Postcard: The Return of the Fan
It started innocently
enough, as these things usually do. My sister, a recent transfer
to Northeastern, called and invited me to join her for a Huskies
game at Matthews Arena. How could I turn her down? Hockey is a passion
of mine and it has been for almost two decades.
As I hopped
on Boston’s famed “T” to start my trek to the
Northeastern campus, I wondered about the last time I had actually
watched a game as a fan. That’s because for the last 12 years
I’ve spent my hockey nights sitting in a press box.
boxes, AHL press boxes, NHL ones … you name it. I’ve
been in boxes cold enough to house slabs of meat. Others have been
so small that this 6-foot-2 writer couldn’t stand up straight
and was so squished next to the visiting radio announcers that I
was sure the audience could hear me flip the pages on my note pad.
Still others have been so high above ice level that I was sure it
would take weeks for my pen to hit the ice if I knocked it over
So, there I
sat, rolling into the tunnels of Boston, reaching back into the
memory bank. The last time I was in Matthews it was as a member
of the media, so that didn’t count. As best I could recall,
my last game as a fan was in 1997. It was a Clarkson-UNH game in
New Hampshire and when Todd White was done undressing Wildcat defensemen,
the Golden Knights had beaten UNH, 5-2.
It was an exciting
game, especially since the team I was cheering for that evening
actually won. But, that was it, my first game as a fan since 1993
(another one-shot deal) and my last one until earlier this month.
Matthews – and my sister – I insisted that we sit in
the student section. After all, that’s where the noise originates
in the college ranks and it’s always more fun. Of course,
this meant I needed a crash course in all of the chants. I’ve
heard a ton over the years, but I needed to fit in; I needed to
become part of the Northeastern faithful.
My sister, after
only a few games, had them down. She knew when to yell, “Sieve!”
and the timing that’s involved in not being that one loser
who keeps chanting when all others have stopped. My fear, of course,
was that on this night, I’d be that loser.
As the first
period rolled along, I started to pick things up, but I also began
to notice the stares. Yup, I was getting “looks” from
students. They didn’t have to say anything, but I knew what
they were thinking: “Who’s the old guy? What’s
he doing in this section?”
not really old at all, mind you. I’m only approaching my third
decade of life, but to these 19-, 20-, 21-year olds, I was definitely
not a student and, therefore, old. Not even a graduate student –
just plain old. After a while, I even started to believe it.
going well; I had most of the chants down midway through the first
period. Northeastern was winning and we were having a blast. It
was fun being able to scream and cheer again, even if for only one
night. I didn’t really have a rooting interest, but because
of my sister, I had to cheer for Northeastern.
In a week, I
could easily find myself interviewing these guys, but on this night,
I was just another fan. Although, I must admit, I was writing the
game story in my head as the contest evolved. Old habits really
are hard to break.
Then it happened.
Huskies fans have their own way of clapping along to what’s
commonly known as the “Hey!” song. (That’s what
Gary Glitter gets for calling it “Rock’n’Roll
Pt. 1” … boy, I AM old!) The problem was that no one
bothered to clue me in on the trademark applause twist. So, I applauded
in the traditional way and, sure enough, was completely off. My
sister laughed, as I’m sure others around me did, and all
I could do was turn and say, “It’s been a while. I’m
buy it. Big bro was playing the dork this evening and it felt like
the entire campus knew it. Was it really this difficult being a
fan again? I always thought it was like riding a bike. Ah, a dose
of humility. Gotta love it.
I finally caught
on to the applause game, but it was too late. The damage had been
done. Northeastern won, my sister was happy and I took mental notes
on all of the chants and clapping routines. I vowed, next time,
to not embarrass myself.
who am I kidding? Maybe I should just stick to keyboards and tape
recorders. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll let the fan out of the
house again. Sometime around 2007 sounds right.