There are almost as many sports clichés as there are sports fans and they all make perfect sense.
The ones relating to a winning team are, naturally, more fun to spout but there’s some comfort that comes from the losers’ library too.
The ultimate point I hope to arrive at is this: If we believe the clichés and never forget them, we’ll be better off.
I and many others, for example, have been thinking one series at a time in regard to the current Stanley Cup Playoffs instead of one game, one period, one shift at a time.
Sadly, our Canucks and some others (SJ) appear to have been doing the same.
At the first sign that things were about to go as expected – with Vancouver following the script and dispatching the Tennesseans – I had mentally pushed the pesky Nashville Predators aside with a patronizing pat on their collective helmeted head. Yes, the game-two win had been close, but after going up 3-1 with two straight wins in Nashville, the Canucks and too many of their backers felt a five-game series win was pretty much a given.
If there was one thing nobody in the Vancouver outfit wanted it was another visit to Music City.
Air travel (especially when it involves multiple time zones) is far more grueling than many folks realize, not to mention when it’s accompanied by the strain and risk of injury in professional playoff hockey.
Game five was a time for the club to prove it had matured to the point where it could finish off an opponent. With a win they could relax in familiar surroundings and simply wait for the Sharks or Wings to show up.
Enter a committed group led by big Joel Ward and the ever-stingy goalie Pekke Rinne in game five, earning a 4-2 win to serve notice that another round trip across the continent was in order. The idea of as many as two more games in the conference semi-final suited the Predators just nicely.
The Canucks, like me, were likely thinking about Detroit falling behind 3-0 to the Sharks.
They probably had visions of Joe Thornton and his teal-tinted mates rehabbing and catching up on their rest at poolside after ending the Red Wings’ season.
They had to get Nashville dealt with so they could focus on their third-round adversary and still have the energy and manpower to do so.
It’s not too hard to deduce that the Canucks and Sharks each looked past their second round opponents. For their gaffe they may have ended up being punished by (unlikely, yes) having to watch Detroit and Nashville in the conference final.
Pro athletes should never forget the cliché, that’s a big part of what they’re paid for.
But the failure to heed the timeless cliché is also what makes being a sports fan such an emotionally wrenching experience.
If we had just given coach Vigneault credit for knowing what he was talking about when he dusted off the “one game at a time” gem, it may have helped us steer clear of the wild mood swings that are now disrupting our lives.
When the playoffs are over we can move on. Sure there are other “more important” things going on but if something has the ability to make you feel great or feel lousy… that’s kind of important… isn’t it?
In the meantime… let’s not underestimate our opponents, throw the baby out with the bath water, or count our chickens before they hatch.