I remember this combination of dread and excitement. I remember feeling it every morning of every 49ers playoff game in January 1995, back when I eschewed the Bills to make lovey-dovey eyes every time Steve Young appeared on the television screen or sports section. (I had just turned 13 – ripe age for a celebrity mega crush!) I wanted Steve Young and the 49ers to win the Super Bowl so badly that they, and not my then sickly two month old little brother, was what I prayed for when my CCD instructor made us repeat the Apostles Creed like the Rosary was made of it. (There’s a reason it’s not.) I could never eat the Wegmans bagel my father would buy me after church, and I could never focus on my homework prior to a playoff games’ 4pm or 7pm start. I was so excited for the football I was about to watch, and would bounce around our tiny house, but so nervous that I my bouncing was confined to a corner of the couch with my hand clutched on the couch arm. And when the game started, I couldn’t hear my brother cry, or my parents yelling at each other, or my little sister trying to get my attention. My stomach would churn and I wanted to stand right in front of the television set in an effort to obtain the utmost tunnel vision.
I remember all the possibilities that went through my head. Would the Bears pull a grand upset over the 49ers? Would the Cowboys dominate the 49ers in the Championship Game like they had the year before? Would Stan Humphries actually pull it together and lead the Chargers to actual “Super Charger” status, beating the 49ers in the Super Bowl? But most importantly, would this be the end of the season? Would I have to wake up tomorrow to the realization that I would not see another 49ers game for another six months? That training camp would be in the middle of my summer vacation, and I hadn’t even reached February break? That I would have to see another team win the whole shabang and know that my favourite won’t have another chance to until at least a year from now?
(And now we know why the fact that I was a total loser who wore hideous leggings and oversized sports sweatshirts and straight as a pin bangs that covered my eyes never concerned me as a teenager. I was too concerned with the questions I just listed and trying to understand the correct QB rating formula.)
This combination of excitement and nervousness hit me again earlier this week. I found myself scouring the college hockey fan boards on the hour to read anything I could find on this weekend’s Boston University – UMass Lowell Hockey East quarterfinal match-up. I anxiously examined all of the statistics from their three previous games this season. I alternated between being tempted to stay home and hide under the covers in my bed and trying to find a way to get front row seats. I even watched the Brett Bennett tribute video on YouTube multiple times for no apparent reason, other than I was excited. And nervous. But excited.
There will be twitching this evening. Maybe bouncing. Maybe overreacting to anything and everything that happens – overly dramatic groans at bad Hockey East officiating, UMass-Amherst announcer decibel level like cheers at anything good that happens. All just like I did while watching all of those 49ers games on my living room couch when I was 13, except this time, I won’t worry about waking my baby brother. It’s funny what doesn’t change when you grow older.
This is what its like to have your team in the playoffs. This is where I fear that the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that, is the one where I have to wake up and know that its all over until next fall. That my Fridays and Saturdays are now free, and that some other teams fans get to celebrate – and subsequently get nervous and excited all over again.