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I Repeat…Should We Love the Penguins? April 29, 2009

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I’m about to commit Caps-fan treason here, by way of an older post on this blog; the Sermon on the Mount; a lesson on Tarot; and a song by Uriah Heep. Whether I can do it in that order is something I’ll figure out as I write this.

Longtime readers may remember this post I wrote last summer in the wake of the Pens’ loss to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals. No one talked about it at the time, but I’m going to bring the question up one more time, and this time in a completely different context.

Last summer, the Caps were already done playing, and the postseason was over with Pittsburgh’s loss. It was an easy sentiment at the time. Detroit had just won another Stanley Cup, and even though I don’t like the Penguins, seeing them lose the way they did was enough to make even me feel a little bit sad for them. It bears repeating: I didn’t want to see the Penguins win the Cup, but I didn’t want to see them lose like that. Still, it was an easy question, because the Caps were already out of the picture, and the entire league was on summer break at that point.

It’s one thing to consider loving the Penguins when the Caps have no stake in the Penguins’ fate. It’s quite another when the Caps and Pens are now matched up in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Loving the Penguins in defeat in the offseason is something I might get the benefit of the doubt on. But for me to straightfacedly suggest, with no irony, that we should love the Penguins–in the playoffs–may raise an eyebrow or two before it’s over.

And yet, there are reasons that I think we really should do just that.

Item:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
–Matthew 5:43-48, NRSV

I’m kidding, right? Penguins fans are known in some quarters of Caps Nation as Steeltown Sociopaths, and I can not be serious about loving them. Can I?

Actually, yes, I am.

Here’s part of my logic on this. I believe that there is such a thing as Divine Justice. Sooner or later, Light will always triumph over Darkness. Caps fans know all too well the hooliganism and rampant misbehavior that breaks out when the Penguins invade Verizon Center. I don’t want to start a cross-market squabble about us-versus-them, or about Caps fans being “better” than Penguins fans. That’s not my intent with this. For all I know–having never been to a game in Pittsburgh, and having, frankly, no desire to go to one–the mores of hockey fans in the Steel City may merely be much different from those here in Washington. Some of what Caps fans view as hooliganism may simply be accepted behavior in Pittsburgh, and fans who take to the road never get the memo to dial it down a notch when representing their city in a more conservative arena.

That said, there has almost always been a bit more tension in the air at the Caps-Pens games I’ve attended in the past few seasons. I have, once, seen a fight break out in my section while the game was in progress. These two teams don’t much like each other, and our respective game-night fans seem to always be one or two harsh words away from falling under Rule 47, if you see what I mean. Even with that said, I still think Caps fans come out on the right side of that Divine scale more often than not.

I believe that if we Caps fans focus more on being a source of Love and Light for our team–instead of worrying about how creatively we can taunt the Penguins–that we might end up with a slight edge on more subtle levels. And as we saw against the Rangers, it doesn’t take much to change an entire 7-game series.

Let the Steeltown Sociopaths be as hooliganistic as their little hearts desire. Let them misbehave. Heck, turn the other cheek, for all that. Because, in the end, I believe that if we win, it will be because we tried our best to be the good guys.

Item:

As to that song by Uriah Heep that I mentioned at the top of this essay, the song I’m thinking of is “Lady In Black.” Here’s how it goes:

“She came to me one morning, one lonely Sunday morning,
Her long hair flowing in the mid-winter wind.
I know now how she found me, for in darkness I was walking,
And destruction lay around me from a fight I could not win.

She asked me name my foe and then, I said the need within some men,
To fight and kill their colors, without thought of Love or God.
And I begged her give me horses to trample down my enemies,
So eager was my passion to devour this waste of life.

But she would not think of battle that reduces men to animals–
So easy to begin, and yet impossible to end.
For she, the mother of all men, had counseled me so wisely then.
I feared to walk alone again, and asked if she would stay.

Oh Lady, lend your hand, I cried, and let me rest here at your side.
Have faith and trust in me, she said, and filled my heart with life.
There is no strength in numbers, have no such misconception,
But when you need me, be assured I won’t be far away.

Thus having spoke she turned away, and though I found no words to say,
I stood and watched until I saw her black cloak disappear.
My labor is no easier, but now I know I’m not alone.
I find new hope each time I think upon that windy day.
And if, one day, she comes to you, drink deeply from her words so wise.
Take courage from her as your prize, and say hello for me.”

That Rangers series got a lot of emotions going among Caps fans, myself included, and by the end of the series, I can genuinely say that I was starting to feel a genuine, soul-level hate for the Broadway Blueshirts. Such is playoff hockey, I guess–you play the same team every other day for two weeks, and player and fan alike are going to be sick of the opposition. Now we have two teams who already despise each other, getting set for a best-of-seven. Welcome to the circus, indeed, Coach Boudreau.

But look at “Lady In Black” again. The lyric that jumps out at me here is “But she would not think of battle that reduces men to animals.” Hatred is not good for the soul–take it from someone who knows. So why should we allow a pre-existing hatred of the Penguins, multiplied by the emotions of the playoffs, to reduce us all to animals? Spiritually, would it not be better for us to approach this series with capital-L Love, and be a force for the good and noble in this series?

If Divine Justice is as fair as I believe it to be, and we Caps fans approach this series in Love, while letting the Penguins rage and roil in their hate, I believe that would report to our spiritual advantage. Let us stay high-minded, patient, and benevolent; let the Penguins simmer, stew, and, ultimately, self-destruct. We saw what happened when we turned the other cheek to Sean Avery: could the same work against the Penguins?

There is no strength in numbers. Have no such misconception. It’s an idea.

Item:

Finally, one quick Tarot lesson to finalize my thoughts here. In the Major Arcana, once you’ve gotten past the desolation of The Tower, the remaining cards run like this: The Star; The Moon; The Sun; The Last Judgment (Judgment for short); The World. The World represents completion, attainment, and victory. But you can’t win The World without going through Judgment. Judgment represents a settling of accounts, a final disposition, the last chance you have to give account for yourself. The World can’t be yours if Judgment is against you.

What that means in practical, down-to-earth terms, is this. I believe that if the Capitals are to win this series, they need to do more than just score more goals than the Penguins. Spiritually, I believe they must also demonstrate the character, rectitude, and integrity that has gotten them this far.

It is certainly true that the Caps can just score more goals than Pittsburgh, get good netminding, win the hockey games and leave the “woo-woo” stuff to the weirdo in the cloak. But I believe that misses the greater point. In the end, character matters. You cannot build the foundation for long-term success on the shifting sands of hatred. Long-term success cannot be built without some capital-V Virtue to base it on.

And that brings me full circle to the question with which I began. Should we love the Penguins? And should we love their fans?

I believe we should–and now more than ever.

While I’m all for standing up to defend our house, I would prefer that we do so in Love. I would prefer “Let’s Go Caps” to “Penguins Suck.” I would prefer “Var-LY! Var-LY!” to “FLEUUUUryyyy…FLEUUUUryyyy…” And I would much rather hear us cheering the Capitals than jeering the Penguins during Games 1 and 2. Let us stick to motivating our team, and refrain from giving the Penguins any energy–positive or negative–to feed off of. Let us Rock the Red, and tune out the tuxedoed terrors.

If I may make so bold, let me suggest this to Caps Nation: let’s conduct ourselves as though we’re on the side of the angels. Because, hey, you never know–maybe if we do, we just might be.

I have some personal matters to tend to tomorrow night, and I intend to do the reading for the series Friday evening. Until then, be blessed.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
EXCELSIOR

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