Last night was definitely one of high emotion, as the Canada-Russia semi-final got the country really depressed, then really excited, then disappointed and proud, all within about 45 minutes. I’ve talked before about how sports are a collective event, uniting people from all walks of life in a common shared experience, for better and for worse. Sports can also change a person’s demeanour, from rational upstanding citizen to rabid phone book tearing psychopath in the span of one bad penalty call. We know this isn’t “us”, it’s just getting caught up in the moment.
This isn’t the only time this can happen.
If I know anything about human psychology, we as a species like to get things. If someone gives us something that’s cool, we’re generally happy about it. But winning something for free…THAT triggers some primitive relapse that makes us forget our civilized upbringing and causes some Paleolithic changes. Last night, it was my turn.
Quick summary: I went to the Oilers/Sabres game last night with my buddy Mark, who’s a Sabres fan, but I can’t help him there so we’ll move on. I follow the Oilers Twitter feed (@NHL_Oilers), and I noticed the previous night in Chicago they had given away a Taylor Hall signed jersey because someone had “found them” in the arena. The “feed seed” had been planted.
Sitting in my seat before the game, I discussed the events with Mark and went over the key points: It looked like they did this at every game…I’d have to keep track of the feed over the 1st intermission…I didn’t want to pay the international roaming charges of $75-and-your-left-arm for data so I’d have to hangout in a “free-wifi” spot somewhere in the arena…should I leave the 1st period early to be ready…do I really have a chance…is it even worth it?
I collected myself and came to the conclusion I’d just play it casual…if I saw the update and was somewhere close I’d head by, if we were busy buying food/drink and didn’t, who cares? Besides, there’s were TONS of Oilers fans there, surely someone would beat me there, right? So no big deal. I’m not going to get emotionally involved at all. What happens happens, and I won’t have any control over it. I’m a calm rational human being, right?
Who was I kidding?
With 20 seconds left in the 1st period, I turned to Mark: “I’m gonna go see what happens, meet you back here.” With that I casually walked up the stairs, just outside Section 111 to the spot that seemed to have good WiFi reception. I loaded up the Twitter feed once, and figured I’d just let it update by itself, once every minute or so. The concourse was pretty empty, and people were just starting to file out. Still calm, still rational. Then the period ended. And something changed.
“I’m short, and society makes fun of me by being taller and blocking my line of sight.”
As swelling human rivers poured from the rink to the concourse, I began feeling the urge to manually update the Twitter feed. No, I told myself, this isn’t a big deal. Just let it happen. But then I saw an Oilers fan. With a cell phone. Not doing anything with it, just holding it. And something snapped. It’s like someone dug through my grey matter, held a taser to my “competition” button and pulled the trigger.
IT. WAS. ON.
I FEVERISHLY started updating the Twitter feed…looking around every few seconds at the growing swarm of humanity, each a potential competitor in this contest that I wasn’t even sure was going to happen. Updating faster and faster, every 20 seconds, every 10 seconds, every five seconds…my heartrate accelerating to a Jackrabbit cadence…WHY WASN’T IT SHOWING THE POST!???!?! And then it came:
For some reason…I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline or the fact I was half paying attention to everything around me…I couldn’t think straight. I tried to read it three times, and after struggling to put any rational thought together, I finally broke it down piece by piece. “A signed jersey could be yours…” OK, IT’S HAPPENING, NOW WHAT?!?! “…Find @TomGazzola at the London Brewery by sec 111…” WAIT, WHAT?!?!
Here’s a picture to show where my stupid ass was, and where the London Brewery was.
In the ENTIRE First Niagara Center, of ALL the places it could be, it was right there. Just 20-30 people filled the space between me and absolute GLORY. The only problem? I couldn’t see the sign. I’m short, and society makes fun of me by being taller and blocking my line of sight. I stared at the Aud Club for 15 seconds and COULDN’T FIND IT WHY CAN’T I FIND IT IS SHOULD BE RIGHT HERE. Time was wasting, and like a test question you don’t know the answer to, I skipped it for later and moved on to the next part: “…& tell him which #Oilers scored the game winner last night”
I. Have NO. IDEA.
Fumbling the phone with my trembling adrenaline gorged fingers, I tore and pawed at the screen…(open…Score app…last night’s games…WHERE’D THE WIFI GO?!?! There it is…scroll to bottom…Ben Eager?) Ben Eager scored the last goal, it was 4-3…(my brain makes it’s first solid conclusion, shutting off all other mental communicative functions)
“BEN EAGER!!! BEN EAGER!!!”
I had just started shouting “Ben Eager” into the nothingness in front of me, facing the wrong direction, scaring the people standing two feet away. WHO CARES??! I had the answer! Now I just needed to find…(turns around, sees London Brewery sign)…OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD…
“BEN EAGER!!! BEN EAGER!!!” I started snaking my way through the congested mass of humanity surrounding the sign…WHO AM I LOOKING FOR AGAIN!?!? RIGHT, TOM…“BEN EAGER!!!” And just under the sign stood Tom, the man who travels with the team and does the video updates for the website. Eye contact was established…Tom: “What was that? “BEN EAGER SCORED THE GAME WINNER LAST NIGHT!” Tom: “That’s right!”
I did it. I WON. And suddenly, I became aware of everything around me. The crowd, the noise, the fact I was screaming words at a person I had never had any previous contact with in the history of life, and my brain started to reel everything in. Talk quieter. Don’t stare at this poor guy. Take a couple breaths. Therrrrrrre we go. Easy boy.
A minute or two later we had gone through the contest motions (jersey, picture, etc) and had a rational and natural conversation about his career, the travel on the road and the cold weather. From there we shook hands and continued on with our lives, and I made my way back to my seat. Mark couldn’t believe I’d won (join the club) and decided holding his ice cream over the jersey was funny. (Side note: Not funny. But kind of.) And for the next few minutes in my seat, I waited for the 2nd period to start, and went over what had just happened. Yes, I actually won. But at what cost? I was now the screaming-spinning-on-the-spot Oilers fan outside the Aud Club yelling a name of a hockey player at random people who were just trying to enjoy a fun night out. And all so I could have a piece of fabric with a player’s scribbled name across it. Was that ok? Was that a normal reaction? Looking at the big picture, did I really have to get that worked up about it?
Answer? Yes. Win stuff. Go CRAZY.