Tuesday, June 3, 2008

the epic that was game 5 of the stanley cup finals

As the one and only Mike Lange might say, if you missed it, shame on you for six weeks. But if you saw it, if you sat through all or most of that five-hour sporting epic that took place last night in Detroit, you're surely not going to forget it anytime soon, if ever. Hockey is one of those games with what might kindly be described as a niche following -- though still sometimes mentioned as one of the U.S.'s four major professional sports, its national television ratings often rank somewhere between poker and re-runs of Murder, She Wrote. With the constant white screen and the difficulty that goes with following that little black puck, hockey can be a tough game to watch on TV. But then, alone in your living room, you sat through something like last night, something like the three periods and the three overtimes that added up to Penguins 4, Red Wings 3, and you wondered: What's not to get? Granted, not all games are like this. They don't all involve a team staring at elimination and staking a quick 2-0 lead before suddenly falling behind 3-2, the creeping inevitably, the home crowd on its feet, the Stanley Cup being polished and ready to move for the pending coronation until ... the game gets tied with 35 seconds left, the Pens' Maxime Talbot improbably poking the puck into the corner of the net, causing folks from one city to jump and scream while those from the other just screamed. And then the overtimes -- not one, not two, but three of them, all filled with constant sways of action, with big shots and even bigger saves -- all hail Pens keeper Marc-Andre Fleury -- with a back-and-forth melodrama that left you bug-eyed and delirious, a dizzying display that caused you to wear a path in your living room carpet by the time it was all over, at 12:46 a.m., when Petr Sykora of the Pens finally found the net with a goal he had literally guaranteed to a television reporter sometime in the second OT. And that's when your phone started ringing, when friends began texting with congratulatory messages and your parents suddenly called from Pittsburgh just to ask if you saw it, knowing full well you did because they simply needed to share their excitement with you. All it means, in the long run, is that there will be a Game 6 Wednesday night Up-tahn at The Igloo, that the Red Wings still have a 3-2 edge, that the Pens must win two more without losing to win it all. But so what? It'll always be something to savor, something to remember, something that's just a simple reminder of why you really love sports so much in the first place.

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