Tuesday, January 3, 2012


"And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I'll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out"
-The Avett Brothers

There's a ticket stub that sits on my nightstand. It's been there for almost a month now (Yeah, I should clean, don't judge me). It says December 5, 2011- Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins. It was an ordinary loss, an ordinary December night. Normally, those ticket stubs eventually find their spot amongst candy wrappers and apple cores in whatever landfill Waste Management deems fit.

But I just can't throw this one away. I wish I could. But I always end up asking myself, "Did I see Sidney Crosby's last game?"

For the last 367 calendar days, words like "indefinitely", "symptoms", "no timetable"; have become as routine to Penguin fans as tying their shoes. They've almost lost all meaning. Penguins fans are suffering from a rare phenomenon: being expectation-less. I'm not talking about "Dick Tarnstrom is our leading scorer," expectation-less. It's more like the feeling that things will never be the same again. As if years like 2008-09 were just a fever dream. Living without expectation isn't saying that things can't get any worse, it's not seeing how they can possibly get any better.

And that's where we are today. The talk that ensued a month and a half ago about Crosby coming back and winning the scoring title feels distant and frankly, foolish. With all due respect to the current roster, Evgeni Malkin in particular, watching Pens games has become an exercise in "concussion-like symptoms" for Pens fans. Cheer as we may, there's a very numbing quality to watching these contests, as if our own vision is blurred, our memories fogged. When I think back to recent games, I often have trouble even remembering things that happened, as if they had existed only in the abstract.

In such uncertain situations, it remains very difficult to garner any sort of perspective. In six months, we could look back at this time and think how crazy we were for thinking it was even in the realm of possibility for Sidney Crosby not to suit up again. Or we could (frightfully) look back and wonder how we could have ever been so optimistic. The only thing I know is that (and I hope I speak for all Pens fans when I say this) I'd rather see Sidney Crosby retire at 24 than not be able to recognize his family at 40. The former would be heartbreaking, but the latter would be tragic.

The lack of updates are unsettling, yet familiar. The news that leaks out is vague at best. We don't know where Sid is, or really how he is, only that his symptoms aren't as "aggressive" as a year ago. Though we've seen this song and dance before (Remember when they called it a "mild" concussion last year?), so we've learned to take words like this with a grain of salt. Any good news that we'll hear in the future about Sid will be met with a nervous optimism, not an unbridled one.

But at this point, most of us will take whatever we can get.

So how will this all end?

Our hope is that one day Crosby will awake to find his own personal clouds lifted. That he can do what he loves the same way he used to, and we can understand again what a privilege it is to watch him do it. My own hope is that I can wake up and finally have that ticket stub meet the same fate as the others, casting away with it my own personal fears and doubts. But that hope, like all else at this time, remains indefinite.

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