Fandom

The highlight of my week (as you might imagine if you’ve been reading this blog) was the Rangers’ comeback from being down three games to one in the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals to tie it up and force a Game 7 at MSG. More on that in a moment, and also a few words about my favorite TV show, Game of Thrones (spoiler alert!).

But first, I want to express my gratitude to all the fantastic folks from my past and my present who have said nice things about my blog posts, here on the WordPress site and also on Facebook. The kind words encourage me to continue and build my confidence, so beware! More posts will be forthcoming! I may never stop!

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It was a roller coaster of a week for Ranger fans. On Wednesday, I was devastated when they lost Game 4.  The Rangers were doing everything they needed to do to win – if they could have just managed to score a goal. But that, of course, is the only thing that matters.

I also didn’t think what the Caps were doing was sustainable. A team can’t withstand an assault like that indefinitely. I wanted to feel excited and optimistic, but I didn’t enjoy Game 4, not one bit. The Blueshirts blew too many opportunities, including a Carl Hagelin penalty shot. I wrote in my journal: “They’re done. I hate when this happens, and it happens every year. You would have to mark this down as a major disappointment. A year with such promise goes down with a whimper because the Rangers are goal-challenged.” (Geez, Nan, lighten up!)

True, they came up against a hot goalie, but this is not an isolated problem. Blown opportunities have been their curse all year – yes, even in this charmed and wonderful regular season, when they were literally better than every other team in the league and were actually third in the league in goals-per-game, averaging 3.02.  (I often wondered during the season if pizza magnate Papa John was regretting his promotion of 50% off a pizza the day after the Rangers scored three goals, having probably reasoned, based on past performance, “The Rangers NEVER score more than three goals! It’s a safe bet!”) I’m no expert, but there seems to be a certain logic that they miss, and I can’t explain why, despite my years of watching and appreciating and analyzing hockey games. Isn’t it a foregone conclusion that moving forward with the puck (whether carrying it or passing it), and getting pucks and bodies to the net, while simplistic, is the best strategy for scoring goals, especially when you’re having major difficulty doing just that?  I can understand occasionally taking that extra second to change the angle of a shot or make a drop pass for a misdirection play, which actually paid off for them – twice – in Game 5 but which normally makes me NUTS. But it just seems like simple physics: You push the puck in the direction you want it to go. Back passes at the offensive blue line can only lead to trouble – the opposition is already a third of the way down the ice in the opposite direction and you’re all facing the wrong way!

“I’m not ready for them to be finished,” I wrote in my journal after Game 4, “but there’s nothing I can do about it.” I was dreading having to say something on this week’s blog post about how they had dashed my dreams yet again. Only once, in all the years I’ve been a fan, had they not broken my heart, and some years it’s more painful than others. This would be a particularly painful year because the expectations were so high – perhaps too high. We expected them to win every game during the season, and they didn’t disappoint, especially down the stretch. So it made sense to expect them to win every series and end up with the Cup and a parade up the Canyon of Heroes. After the Game 4 loss, I was so sure that we would have to wait till next year, and that it was more likely than not that they won’t be as good as they are this season. Very doom and gloom.  I had practically resigned myself to rooting for Tampa Bay and all the ex-Rangers as my “back-up” favorite team for the remainder of the playoffs.

Fast forward to today (officially, Tuesday, 5/12, as I write this), and my perspective has shifted 180 degrees. I’m writing this blog post before Wednesday’s Game 7 but at this point I’m ecstatic that there is a Game 7. First it was the miraculous ending to Game 5, with Krieder and McDonagh scoring on similar shots on pinpoint set-ups by Derek Stepan to first tie the game and then win in OT. In Sunday’s Game 6, I was reminded of Mother’s Day last year, right after the unexpected death of Martin St. Louis’ mother France. St. Louis actually played in Game 5 of that series, which the Rangers momentously won, reversing their fortunes in a difficult match-up with the Pittsburgh Penguins, ultimately coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series. But his most special moment happened in the sixth game, which took place on Mother’s Day. Marty got an important goal that day – it wasn’t the winner, but it was vital to keeping the Rangers alive – and I believe the spirit of France St. Louis was bestowing blessings on her boy this past Sunday, because he had a beautiful assist on Rick Nash’s goal to put the Rangers up 3-1.  Again, it wasn’t the game winner, but it was impactful and necessary all the same, just as Marty’s goal had been in last year’s Mother’s Day game. And so here we are, with two days to recuperate for an epic Game 7. The anticipation is killing me!

