The Hockey Muse Strikes Once More

“Be true to your school,” the song goes. The suggestion is nice, but is it useful? Such devotion is common, if not completely so. But we don’t need people to tell us how to cheer. Most of us will do so without prompting; others will be immune to prompting. So why bother?

I went to see college hockey for the first time in months, which is nothing weird–I tend to go to the rink just once or twice per winter. But this time, it’s different; I’m only in town for the long weekend. Luckily for me, the competitors don’t get this weekend off. Otherwise, when could I see them?

There’s no risk of untruthfulness, though–I didn’t switch to rooting for would-be opponents. Only indifference. It’s not my school I would be deserting, either. Growing up is perilous, whichever sport you follow–is it ridiculous to look up to heroes if you’re no longer younger? College sports supporters just hit this level of doubt more quickly, even if they go or went somewhere else.

So it’s not just the college you pick which cries out for your truthfulness in the end. It could be your onetime niche in the world–country, city, something defined subjectively but nevertheless luring you in with the promise of identity. Or something simpler–the ridiculous pep music with its historic insults. The legend whose picture rises on the edge of the building, who grew up blocks from where you did. The rink you go to so often. The people who go there with you, who love you. It’s enough to deserve truth.

It’s enough for me to cherish the opportunity to focus through the scoreless first period. To hook up to university wi-fi, Googling the school song’s lyrics. To cheer when they (we?) score in the second, then three more times in the third. Every time the light turns on (except once, when it looked like the others were definitely going to score, except for our netminder plucking it down) we sing out this wonderful reprise. By the end, it’s memorized.

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