Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Off the Bandwagon

When it comes to the Senators’ bandwagon, I want off. That’s right; you heard me. Punch my ticket and let me off. I’ve had enough.

But why, you might ask? Now that the team has finally made it to the Stanley Cup finals, shouldn’t I be enjoying the ride even more? Frankly, no.

It’s not that it hasn’t been great up until now. Three five-game series victories by a team that appears destined for ultimate success. Who could ask for more?

Me, that’s who. Because when it comes right down to it, I can’t take the excitement any more. 3-2, 1-0, OT, crossbars, goal posts and five on three power plays. My nerves are about as frazzled as they can get.

At first I thought it was just a bad case of Senators fever. You know the symptoms: non-stop talk about the previous night’s game, discussions with complete strangers about the health and/or performance of men named Meszaros and McAmmond and obsessive indoor viewing of hockey even on a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon.

But it wasn’t Senators fever that did me in. I was only suffering from a mild version of this brand of hockey flu. Despite my symptoms, I hadn’t yet worn a Senators jersey or even put a Senators flag on my car.

My downfall was an ailment of a different kind, something I call Senators nerves. It starts with clenched teeth and curled fists and quickly develops into eye twitching and an elevated heartbeat.

At first I wasn’t that concerned. I figured I could handle it. After all, I used to be a Montreal Canadiens fan in my younger days and I’d experienced countless Cup runs, both successful and unsuccessful.

But this was different. I no longer had the stamina of my youth. Plus, the Senators are a team that has never done this before. Who knows what will happen?

I finally realized that I had to jump off the bandwagon in the third period of the final game of the Buffalo series. When the Sabres tied the game at 2-2 in the third, the health risks quickly became too much.

First there was another goal post, then a miracle save by Ryan Miller and finally two late-period penalty kills by the Senators. Minutes into overtime, I knew that I couldn’t carry on, at least not without smelling salts and a portable defibrillator.

So I’m calling it quits. It’s been a good run and, apart from the serious health concerns, I’ve enjoyed the experience. But I’m getting off the bandwagon now and giving up my seat to any new fan who wants it, hopefully a younger fan with a strong, healthy heart and nerves of steel.

The Senators are Eastern Conference champions and that’s good enough for me. I’ll savor that Prince of Wales Trophy win for years to come. But when it comes to a run for the Stanley Cup, count me out.

And it turns out I’m not alone. Although I toughed out the final overtime in the Buffalo series, dozens of American hockey fans decided to call it quits after regulation. Apparently concerned for the health of their viewers, NBC switched its coverage to the Preakness Stakes thereby saving them from the needless stress of overtime playoff hockey.

So for now, I’m done. No more Senators talk. No more Senators games. I’ll leave all that to stronger, braver fans. Fans who are ready for more nail biting, hand wringing hockey. Fans who can take more crossbars, more overtime and more five on threes.

Maybe they can handle the excitement and ride the emotional roller coaster. Maybe they don’t mind endlessly discussing possible victory parade routes. And maybe it doesn’t bother them that there might be a game seven in the final series.

As for me, I’m going to spend the next two weeks with some Leafs fans. They know enough to stay away from playoff hockey and avoid the health risks. Except, of course, for a 40-year bout of chronic depression.

But I figure listening to someone relive the 1967 playoffs over and over again has to be easier on my nerves than following the Senators next series. Then again, if you haven’t given up my seat on the bandwagon yet, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Just let me check if my wife knows CPR.

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