My game seven experience actually started on Wednesday when I walked into work and found I was the only one left with a beard. In retrospect it was to be expected, as the jerseys disappeared on Monday and Tuesday, all the while everyone eying one another with forced, manic smiles, like Stepford Wives desperately trying to not let the other person know the dread. All Wednesday and Thursday, non-hockey fans at work made good-natured jokes--"They're still playing?" "Fusion or Mach 3?"--while the fans kept up the Stepford routine. My answer was the stock "I predicted seven games"--as if I'd actually predicted it instead of randomly rolling a d4 and adding 3 when I filled in my bracket--"and I still stand by that. How it got to seven games is surprising, but not that it got to seven. It'll all be alright; they'll do fine." The more I told myself that, the more nearly I believed it.
Throughout the workday I decided to not watch the game. Six narrow, intense games--the best series I've seen in my life--had worn my psyche down to a little pink No. 2 eraser nub and frayed my nerves to the point that I'm sure each one now looks like a silhouette of Einstein. As such, alas, I could not handle a seventh game. Then I changed my mind. Then I decided to not watch again. Then I changed my mind again. This cycle repeated itself approximately ninety-seven-gillion times before I left work at 2:30. Finally, on the ride home, I decided that I should at least see it out, that They'd Do Fine and It Will All End Okay, and that I'd feel bad if I missed the handshakes. Unfortunately I don't have cable and I choose to not stream, so I listened on KFOX's internet feed.
Two minutes in and I couldn't take it any more. Not because they weren't doing well, as we all now know they played excellently in that first period. But as well as the Sharks played, Detroit matched them and showed no signs of laying down. This was sure to be another tight affair, but as much as I wanted to tear myself away I decided to keep listening while channeling the anxiety into something else.
So I cleaned my apartment. All of it. Kitchen, bathroom, living room, even closests; top to bottom. Soon I received a text from a friend telling me to come over and watch, I told them about my cleaning. Five minutes later his girlfriend texted saying chicken would be served and "bad things will happen if you don't come." We came to terms: I would watch the third period, and only if the Sharks were up. Meanwhile I polished, dusted, organized, scrubbed, and mopped as best I could.
When the first goal came I was doing dishes. Lucky for me I was working on one of those crummy plastic plates you get at Target, because as soon as I heard that lovely foghorn I threw down my sponge and the dish and cheered. A few seconds earlier and I'd have had to sweep up one of the nice glasses I swiped from the place that did my brother's wedding rehearsal dinner. I won't stream illegally, but Spaghetti Factory stemware is an entirely different code of integrity. Then the terror set in. What would happen now? Surely they wouldn't sit back and go into prevent-mode this early in the game, right? That could never happen in the first period! And sure enough a few minutes later Couture put one in and I heard the foghorn from my bathroom as I scrubbed the shower. With a 2-0 lead, I thought, I could listen without stress.
Then came the second period. The less said about the second the better, but I will tell you that my floors have never looked so nice as when Zetterberg scored. It was about that same time that I realized, and I wish I were exaggerating or taking poetic license here, that I was mopping the kitchen floor--all 64 square feet of it--for the third time. I had run out of things to clean--the top of the microwave, behind the refrigerator, the decorative shotglasses, the underside of each plank on my bookshelves, all of it was as dust-free as the inside of Chris Traeger's microchip-like body. Worse yet, the second period was over and the Sharks were up 2-1, which meant I would have to go and actually watch the game with nothing to protect me from the Lovecraftian madness this game would inspire...
...Except they had dirty dishes! Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeseessssss! Of course that wouldn't last either, and I eventually pulled a can of purple out of their refrigerator and set it before me as I sat down. I didn't know if it would be part of a celebratory dinner after the game or if it'd be part of the condemned prisoner's hearty meal after, but I certainly knew I didn't want to open it until the end in either event. I would find out which end that would be in ten minutes--And two minutes after sitting down Marleau scores and I go full-body rag doll flaccid. Every bone and muscle in my body instantly turns to green jell-o and I can't even move. 3-1, and everything is, in fact, going to be okay... Wait, what's Datsyuk doing? He's being backchecked by eight different players, he can't, he won't he... Son of a BITCH.
So I cleaned my friend's counter top. You can see yourself in it now, it's that nice. Over a chorus of "Ooh" and "NNNOOO---WHEW" and "Get in here you're missing it, there are only five minutes left!" I scrubbed and scrubbed and eventually calmed down and decided to go back in, just in time for Mitchell to slash Salei. But I held firm. Or, rather, I was firmly held in place, as they would not let me leave my seat to vacuum their upstairs carpet. Nothing quite so bad as Clockwork Orange, I'm glad to say, but still a stiff hand or two on each shoulder did the trick.
But then it was over. That was that. The penalty was killed, the puck was iced. And iced. And iced. A face-block off a wonderful Datsyuk shot and it was over. I was at Game 5 against Dallas, saw Pavelski get the pass from Thornton to send that series back to Dallas, and that was easier somehow. I don't know how or why, but it was easier seeing the Sharks get outworked for three games and then come back a little bit; easier than seeing them work their asses off, only to see three consecutive losses in the final minutes.
Now, I've been a long-time lurker of FtF (I even won FtF League 4: Michael Boyleton this season. Go Luchadors!) and this is the first post I've actually made. I'd hate for anyone to think I'm a complete basketcase. No, to the contrary I'm a quite well-adjusted guy who has many healthy relationships with other well-adjusted human beings. But this series truly was insidiously Lovecraftian. On the surface, a 7-game series with close calls for both sides. Deeper, however, and it's a psyche-crushing journey to the darkest depths of fandom. A face-to-face confrontation between one's faith and one's doubts (Although Kierkegaard would argue that any faith worth having comes with a bucketful of doubts) and I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way. I might be the only one who met that existential challenge by running away and mopping the floors... But we've all got our feet of clay.
In the meantime, while waiting for Sunday, at least I can have company over without being ashamed of that orange spot that mysteriously appeared on the kitchen floor and took a Vlassic tripping penalty to get rid of.