to land our first NHL franchise, it's easy to forget what it's like to simply be a fan again.
Remember rivalry games? Taunting the visitors from the bleachers? Facepalming when it looks like there will be no joy in Mudville? Come-from-behind victories? Buzzer beaters? Jumping up and down out of sheer joy? High-fiving strangers?
The Sonics used to be at the center of this in cold weather months. We've all felt the void since they left.
For one night, at least, that void was filled for me at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
The Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winterhawks played a whale of a game last night and, in so doing, gave me the marvelous gift of experiencing every one of those things again. If Kevin Calabro were a hockey guy, chickens would have been taking flight in barnyards.
The Thunderbirds erased a pair of two-goal deficits and a one-goal deficit to force a 3-on-3 overtime. They lost the game on a goal that sent the goalie and scorer crashing into the net, then unlost the game thanks to a favorable replay review. In the end, Scott Eansor found the net with .8 seconds left to win it for Seattle.
It was a joyous end to a night that had me on a seesaw of the competitive emotions, my favorite of which may have been sports hate.
I truly enjoyed chanting "Portland sucks" throughout the game, in spite of the guilt trip that my daughter tried to put on me. "That's so rude, Daddy." After I convinced her that sports hate isn't the kind of hate they teach about in Sunday School, she joyously joined in the chant as the game wore on. I'm such a good father.
Over the next couple of months, we'll be working hard to push an arena across the finish line. It will be frustrating, and even infuriating at times. The Thunderbirds and Winterhawks just helped me remember why we're doing it.
For basketball and hockey enthusiasts, I look forward to the day when we can all just be fans again.
FRIENDS FROM THE JOURNEY
Through Sonics Rising and Seattle Sin Bin, I've made numerous friends that I wouldn't have otherwise met. The relationships that I've built have provided the bright side of all of this and are the primary reason that I stay involved. Last night, I got to meet some of those friends in person for the first time.
My cohost, Otto Rogers. Separated at birth?
Our beat writer for the Washington Huskies, Lorenzo Villalobos
NHLtoSeattle's John Barr (dude on the left)