At Super Bowl 41, Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears took the opening kick off from the Indianapolis Colts over 105 yards for a touchdown. I stood in Sun Life Stadium and felt the concrete vibrating under my feet as the Bears’ fans went absolutely crazy. Newly bought beers punched up into the air and rained down, grown men leaped on each other, and the built up excitement of the Super Bowl carried like an avalanche from section to section. The young security guard standing near me had a look of apprehension as he realized this jubilation could not be contained. Rules could not be enforced.
It was one of those sports moments forever etched into my memory and one that was without compare until Game 2 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
If you have ever watched a hockey game, you can immediately recognize the fan’s reaction to the home team’s goal. Within a millisecond of the puck crossing the red line into the net, fans will jump to their feet, reaching their hands towards the sky. It’s universal. It’s primordial.
When the Penguins tied the Predators in the 1st period, I involuntarily followed the routine. I jumped up. I screamed. I banged my rally towel against the cheers. The 2nd period was an even exchange of blows and chances, but no scores and, honestly, nothing really close to garner any sort of heart stoppages.
Then, 10 seconds into Period 3, Guentzel, hit a rebound into the net. The back of the net popped, and 18,000 fans raised their hands to heaven. Two minutes later, Wilson deflected the puck off of a defender and we watched it slide beneath the goalies legs. It was jubilation and relief. A 2 goal lead into the 3rd.
After the players reset themselves, fans began sitting down. I saw Jen lean back, a little exhausted from the recent quick scores when I saw Malkin streaking down the ice, teasing the puck along. I slapped her leg and heeded, “Here we go again.”
We stood and saw the puck levitate and reach the back of the net, a mere 15 seconds from the previous score.
It was an eruption of joy that preachers can only dream of. We were the parishioners to Lord Stanley, a mass of jubilant strangers exalting the black and gold. Our bodies knew no limits and our minds took fleeting absences. The cheering was so reckless, so pure, that I’m not sure how my skin held my bones in. My eardrums shut down, the world went oddly silent within this loud roar. The faces around me were red. People, desperate to high five, often made contact with shoulders, foreheads and basically anything to absorb the energy. But the energy littered from one was swept up by another as we bore witness to an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
After the game, after a gazillion “We want the Cup chants,” after we slid into the Pittsburgh night away from the rejoicing, my body began to calm. I was surprised, when watching replays of the goals, of what happened immediately after the goal was scored: the Pittsburgh players hugging; the defeated goalie, demoralized, sipping water. I never saw that. It left me wondering whether I had also missed a security guard standing realizing that this was crazy and uncontrolled.