I knew it was going to happen. I just hoped it wouldn't be so soon. With the Chicago Blackhawks game 7 loss just over a week ago, my rooting interest in the various sports leagues ended, until my favorite sport - football - kicks off in the fall. Now, I can enjoy a relaxing summer as a casual fan of the College World Series and the World Cup.
The Blackhawks have spoiled me recently, winning two of the last five Stanley Cups and competing for it the other three years. So Monday morning, it was time to shave off my playoff beard. Hockey players have this thing they do when the playoffs start. Actually, it's something they DON'T do. They don't shave until their team is eliminated. As a show of support for my Blackhawks, I was growing one as well. I wasn't into it like they were, because I shaved mine off when they advanced through each round. I just couldn't handle how itchy my face and neck felt, so about every other week I took out the razor and cleaned up my ugly mug. I'm sure my girls will be a happy with Daddy's stubble gone again.
So I no longer have a dog in the fight, as they say. And even though the finals are nearing the end, I haven't decided which team to support for the Cup, so my friends - Evan Axelbank and Scott Conklin - as the only fans of the remaining teams, I will be accepting gifts if you want me to root for your Rangers or Kings.
As a sports fan, I've experienced highs and lows from all of my favorite teams and fortunately for me, they seem to avoid overlapping with each other. Born in Chicago and raised in Nebraska, most of my favorite professional teams call the Windy City home. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, to a much lesser extent, the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals reside outside of Chi-town, but my real favorite teams are the college teams from my home state - the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, the Creighton Bluejays basketball team and the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks hockey team.
The first of my teams to win a title was the Cornhuskers in 1970 and 71, but I was less than 5 so I wasn't that interested in sports at that time. The Huskers competed for many conference titles during the 80's, but always seemed to be one win from the pinnacle of college football. The Royals made two appearances in the World Series bringing home a title in 1985, but haven't been close since. In the 90's several of my teams were in there heyday. Nebraska was top dog three times, in 1994, '95 and '97. The Indians were an up and coming team with two World Series appearances, but no titles. The Chicago Bulls were the most successful for me, three-peating twice with Michael Jordan leading the way. Finally, Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl in 2002. Then I had to wait nearly ten years for the Blackhawks recent resurgence and the two banner-winning years they had in 2010 and 2013. They are still a young team so I will hold out hope for success again next year… and my girls can look forward to another year of stubble.
What about you? Do you have a playoff ritual for any of your sports teams?