The Stanley Cup floats through town, lifted by currents of euphoria. Playoff MVP Patrick Kane jokes around with David Letterman. The Blackhawks championship parade is on tap for Friday. Jubilant fans remain either too giddy or too hung over to do much work this week.
And nobody here seems to give a whit about poor, old Boston. New Englanders had argued that winning the Cup would heal a lot of wounds for a populace still struggling with the aftermath of real tragedies in the Boston Marathon bombings and the nearby school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
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A life-affirming roar erupted in Boston's TD Garden during an emotional ceremony before Game 6 when bombing survivor Jeff Bauman rose to stand on his prosthetic legs. He cheered his Bruins and waved a "Boston Strong" flag. Just when it appeared the Bruins would win one for the victims, the Blackhawks staged the miraculous rally, stunned the Bruins and won the Cup. The image of a noble Bauman standing was replaced by captain Jonathan Toews' moonwalking across the ice amid the shattered dreams of heartbroken Boston fans.
"I think that's what hurts the most is, in the back of our minds, we wanted to do it for those kind of reasons: the city of Boston, what Newtown has been through, that kind of stuff," Bruins head coach Claude Julien told a reporter from New England's nesn.com. "It hit close to home, and the best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup. I think that's what's hard right now for the players. We had more reasons than just ourselves to win a Cup."
The Blackhawks won the Cup for the Blackhawks and hockey fans, and nobody in Chicago feels guilty about that.
We probably should give Blackhawks fans some credit simply for showing restraint and being gracious winners. The last time a Chicago team beat a tragically needy city in 2006, a few of our fans wallowed in a muck far filthier than simple poor sportsmanship.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's deadly destruction, most of the nation was pulling for the New Orleans Saints to win the NFL playoff game that would have sent New Orleans to the Super Bowl for the first time. Not only did the Rex Grossman-led Chicago Bears put a 39-14 pounding on the Saints, a Bears fan wearing one of those dopey hats that looks like a real bear's head showed up in various media outlets sporting a sign reading, "Bears Finishing What Katrina Started."
It could be that Blackhawks fans simply are kinder, gentler and classier than Bears fans. Or maybe we learned a lesson after that Katrina unseemliness.
Most Americans outside of the Chicago area probably were rooting for the Bruins to win the Cup for the emotional boost that would give Boston. But Toronto, where the local Maple Leafs lost its own playoff heartbreaker to the Bruins, celebrated Boston's defeat as if it were a victory for the Canadian city that hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967 and owns the longest championship drought in the NHL. The Toronto Sun's front page featured a giant photo of Toews hoisting the Stanley Cup under a headline that read, "To: Chicago. Thanks! Love: Toronto." Take that, Boston.
We can hate the Miami Heat, the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals or the Green Bay Packers without wishing ill on those cities and villages. But the entertainment world of pro sports should be separate from the emotional real world of bombings, shootings and floods. Baseball fans didn't care that Houston, which has never won a baseball championship, "needed" a World Series victory by their Astros when the White Sox won it all in 2005. When the bullying basketball Bulls stampeded through Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and Phoenix to win NBA titles, did any Bulls fans care that Utah "needed" its first championship banner more than Chicago did its sixth? The '85 Bears didn't show empathy (or sympathy) to any of that team's victims.
Need and sympathy can't trump talent. That's not the way sports works. If it did, don't you think some needy fans would be wearing Cubs World Series Champions hats from this millennium?