A collective groan erupted from the fans at the Wachovia Center and echoed across Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Patrick Kane had scored the winning goal 4 minutes and 6 seconds into the sudden death overtime of the Stanley Cup finals. Chicago held the lead throughout the entire series but the Flyers kept bumping up to keep the score even. Hopes were high in Philadelphia, only to be dashed on home ice. I was disappointed but, as a new Philadelphia resident, I wasn’t very upset. I didn’t have the same dejected, depressed feel as when the Patriots lost the Superbowl in 2008.
As I watched the Flyers and Blackhawks skate across the ice fist-pumping their gloves at the end of the game, it was obvious that the loss was much different for the fans than for the players. Sports fans maintain their team loyalty for years, decades, and, most often, entire lifetimes. I’ll always root for the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics. No matter where I live. The players, however, are just in it to win. Look at Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks. He basically moved from team to team until he won the Stanley Cup. He was elated when he hoisted the cup over his head on Wednesday night, but for him, he was happy to hold the cup as a personal victory. Fans in Chicago were overjoyed because their Blackhawks won the cup. I’ll never forget my feelings of betrayal and loss when Johnny Damon went to play for the New York Yankees. The Yankees! I even dressed as Johnny Damon for Halloween. In my eyes, Damon was a true Red Soxer (-ian?). But when he moved, after I got over my feelings of personal hurt, I reminded myself that professional athletes are playing for themselves. Sport is their career, the way they make money and fame. They are not tied to the team or the city, but to their own personal goals.
It was with this in mind that I watched the players at the end of game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. The Flyers were upset, of course. They were at the end of a long, hard fought season, and no one likes to lose. But they were upset for different reasons than the fans. Such is the dynamics of professional athletes and their fans. Fans and players are not at cross-purposes, we just experience each victory and loss from different perspectives. I will not, however, ever again fall in love with a player like I did with Johnny Damon who broke my heart.