(A word, if I might, about Pierre Maguire: I would love there to be just one game on the NBC Network where I didn’t have to listen to his whiny voice and the endless superlatives and biographical minutiae. He says such ridiculous things! He’s become such a joke in the industry that I don’t even think his broadcast partners listen to him anymore. The other day, he called Kevin Hayes a “man-child” when I am sure he did not mean to call him that, seeing as how Hayes was demonstrating some decidedly manly prowess on a series of shifts in the third period of Game 5. And Mike “Doc” Emrick is nearly as irritating. He’s so impressed with himself and his vocabulary and his ability to make up his own words. Can one “shillelagh” a puck? I didn’t even realize “shillelagh” could be used as a verb. Last night, he said the Rangers were leading going into the second period on “two Kriederian goals”. In this instance, he used a noun (a proper name, actually) as an adjective. Oh-ho-ho, isn’t Doc Emrick clever? No, he’s merely annoying.)

Fans have no clue how disappointing it must feel to be a player on the losing side of a difficult series, especially when there are high expectations. There’s a certain absurdity to the way fans get so invested in the fates of their favorite teams. I confess I am one of those fans. But it’s not something I do consciously; my responses are instinctive and visceral. My physical and emotional reactions to what happens in Ranger games are almost entirely involuntary. Last night I noticed my heart beating harder and faster in that last nine minutes. And it’s not just me. My daughter said she couldn’t sit down for the entire third period, and there was a great post today by Greg Wyshynski on Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog about a guy who used his Apple Watch to monitor his heart rate during Game 6. (See “Fan tracks heart rate during Rangers/Capitals Game 6 via Apple Watch”). Al Trautwig from MSG said, in the intro to the Game 6 post-game show, “If you’re still alive, tweet me.” And did I notice a little more gray in AV’s hair on the bench last night?

Despite the “guarantee” from Ovechkin (what was he supposed to say? That they WEREN’T going to win?), I am feeling more confident than I’ve felt since Game 2 of this series. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It’s a happy time in Rangerstown – well, a relieved and happy time – and hopefully we’ll get to stay here a few weeks longer.

But enough about hockey. This week I want to say a few things about Game of Thrones.

While It is a cultural phenomenon of colossal proportions, I don’t know how many of my friends love it as much as I do (just like I’m not sure who of my friends likes British comedian/artist/surrealist Noel Fielding – I have tickets for his June 9 performance in NYC, by the way, if there’s a fellow fan out there interested in joining me!). My ex-husband is a devotee of the show, but he doesn’t always fully appreciate the nuance – he prefers action, which is usually in plentiful supply on GOT, but some episodes are more devoted to development. (Generally speaking, the man has little or no patience.)  There are also myriad blogs and articles written about it, which I know because I spend a great deal of time reading the recaps and analyses in the days after the week’s episode has ended far too soon.  (I’ve previously lauded Andy Greenwald’s weekly column on the Grantland website as a prime example.) Adding my two cents to the mix is certainly pissing in the river; I am sure nothing I have to say is contributing anything unique to the discourse. But hey! I have a blog now! And I’ve permitted myself to write about whatever I want. So this week I’ll share my thoughts about this season’s GOT, now that we’re halfway through season number 5. At the risk of alienating non-GOT fans, I just wanted to express my appreciation for the genius writing, pacing and staging the show features week after week.

A caveat: If you are not a GOT viewer, much of the following will have no meaning for you. But my hope is that my unbridled enthusiasm for what I believe to be a viewing experience unlike any I have ever seen in my lifetime will inspire at least someone to watch it.

