The moment that inspires: Patriots, Rangers, or a JV Girls’ Hockey Team?
The New England Patriots and their defeat of the Ravens was a contest described by Bill Pennington of the NYT as, “…a malevolent affair that seems to put both teams in a foul mood.” Still, the Patriots thrilled their fans with yet another Brady engineered comeback last Saturday with trick plays and tricky line-ups. A berth in the A.F.C. Championship game was secured just about the same time Proctor’s JV Girls’ game was winding down at Proctor.
In Madison Square Garden, where I watched the Rangers play the Islanders Tuesday night, a Jumbotron hangs like a glittering electronic stalactite over center ice, there are two games to watch: the one on the screen, the one on the ice. There are human puck races, celebrity introductions, pauses for commercial breaks. A hockey game is played, yes, but it is packaged somewhere within a larger show. A production. The players on the ice play with skills that at times almost feel ancillary to the event itself, and the memory of the game becomes memory of an event. But I was lucky to be there when the Rangers faced off against the Islanders last Tuesday simply to be able to contrast it with last Saturday’s JV Girls’ Hockey game.
Neither contest - Patriots/Ravens or Rangers/Islanders - touched the game I saw last Saturday in the Ted. Why is that? Was it because the fans - parents and students alike – know the players and have genuine affinity and connection? Unlike professional sports, there is no media cult status to distort personalities. Do the cheers ring out with a little more spirit in a rink with seventy-five instead of a stadium with 70,000 where the dull roar can almost become background hum?
The fans tumbled out of the Proctor stands on Saturday to head over to dinner with genuine…how to describe the emotion…. joy? They were inspired by the game, not simply pumped up. After the Rangers game, which coincidentally was lost by the same number of goals (three), fans grumbled and headed for the gates during the third period. A younger fan a few rows in front of us collapsed in tears, pulled his Lundqvist jersey off, and balled it up.
After a thrilling goal in the final seconds of Saturday’s game – which closed the margin of defeat to three goals – the Girls’ JV team erupted into spontaneous celebrations on the ice. The buzzer rang, the game ended. The team high-fived their way off the ice, swooping and whooping. Something about watching it made all the “why” of sports come into focus. Sharply. It’s a moment you don’t often see in professional contests on any given Saturday or Sunday.
It’s why the Girls’ JV hockey team is the hottest ticket in town these days.
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Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School