It was a cold, cloudy morning on January 1st, 2009. The old man and I were driving through the wind-swept streets of Chicago, trying to find the nice, young lady who had offered up her garage as a place to park. We called her on her cell-phone and she graciously came down to the street to meet us and show us where to go. We jumped out of the car and started throwing on our Red Wings gear over long underwear, sweatpants, etc. I put on my Zetterberg jersey that I’ve had since his rookie season. The old man had a bright red Winter Classic Red Wing hooded-sweatshirt.
A few more cars pulled into the small in the adjacent alley as we got out our small grill and opened up a few pre-packed beverages. Not surprisingly, the cars parking nearby were filled with Blackhawks fans. One of them wandered over towards us and initiated some fairly friendly small talk. We exchanged forced compliments of each other’s teams and discussed the current weather and our long drive from Michigan in the early hours of the morning.
It was at this time that the gentleman’s friend came over with his small child. The little boy was wearing nothing hockey-related…just a blue winter coat and a non-denominational wool hat. “What team do you root for?” I asked in a friendly tone…the boy said nothing. With a stone-cold look on his face, the boy’s father replied with “The Blackhawks…we don’t come from a trailer park.” There was no jest in his voice; this was not meant to be taken lightly.
This was the perfect reminder of why I HATE Chicago. I don’t have anything against Toews or Kane personally. I think that Havlat’s resurgence is a wonderful hockey story. I think the Boulin Wall is a madman and a terrific goalie. But I will never root for them. I didn’t want them to win against Calgary, I didn’t want them to win against Vancouver.
This is not limited to hockey either. When the Colts beat the Bears in the Super Bowl? I was happy. When the Cubs fail to reach the World Series time and time again? I feel joy. I wish nothing but sorrow and failure to every single professional franchise coming out of Chicago, not for the sake of the players per-say, but for the fans that root for them.
A few years back, my family and I thought it would be fun to go see the Lions play the Bears at Soldier Field. Masochistic? Probably the first time, but when we went back the second time only to see them trounced again…that was just plain idiotic. We were smart enough to leave our Honolulu blue gear at home, but I hadn’t realized that I forgot to remove the Tigers hat, which I wore out of a daily habit, from my head. What I was subjected to THE ENTIRE GAME was popcorn being thrown, the back of my seat kicked, and endless amounts of profanity and insults too numerous to recount. I was harassed before the game, during half-time, and of course the whole walk back to the car. I vowed after the second time to never return to Soldier Field so long as I live. It’s just not worth it.
But, let’s get back to January 1st, 2009…the memories of the Lions-Bears games came rushing back to me at the moment of the “trailer park” comment by this naïve Chicago native. I can say with full certainty that this was not a well-thought out insult by the mere fact that my father and I had pulled up in his new Cadillac which was parked not 4 feet away from this trailer park accusation. The malice feelings brewing inside of me only worsened during our 2 mile walk to historic Wrigley Field, as the Blackhawk fan-littered streets were hostile. People would actually roll the windows down in their car just to curse at us and our fellow Wings fans as they drove by. Many of these hostile and profane men and women had small children with them…engraining the same kind of idiocy and low-brow mentality into the impressionable psyche of future obnoxious and rude Chicago sports fans.
Once inside the Wrigley concourse, you could guess what was echoing through the halls well before the puck was even dropped. “Detroit sucks! Detroit sucks!” Regardless of whether or not there is any merit to this claim (and there isn’t), we were going to hear that a lot throughout the course of the day. If you hadn’t noticed, this was the same chant that resonated through the United Center on Monday night as the Blackhawks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in round 2 this year. It has become the unifying chant of the Blackhawk nation. Typical, that it would be of malevolence and hatred toward another team, rather than an actual cheer for their own hometown boys.