Man, what a good show this is. I read an interview with Adam Horovitz (ex of the Beastie Boys) in last month’s Interview Magazine (“Q&Andy”, April 2015) where he said it makes him nervous when his favorite show (in his case, The Walking Dead) “is about to be over and I know that I won’t be able to see it again for an entire week.” That’s how I feel about GOT. (It’s exponentially worse at the end of the season!)  The characterizations are so rich and deep and disturbing; its scenarios run the gamut from the breathtakingly gorgeous to the stomach turningly hideous; and it all fits together into this amazingly complex puzzle. You’re so anxious to see how it ends, and yet you want it to take its time getting there so you can savor every moment.

At least one time during nearly every weekly broadcast, I must cry, and then I must be awed by some otherworldly landscape or CGI or special effects expertise, and finally, the hair on my arms has to stand up, whether due to something creepy, shocking or perfect. In the April 26 episode [Ep. 43, “High Sparrow”], the scene where Brienne of Tarth is describing to her squire Pod why she was so loyal to dear, departed Renly Baratheon literally brought tears to my eyes. (The actor who played Renly, Gethin Anthony, is now going to be Charlie Manson in a new mini-series, “Aquarius”, which I may watch just to see him, although it also features David Duchovny, who I actively dislike as an actor, although I’m sure he is a pleasant enough man in real life.) And then, like a bloody, dripping cherry on top, Brienne ends her moving speech by coolly stating that she’s going to kill the King. In the same episode, I marveled at the special effect that made it looks as if Jon Snow was really cutting off Janos Slynt’s head (I could swear I saw the head twitch just before the sword came down), and how do they actually know what it would look like if a head was forcibly and swiftly detached from a person’s body courtesy of a blade of cold Valyrian steel? Then there were Arya’s scenes with the mysterious Jaqen H’ghar, whose gaze alone sometimes gives me chills.

(An aside: I was glad to see on one of the many GOT blog posts – I wish I could remember which one so I could give it a shout-out – that there are others who find the Faceless Man attractive. In fact, when I read 50 Shades of Gray [which I am sort of embarrassed to admit and which I am in no way promoting because it was a horribly written load of crap, but props to E.L. James, who is now a clue on Jeopardy, if not a household name, and a millionaire because she had the cojones to get her stuff out there, which I admire and envy, so good on ya, E.L.], I was actually picturing Jaqen H’ghar as Christian Gray — the GOT character, not the actor, Tom Wlaschiha, who was somehow less Christian Gray-like when I found some photos of him out of his Jaqen gear.)

Episode 44 (“Sons of the Harpy”) had a similar set of scenes that stuck with me. The weepy moment? Stannis telling his deformed daughter Shereen that she is “Princess Shereen of the House Baratheon, and my daughter”, inspiring a big two-handed hug from her and a begrudging but heartfelt one from him in return. The special effects scene? Jaime Lannister literally catching a sword in his metal hand with a “clank”. And the moment that gave me chills? Melisandre telling Jon Snow, after he’s rejected her sexual advances, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” How did she know to say that?? Creepy, seeing as it was what his dead Wildling lover Ygritte would say to Jon on a regular basis.

This week (Ep. 45, “Kill the Boy”), there wasn’t an actual crying moment (although Grey Worm’s profession of love for Missandei came close), but the attack of the stonemen while Tyrion and Ser Jorah were boating through the haunting ruins of Valyria was pretty intense and had me holding my breath, and Ser Jorah’s reveal in the show’s final shot may have been predictable but it was still disturbing.  Another great thing about GOT is that, not only do they kill off the heroes and favorites (RIP, Renly Baratheon and Oberyn Martell, not to mention the elder Starks), they also kill off the bad guys (burn in Hell, King Joffrey and Tywin Lannister). Boy, do I hope they kill off Ramsay Bolton in the most horrific way possible. It’s fascinating when actors become so associated with their characters that you can’t imagine them playing anyone else. I hope Ramsay doesn’t ruin Iwan Rheon, because he’s very good at playing very bad!

Thank you all for indulging my fandom this week. Next week, whether the Rangers advance or not, I expect my post will be a little less “hockey-centric”. But after all, it is that magical time of year, when the boys of winter play on the edge of summer.

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