07 March 2011
During the final scene of the movie Snatch Brad Pitt's character, Mickey the pikey, is playing with his food in a fight that he could easily win. In the first round he put his opponent to the floor twice, but then for a variety of reasons beyond his control he lets the guy hang around. As the fight wears on both guys are taking a pretty good beating when Mickey's opponent lands a ferocious uppercut that, as can be seen above, skyrockets Mickey into the air. But instead of landing on the mat, director Guy Ritchie has Mickey land in a metaphorically driven dark pool of water - and he begins to sink, out of it, lost. It is when he reaches his lowest point that the pikey surges from the water like a torpedo with fists, the power of a thousand dead warriors propelling him, out of the abyss and right through his opponent's face.
Lights out, match over. Opponent possibly never to move again.
Now, I don't know where the Flyers are on that descent, and I would like to say that yesterday was the bottom of the abyss, but all I can say for sure is they've been rocked and they're definitely already in the water, having been headed down for a while now.
But as I said yesterday, I think this is good for them. Let me explain why.
If you had asked me last week whether I wanted the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup this year I would have responded that of course I did. If you had asked me whether winning it all this spring would have been as meaningful as a Cup could be in this town, for the fans, I would have said no. Let's look at what we were facing:
In Story A a team makes it into the playoffs the last day of the season and loses in the Stanley Cup finals - an amazing run. The next year they gear up, make some moves and run the table in the regular season, eventually going 16-4 on their way to a city's first Stanley Cup championship in 36 years. That's a good story, but a great story is Story B.
Story B starts off the same - last game of the season, ECF Champs, loss in the Finals, gear up, run the table in the regular season, but then suffer traumatic heartbreak in the Eastern Conference side of the playoffs. With many of the team's most important players a year older and a year more desperate the Flyers seek redemption in 2011-12 with a decent but modest record in the regular season and then a hard fought Cup run with a 16-9 record.
For a society where instant gratification has become the norm that would be a hard deal to sell to John Q. Public. But now that the Flyers have been knocked off their pedestals and down the ever important power rankings I'm beginning to think that this story, the one I didn't know we'd see this season, could be the interesting one.
Story C - a team that had it all and was leading the league in points through 5 months play begins to crumble as the playoffs loom on the horizon. "What do you think is wrong" they ask the coach, the captain, the tall defensemen. The struggles continue and the team sinks further, they're eventually written off by all "in the know" and they enter the playoffs much further down the pecking order than they had originally thought. They battle and scrape through the first round against an old rival. They begin to remind of us of the team we thought would win the Presidents trophy in the second round. In the third they take the Bruins to 7 games and win in overtime. And then this group of guys, this team that felt the sting last season, then relived it temporarily this season, powered by a city on the brim of ecstasy, win the city's 3rd Stanley Cup as underdogs - a season full of the sweet and sour.
That's a pretty good story right there, and one that I honestly never saw coming.
In a race you're either going forward or not. It's very simple. You stay where you are, order a tent from REI and live there or you shoot back up from the abyss with determination, will, and hatred.
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