Los Angeles is a notoriously fickle town. Perhaps it comes with territory to over hype the shit out of something and then bail on it the moment it under performs.
That’s the tragic nature of modern day entertainment. When the going gets tough, we change the channel, whether it’s a tv series that’s America’s Favorite New Show until it’s cancelled, or a sporting franchise with a legacy of victory uncharacteristically struggling for wins. There’s just too much to choose from to waste a minute with a loser.
But what kind of character can you build without the joy of a little deep suffering?
Such was the case last week at the Staples Center, when the Los Angeles Kings were getting trounced by the San Jose Sharks three games to none. Empty seats littered the arena. Especially in the luxury boxes. The fans and the papers had all but written off the Kings, albeit painfully. It just wasn’t our year.
But this is the same team that went to the mountain top in 2012, hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in LA history. They were losing, at times being blown off the ice, but something about it all just didn’t seem right. The Kings were better than this and they knew it, even if the chatter was blaring out the opposite.
Then the Kings won game four, decisively, and game five, and by game six back at Staples, the bandwagon was standing room only. If the Come Back Kids doubted themselves, it never made it out of the locker room. But it must have been pin-droppingly brutal in there down three games to none. Where does the confidence come from?
In the history of the NHL only four teams have overcome such a deficit. The discipline to stay focused on the present in the face of such daunting odds takes nothing short of Zen mastery.
Ignore the papers, ignore the humiliation of letting in fifteen goals in the first three games, ignore the apathy and empty seats, ignore the baseball coverage on the cover of the sports section while playoff hockey is relegated to page eight. Lace ‘em up and hit the ice, boys. The series isn’t over. The fat lady has yet to sing.
The biggest cliché we hear athletes sputter ends up being a fundamental truth. “We’re taking it one game at a time.” Easy to say. Incredibly hard to actually pull off. And the more you shrink the deficit towards evening up a series, the easier it is to get inside your own head. We’re close. We’re closer. We can tie this series. We can actually win this thing.
And the fans start getting hopeful. And the columnists start getting hopeful. And there’s nothing more toxic when striving to fulfill a goal. As the iron willed Nietzsche advised, when faced with “a hard factuality,” what we need is not hope, but “courage in the face of reality.”
The Kings let their actions speak louder than their words. And here in Tinsel Town, the city of perpetual bullshit, that’s a truly praiseworthy achievement. They entered the shark tank without fear and carved the man-eaters into sashimi in royal fashion.
Now it’s onto the next odds against challenge in Anaheim and hopefully, a well cooked Duck a l’Orange.