Crying in my beer: a sports story

Originally written for eVent! [ep] magazine on 08/23/06.

Sometime late last year I wrote an article about how after over two decades living in British Columbia I was switching my allegiance from the Edmonton Oilers to the Vancouver Canucks. I grew up in Edmonton. The Oilers teams of the 1980s were my teams; I still worship Wayne Gretzky as a living god. When I was young I thought that sporting victory was a birthright that my life would be filled with a procession of Stanley Cups for the Oilers and Grey Cups for the Eskimos. Sure some years they'd make it interesting and Steve Smith would score on his own team, but the next year the Oilers would be back holding the cup. So it was written.

Except obviously nobody read what was written because Gretzky was traded and the dynasty ended. Though the Oilers managed to win one more Stanley Cup things were never the same. My family moved to Kelowna and I was supposed to follow the Canucks. Last year I gave in. The Oilers had not made the playoffs for a few years, and I had the chance to go to a few Canucks games over the course of the season, so I declared the Canucks a team that I would support. To make it official I wrote about it in these very pages, I was now a Canucks fan.

So as we all know the Canucks did not make the playoffs. Despite having a team that was considered one of the prime contenders for post-season glory at the start of the season the team never gelled and the super-stars like Todd Bertuzzi were the first ones out on the golf course. Strike one for Jeffery Simpson, super fan.

Meanwhile Arsenal, the English soccer (football) team that I support in the Premier Leauge had a terrible year in their league. The spending power of Chelsea overpowered them and instead of competing for first place in the league they ended up needing food poisoning to take out cross-London rivals Tottenham in order to squeak in at fourth place. However thankfully there was a silver-lining there and while they had their worst league finish in over a decade they made it further in the European Champions League than ever before. They made it all the way to the finals where they met Spanish giants Barcelona.

I was in Vancouver for the game and was in an English pub before noon. With my Arsenal jersey on (with their goalkeeper Lehmann's name on my back) I sat in a packed pub and watch my team take the field. I cheered a few early shots on goal and then suddenly Lehmann, whose name let's remember was on my back, was kicked out of the game for bringing down a striker in the box. Disaster and though Arsenal managed to take the lead while playing ten men against eleven the inevitable happened and finally Barcelona scored. Yet another disaster, and yet more tears pouring into my beer and the end of the world once more.

A friend of mine was getting married in Edmonton, and I made the trip. Meanwhile the Oilers had fought their way into the Stanley Cup finals with the sort tenacity that the Canucks have always lacked. The last time they were there they 1990s' were just starting and their dynasty was ending. Game six took place in Edmonton during the reception. We watched the first period in a bar and then moved onto the dinner. Updates were phoned in and announced and we cheered as the Oilers held onto to win and take the series into a final game. Game seven. It was the stuff of dreams.

My temporary allegiance to the Canucks forgotten we went to Whyte Avenue and joined the swarms celebrating. Sure there are always a few idiots into a crowd like that, but there was hope. Carolina did not deserve to win the cup, Edmonton did. If fan devotion won cups then Edmonton's dynasty would never have faltered. Yet that night on Whyte Ave did bring home the cup. Watching the seventh game on television back in Kelowna the inevitable happened and the Oilers lost. There was no beer this time, just tears.

In the World Cup I was cheering for England, yet a moment of madness on the part of England's star striker Wayne Rooney spelled the end of that dream. Only Calgary native Owen Hargreaves ended up playing any good for England in the game against Portugal and yet more tears into beer.

I then switched my allegiance to France, because of Arsenal's striker Thierry Henry is on the squad. I had watched cheering then on against Italy. Anyone who's been able to pick out the theme of the article will know what happened next; French Captain Zinedine Zidane head butted Italian player Marco Materazzi and was sent off in the dying moments of the game. Italy ended up winning in the penalty shoot-out.

Tears in beers my friends, tears in beers.

So if this season you're at a Rockets' game and see me in the stands of Prospera Place cheering on Kelowna, please do us all a favour and have security remove me from the building.