Very Superstitious: A Game in the Life of a Ranger Fan
By Jeff Yerger
“The Rangers shrine, you know, with the towel and everything?” “Wha… oh geez! I can’t believe I forgot it.”
“No wonder we’re losing,” my sister chirps from the other side of the room. At this point, we need all the help we can get. It’s Game 5 of the series between the Rangers and the Washington Capitals, and time is running out for our beloved Blueshirts who are down 2-1 with only a few minutes left in the third period. How could we have been so stupid to let an error like this go unnoticed?
My family, including my uncle and a few cousins, is gathered around our living room in our rightful game-time spots where we sit every game. My mother, as she searches for the Rangers “shrine”, sits in a chair to the right of my father, who is on the couch with me. My seat for every Rangers game is at the end of that couch, with my legs stretched out on the coffee table, and I have to sit on my hands unless I’m reaching for a beer. It’s a wonder my hands don’t turn into the color of my Rangers sweater by the end of the night. My poor sister and her boyfriend have to share a chair to my left, because one night during the season they were sitting in MY spot while I had to sit in that crappy, unfamiliar chair, and the Rangers lost badly to the Penguins. Needless to say, they haven’t taken my spot since.
“Got it!” My mom finished setting up the shrine, which consists of a Rangers playoff rally towel laid flat on a table next to my mom. She then places a tacky light-up St. Anthony statue no bigger than my index finger on the towel’s Rangers logo for added help. “Thank God,” says my dad, who leans forward as if he’s got the Stanley Cup strapped to his back, eyes glued to the television. Thank God is right though, because with two minutes left in the third and a 3-2 series deficit looming, things aren’t looking so great for our boys and I’m ready to throw my beer bottle at the TV.
How could this be happening? I think to myself. I did all the right things. I’m wearing my lucky shamrock underwear (because, you know, the Rangers wins are dependent upon what underwear I choose to put on that day). I have my blue Ranger jersey on, because last game I wore my heritage jersey and they lost. Heck, I even listened to my unofficial Rangers 2011-12 season theme song, “Midnight City” by M83, earlier in the day (the song played at the end of the second episode of HBO’s 24/7 series; all I picture is Henrik Lundqvist driving off in slow motion with a big grin on his face after a good win in Phoenix).
Despite all this, the same old Rangers-Caps story is being re-run on NBC right before my eyes, and loads of questions begin to flood my brain. Why can’t we seem to beat these guys in the playoffs? Are we destined to do this year after year, like some cruel punishment from the hockey gods for signing Brashear? Will my old college roommate from D.C. ever stop gloating about his bandwagon Capitals? Ugh! I can’t help but wonder if this whole thing is my fault. Perhaps I missed a step in my pre-game routine.
Suddenly, a gift in the form of a high stick via Joel Ward brings a four-minute man advantage for the Rangers. Maybe it was the shrine they needed after all. Okay okay, I think to myself, don’t get overly excited. 21.3 seconds? There’s no way. I notice that my heart is racing, and my hands that I’m sitting on have become uncomfortably numb. Gotta stay focused. Gotta help the Rangers concentrate. I lean in as the teams line up for the faceoff. The referee drops the puck and my heart is beating so loud I can barely hear Doc Emrick wailing about “waffleboards” and “ricochets” on the TV. The puck seems to be bouncing everywhere, like a bad pinball machine at a dive bar. But just as the clock begins to take its final breath… redemption! The hockey gods smile upon Brad Richards, who to this day I will never figure out how the heck he got that puck through to the net, but he did and it was glorious.
My whole family roars with excitement, jumping, hugging, and screaming. I feel like if I jumped just a little bit higher, I’d be able to fly. Then to top things off and save my heart from another three-overtime game, Marc Staal nets the game-winner in timely fashion. Halleluiah! We did it! It was one of those games Ranger fans will talk about and remember forever. Maybe it was the shrine, maybe it was my underwear, or maybe it was some sort of superstition I haven’t even thought of yet. Whatever it was, the Rangers won, and that’s all that matters now.
We all have our superstitions, right? It’s the type thing only a Ranger fan can relate to. My best friend and his father, who has had season tickets since the ‘70s, must sit in the same seats every game. My friend won’t even drink while watching the Rangers only because he wants to help them concentrate as much as he can. Meanwhile, the guy in the seats next to them has about 20 Ranger pins on his hat and a lucky toothpick from 1994 he brings with him to every game.
I remember watching “Oh Baby”, the Rangers Stanley Cup video, when I was little, and they interviewed this woman before Game 7 of the Finals. She said her brother HAS to listen to the game in the bathroom because every time he does, the Rangers win. Poor guy, though it obviously worked, and I’m sure there were plenty of moments during that game when he was glad he was sitting on his toilet seat. There was this other dude from the video who brought his lucky Lone Ranger silver bullet to the game, clearly doing his part to help his beloved Rangers break that pesky 54-year curse. These people deserve rings for their efforts!
Superstitions are all part of the fun. Heck, even the players have their own pre-game rituals: taping/re-taping sticks, listening to music, putting equipment on in a certain order. Man, I was so attached to this year’s team that I would do anything to help them win, even if it meant wearing a certain pair of underwear on game-day. It’s not an easy job being a Ranger fan, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and next year I’ll do it all over again.
AP photo, above.