I live in Chicago. I like Chicago a lot. I came here from New York, and I like that Chicago is sort of like New York’s stoner younger brother–still all the same genes, but way more chill. Chicago is never going to freak out because you Don’t Have Weekend Plans and forgot to make a reservation at the restaurant. Chicago is like, “It’s cool, bro, we’ll figure it out. If the restaurant is full there’s like a gross pizza place right nearby that only charges $5 for a large pie.”
The thing about living in Chicago, though, is that I am not a Hawks fan. It’s not that I actively dislike the Hawks; they’re not in my conference. They really have no bearing on my sports happiness until the playoffs. I was rooting for them against Boston! Super Kaner was funny! Joey the Jr. Reporter is easily the cutest Jr. Reporter in the whole league!
Living in their city, though, is a lot like going to a family reunion and having all your aunts and uncles ask you about your love life. “Are you dating anybody?” they ask.
“No,” you say. “I’m not really interested in that right now. I have other stuff going on.”
“Okay, so you’re not dating,” they say. “Well, I know a really nice person who lives out where you live. You have nothing in common and they aren’t really your type, but you should hang out.”
“I don’t really–want to do that,” you say. “I’ve really got other stuff. That I’m doing.”
“Yeah, but they live in your city,” your aunts and uncles insist. “You have to meet them. Here’s their number. Here’s their email. Here’s their Facebook. I’m going to call their mother and have her set up a meeting.”
“No, I’m really–”
“I’M GOING TO CALL THEIR MOTHER AND SET UP A MEETING.”
Like, it’s not the Hawks’ fault that any mention of them kind of makes my bones feel like they’re on fire. It’s not them specifically, it’s just like, can’t I live my life and not have to go on all these forced dates with this person I’m just not that into?
Anyway, I have developed some techniques for how to negotiate this complicated relationship.
1. Every time someone says ‘Here’s a thing about Jonathan Toews,’ I close my eyes and transport myself to a faraway ice rink where it’s just me and the Ghost of Hockey Past.
“Everything is so hard,” I tell the Ghost. “Why is everything so hard?”
The Ghost shrugs at me. The Ghost says, “You can’t possibly hate living in the City of the Blackhawks even a quarter as much as Roberto Luongo hated living in the City of the Canucks.”
2. Whenever the Hawks play one of my teams, I watch from the comfort of my own apartment and say petty, unnecessary things.
“88 IS THE NUMBER OF INCHES YOU ADDED TO YOUR ‘OFFICIAL’ HEIGHT ON NHL.COM,” and, “ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS DESERVED THE FAN VOTE MORE THAN ANY OF YOU,” and “ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THIS IS COMING FROM A PLACE OF BITTERNESS.”
3. Whenever someone starts talking to me about the Hawks, particularly one of my friends whose enthusiasm I love and whose hobbies I want to support, I let my eyes glaze over and quietly listen to “WHAT IS LOVE? BABY DON’T HURT ME, DON’T HURT ME, NO MORE,” on full volume in my brain, nodding the whole time.
“Yes,” I say at appropriate moments, “Cool! I didn’t know that. Wow. Truly astonishing.”
This will work until I’m asked to repeat what was just said to me, and I’ll have no recourse but to blurt, “WHAT IS LOVE? BABY DON’T HURT ME,” because I haven’t listened to literally a single word of this conversation.
4. “Do you want to watch the Hawks game?”
“Gooooooosh, I’m so sorry, I would, I totally would, but I have this thing, like a really—it’s an important thing, it’s—stuff, you know how stuff is. Gotta do that stuff! Can’t let it build up! SUUUPER busy today. Just not a good time. Next time. Definitely next time I won’t be busy.”*
*Next time I will also be busy. Couldn’t have possibly seen it coming. Just one of those ~crazy weeks~ at work, you know??
5. Find your Zen Place. When people express surprise or dismay that I live in Chicago but I’m not a Hawks fan, and how can I be a Pens fan the Pens suuuuuuuuck and Toews is ~such a better player than Crosby~ and like, 2 CUPS BRO, in my head I play a song that goes, “you went 49 years without a cup, out a cup, out a cup! 49 years without a cup and BEFORE YOU GET TOO COMFORTABLE WITH THIS LEVEL OF SUCCESS REMEMBER THE EDMONTON OILERS ALSO HAD A DYNASTY ONCE.”
So if you’re living in a hockey town that’s not your hockey town, whatever town that may be, take these useful tricks with you as you go about your day.
I’m here for you. I know it’s hard, but remember: one day your team will win the Cup, and your city’s team won’t, and then you can walk around all summer in your merch shouting, “AHH HAHAHA. HAHA! HAHAHAHA! HOW’S IT FEEL TO BE A FAN OF YOUR TEAM??? NOT GREAT RIGHT NOW, HUH? IT FEELS GOOD TO BE A FAN OF MINE. SO GOOD. SO GREAT. IT FEELS LIKE THE BEST. GO AHEAD, TALK TO ME ABOUT YOUR TEAM. GO FOR IT. I’M ALL EARS.”