Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here's the goal, folks

Yesterday, my day began at 5:30 a.m. By 7 a.m., I was standing outside of the United Center in Chicago about to enter the building which, at that moment, contained one of the best professional hockey teams in the NHL...the CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS. Thanks to my lovely friend Katy and her family, I was able to spend the morning and early afternoon watching the scrappy and awesome game of ... you guessed it: hockey. The huge, bright arena contained actual professional athletes I had only seen in photos, on the Internet, on Blackhawks TV (awesome, by the way). Later, I realized, I could feel the chill of the air under the ice, hear the skids of fresh blades on a chiseled surface, watch the zamboni brush the ice with a fresh coat of friction and water, watch the freeze resurface just to be carved again by sharp skates, feel the vibrations of the glass when a player got checked, stand up and join in the celebration that is the Blackhawks goal song. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever beheld. A slew of (beautiful) men playing the game they know best - a game they think about daily, and dream about often. It's their job. For some of them, it's apparent they still love the game as much as they did when they were caught with a big smile while playing or when they received their first pair of official hockey skates, all on precious home video.

A strange thing happens when I attend a concert or professional athletic event. I don't get out much, nor did I when I was younger. I love Nebraska all the time, but the closest mainstream popular entertainment is three hours away from my home. I digress. I've done my research on people of apparent celebrity status, though I hate the word celebrity. The awestruck to guilty to wishful phenomenon happened to me at my first (and probably only) Jason Mraz concert a few years ago. My first Garth Brooks concert when I was ten. And, yesterday, my first encounter with a professional hockey team. It's quite surreal at first. I'm initially and genuinely excited to be in the same place as this one person...or in Saturday's case, a few people (details soon) because they're so charismatic. They've achieved talents and awards I could only dream of obtaining. Why, yes, I'd love a Grammy or a Stanley Cup. I'm sure many people feel this same euphoria when they attend concerts and events with "famous" people.

About halfway into the event, after time has flown by because I'm so entertained and starry-eyed, I starting feeling intrusive. I've jumped on a bandwagon going 100 miles an hour. I can't jump off. I feel a little guilty for putting these men on this shiny pedestal. I feel bad that they have to accommodate their lives for so many people that don't even know them or all of their likes, their dislikes, their favorite food, what makes them truly happy, their quirks, their absolute favorite time of day. I suppose they chose to have their life checked by professional hockey.

I know I sound like a nice, down-home country girl - naive, maybe. Like I said, I didn't get out much. But, I'm not stupid and I'm fairly smart, and, when you think about it, celebrity has it's own effed up way of effing up the world. I feel effed up for idealizing people like Jonathan Toews (the captain, the face of the Blackhawks) and Patrick Kane (another face of the team). They have incredibly good looks, and they've obtained a large amount of charisma just for being who they are. (I guess their win for the 2010 Stanley Cup didn't hurt either.) Anyone can see that. It's also hard to look away from the surface charm of someone you want the pleasure of knowing. Everyone did in that arena. Everyone wanted to shake Toews' hand, get his autograph on their jersey or program. What does that even mean? I don't want that surface with anyone. I don't want their autograph. I want the real person. I want to know why they love the game so much. I want to know why Jason Mraz writes the music he does...where does that poetry come from? What does Toews feel like after a game? What is most important to him in life? Note: I don't want to marry the guy. Though, I admittedly wouldn't jump to saying no if I was asked. I'm only a human woman, and the guy is obviously wholesome and athletic. What's not to like on the surface level? But I don't know him, nor will I anytime soon...unless, by chance we meet on a romantic Chicago street under the bright lights and towering, beautiful architecture. (The city does something for my hopeless romanticism and for my newfound love for the game of hockey.) I did leave feeling entertained. Of course. The third step of my strange star-struck state of mind is longing. I find myself wishing to behold them even more, wanting to watch just one more shootout, just one more practice, one more Jonathan Toews smile in my direction.

That's entertainment. On a stage. In an arena. But people are more important than entertainment. The game, the players...the person is more important to me than how enticingly handsome and in shape every hockey player really is in real life.

If there's anything I'm trying to get at with this long-winded blurb of writing (a little ambiguous and sporadic - sorry), it's that I don't want to lose a few things I had when I was growing up. A few of them being the awe-inspiring moment of any note sang by a talented musician or any impressive skill shown by an athlete after hard work. It's easy to fall into infatuation with Jonathan Toews when he's so focused on the game and it's the most attractive thing you've ever seen at a hockey rink. It's easy to love Jason Mraz, who can sing a B flat perfectly in tune and pic the guitar in such a way that makes you lose feeling in your knees during one of his earlier songs. I want to be there for the same reason they're there. To appreciate the sights and sounds of fresh skates on glossy ice, to appreciate the intricate patterns of the guitar and voice together. To find the mystery and excitement in hearing a song or watching the game of hockey. The love of great music. The love of the game. And appreciation and gratefulness for the ability to have skill and work hard. It seems like these things lose it when they're thrown onto popular radio or released onto the National Hockey League stage. They're subject to personal destruction. It's as easy as finding a Starbucks in downtown Chicago. Also, as one of my professors stated in class: there is no corner of this planet that we don't already have an idea about from media. We think we know. But it's about the excitement of mystery and what makes music and hockey what it was made to be. The awesome appreciation of a child who wants to work hard and play hockey like Toews. That should be the real goal. Ha.

I'm awefully glad I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to discover a few things about growing up in a world of the titled elite and the not-elite. We're all the same, folks. But we're all special, too. Just as the Blackhawks are special to me, so are you. I want to know your absolute favorite time of day or something else you would ever want to tell me...but also come to realize the mystery and excitement that makes you, well, you. That makes Toews, well the Toews I probably won't have the pleasure of running into on a nice little stroll downtown anytime soon. 

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