A Fan's Biggest Dilemma
Every fan has a favorite player. Every fan has an arch-nemeses. What do you to when free agency brings these two things together?
When I write of a favorite player, I am not talking about the here and now of whatever sport is currently in season. I am talking about the singular player who defines us as a fan. I am a Mets fan, and Jose Reyes is quickly becoming my favorite Met of all time. But he in not THE favorite player. I am a Jets fan. My wife recently bought me a Jonathan Vilma Jersey. I like Vilma. The Jets haven't had an impact linebacker like him for most of my life. But he does not inspire much passion inside me. The remaining team in my nom-de-plume is the Devils. The Devils have been my true passion since early childhood. My parents didn't get Sportschannel, so I grew up listening to the games on the radio, running reports down to my parents who were nice enough to pretend to care. Now, I loved Devils over the years. My first jersey had role player Doug Brown's name on the back. What Devils fan does not love Scott Stevens or Martin Brodeur. But the one player I truly love. The one player who defines me as a sports fan. The one player that my wife, after less than a year of dating, knew to get on the back of my new jersey was Scott Gomez. The diminutive center from Mexico (of all places) was invigorating to watch. The way he could skate, darting in and out of traffic, creating opportunities for his teammates the way that the Great One used to do it. Scott Gomez is my favorite player.
To this day, there is one word in sports that haunts me. If the mention this word on the radio, I have to change the channel. Believe it or not, this word ruined my senior prom. "MATTEAU." The year was 1994. The game was numbered 7. The score was tied 1-1, the Devils having scored with 7 seconds left to send the game to overtime. in the second overtime, Stephane Matteau picked up a loose puck around the net, swept out in front and jammed the puck home, propelling the Rangers to an eventual Stanley Cup and the Devils home (the Devils would rebound and win 3 cups in the next 10 years). Fittingly, I was listening to the game on my car radio, driving to the afterparty following a night of sneaking out of the prom to check the score. My date was not a hockey fan. Suffice it to say I did not get lucky that night. Thats why I married a woman who was recruited to an Ivy League school to play ice hockey. But I digress.
I hated the New York Rangers since childhood. I don't know if it was the proximity to my beloved Devils that fashioned this hatred, but the Rangers have always been my arch-nemeses. Now, I hate the Patriots and their faux dynasty and the Braves have broken my heart too many times to mention. I hate all thing Philadelphia (except the pretzel and Rita's water ice) and their boorish fans. But I only have one true hate. There is only one team whose demise can make me happy. There is only one team whose success can result in hefty psychiatrist bills, and that is the New York Rangers. The Rangers are Christianity's Judas, Judaism's Haman, Democrat's Cheney and Palestinians' Israeli all tied up into one. They are the epitome of evil.
So what do you do, as a fan, when good meets evil? What do you do when the Favorite signs a mega-deal with the Arch-Enemy? I still love Scott Gomez. I just love the way he plays the game. And I still despise the Rangers. Their failures since the '94 Cup have kept my therapy bills low. But yesterday, Scott Gomez signed a 7 year $53.5 million contract with the Rangers that will pay him $10 million this season . Now, other Devils have gone across the river and taken the money. Bruce Driver was a supporting defenseman who was reaching the end of his career when he went to the Dark Side. Bobby Holik left for a contract he never lived up to, but Holik was the kinda player you always knew you'd hate if he was on the other team. But Scott Gomez was my one true love. His enthusiasm for the game is now across the river playing for Satan's all-star team. Something has to give.
I honestly don't know how to solve this dilemma I still love Scott Gomez, and I still hate the Rangers. But this is only day 1. I have 7 more seasons to let this work its way out. 7 more seasons of watching my favorite player skate for the enemy while his jersey remains hidden in my closet reminding all that once upon a time there was a true love story. But free agency, money, and the work have Satan destroyed that true love.