Luckily, I secured my tickets to the Winter Classic from an old high school buddy who actually works security for the Wings and as a result, we were seated in a Detroit-friendly section. 3rd row of the upper-level right along the 3rd baseline…these seats must have ranked right up there for the best in the house. Oh and did we Red Wings fans get the last laugh that day. The Wings played like the champions we knew them to be, and at times, made the young ‘Hawks look like a JV squad playing a scrimmage game against the varsity program. Of course, the “Detroit sucks!” chant was ever present…though it slowly became quieter and less frequent as the game dragged on. The Wings supporters in our section would cheer and high-five each other at every opportunity. We were clearly the better team and the nation was able to bear witness to that fact.
Since the Chicago supporters had little ammunition to use during such a dominating game of hockey, one idiot even busted out a “Yeah well, win a Super Bowl!” towards us after the Lebda goal review. One Wing fan nearby shouted back “Chicago has NEVER won the Central Division!” I chimed in with “The Red Wings play hockey, not football….you do realize we’re at a hockey game, right?” And the bad man was not to be heard from again.
Late in the third period, there was little cheering as Chicago scored a “face-saving” fourth goal to make the game look respectable from a box-score perspective. When the final buzzer sounded, and the scoreboard read Red Wings: 6 Blackhawks: 4, the Chicago fans were upset, and I was absolutely jubilant. Finally, I felt like I had my revenge for having to sit through those Lions games at Soldier Field. Finally I had something to stick to all of those Chicago fans that yelled and swore and threw popcorn. I was happy because I knew that every single person at that Bears game, at Wrigley Field, out in the streets…they were all upset by the outcome of that game. It’s the same reason I cheered when Peyton Manning carved up the Bears defense in the Super Bowl, it’s the same feeling I get (to a lesser degree) when the Cubs lose year after year. I hate those people…I hate them all, and if you like any team from Chicago, I hate you too.
We Wings fans, at least at Joe Louis Arena, take it too easy on visiting fans. I have been to every home game for the Wings thus far in the post-season on top of attending a handful of home games during the regular season going back as far as I can remember. We treat visiting fans like foreign diplomats…with a certain “I don’t agree with you, but I respect your right to choose” approach. Maybe it’s because we’re spoiled because our team usually beats up on yours, maybe it’s because we’re actually better human beings…I can’t say for sure. But the contrast of how Detroit fans treat visitors as opposed to Chicago fans, they couldn’t be any closer to opposites.
I’m hoping that changes this year in the play-offs. I’m tired of Wings fans being so gracious towards the feelings of other fans…especially from a demographic of people who are so hostile towards us. I am in no way condoning the extent of rudeness and hostility that Wings fans will most likely receive at the United Center, but I absolutely encourage all Wings fans to stick it to our little brothers from the Windy City more so than we have done in the past.
How about Chicago’s play-off promo commercial whereby Adam Burrish states that his goal is to “end old traditions and start some new ones”, all the while picking up an octopus and flinging off of the screen? This is obviously a slight against Detroit’s tradition of tossing the octopus onto the ice during the playoffs, one of the oldest and proudest traditions in all of hockey. Somebody should have told them that it’s bad luck to mess with THAT particular tradition…just ask Cody McLeod and Chris Pronger. But yet again, it’s another example of Chicago antagonizing Detroit, and this time it wasn’t just some dumb fan. Someone in the organ-i-zation’s marketing department thought that was a good idea, and one of the players actually went through with it. A playful jest? Not for this guy, I take it very, very personal.
Why this call to arms? Why would I actually encourage the harassment of fans to the sport I love so dear? Granted, most of these “fans” couldn’t have cared less about the Blackhawks when they were the joke of the Central Division. They’d file in less than 10,000 strong in a rink that holds over 20,000. So why should I be hating on them now? It’s the same reason Joe Frazier said that Mohammed Ali should have been “pushed into the flames” when he lit the Olympic torch…my heart, just as Smokin’ Joe’s was, has been forever hardened. I want all Wings fans to harden their hearts too.
I hate Chicago, and I want you to hate them with me.