Let me preface this: I am not a hockey fan. I'm not a Blackhawks fan, or, really, I'm not not a Blackhawks fan. I don't wish them ill will or anything. I just don't really pay attention.
But I did watch the final game of the series, and I thought the way it ended was lovely.
Most of the players realized what it was: a game, a thing that ends, and we all go home to real life.
I liked that after the game everyone lined up and slapped hands like a bunch of 4-year-old T-ballers. There were even hugs, lots of hugs.
From what I learned from the hyperbolic announcers who believe hockey is the key to world peace or something, this is just the way things are done. It's ceremony, tradition. The game ends, everyone shakes on it. Also, the players and the coaches who were interviewed mentioned the talent and drive of their opponent. I think that's nice.
Fast forward to Tuesday night and game six of the NBA finals. It's down to the last minute and the Warriors are about to win their first championship in forty years. LeBron James, who has been playing most of the game, gives Stephen Curry a hug as he moves to the bench. Maybe he acknowledges another Warrior or two, I don't remember. But as soon as the buzzer sounds, he's off the court faster than a beard off the hockey fan whose wife hands him a razor the second the playoffs end.
The Warriors were, rightly, excited to have won. They hugged their family members, including, in a few instances, their former NBA-player dads. It was very nice. A few Cavs stuck around briefly to congratulate them, but not everyone. And when the Warriors were being interviewed, there was no mention of their opponent.
I know the two situations were different. A) The Blackhawks have won A LOT in recent years, so they can afford to be charitable. But I was just as impressed with Tampa Bay for sticking around to say "Good game," even though they were in the Blackhawks' stadium and were basically window dressing by that point. (Also, the fact that the Blackhawks have "been there" sheds a brighter light on LeBron walking off before the celebration. He's also "been there," though not with Cleveland. He had an opportunity to show his fans and teammates what it means to be a gracious loser, and he didn't take it. He hugged his Warriors counterpart and left. That's it. That's not being a "fierce competitor," that's being a petty loser. He should've stuck around to relish in the fact that he managed, once again, to do something Michael Jordan never could -- lose an NBA Finals series. Ba-dum-CHING.)
Which brings me to my second thing, B) the Warriors won in Cleveland, not Oakland. They were not surrounded by their own fans. They were surrounded by people who were shouting "MVP!" and were not talking about Steph Curry. I know I'm being Pollyanna here, but I think that's even more reason to be charitable and say, "Hey, Cleveland, you're pretty good too."
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