The City That Couldn’t Sleep

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Morning came early today in Boston. Most mornings around here, day breaks on a sleeping city. Alarms bleep, sunlight creeps across the floor, a bird or two starts in outside the window, and Bostonians rumble reluctantly into the day. Most mornings, we’d all just rather be asleep.

Not this morning.

On this Wednesday in June, dawn was, for Bruins fans, merely a formality. We were up already. Couldn’t sleep a wink last night. In fact, probably haven’t had a good night’s sleep all week.

Hyperbole? Not a chance. If you think missing a little sleep during Cup Week is hyperbolic, then you, my friend, were decidedly not at the Garden on Monday night.

You weren’t there before the game, either, on the fourth floor of the Greatest Bar, in the Boston Room, barreling through a pile of Narragansetts as a black-and-gold sea roiled around you. You didn’t see a roomful of fans seethe at the televisions whenever Vancouver’s colors appeared. You didn’t see a father eating dinner with his son, the big man leaning over a table of wings and Diet Cokes to chat about the game with his boy, didn’t see the smile on the father’s face or notice that the boy’s wheelchair was painted black and gold. You didn’t see ESPN’s Chris Berman sitting there at the end of the bar, his giant stomach smoothing the folds of a Hawaiian shirt, excited men ringing his stool like peasants at the foot of a king. You weren’t accosted by a small, blonde woman who looked a little like Tim Thomas (same haircut, no beard) and who socked you in the chest with her surprisingly powerful little fist, yelling “WHAT’S MY LAST NAME? WHAT’S MY LAST NAME?” until you yelled back, at her behest, “ORR! IT’S ORR! FOR GOD’S SAKE YOUR LAST NAME IS ORR!”

You didn’t climb on Monday to the last row of the Garden for the 40th or some-odd time in the last nine months, shaking hands and greeting friends you don’t know by name but have come to regard as friends. You missed it when a fellow season ticket holder rose from his yellow seat before the anthem, his hat torn and drenched in beer, and implored the Bruins player taking the opening draw to “PUNCH THEM IN THE MOUTH BEFORE THE FACEOFF!” Then, when the anthem started, you didn’t cup your ears and strain to hear Rene Rancourt’s singing, its loudspeakered swell drowned out by the fans singing along. You definitely weren’t in the men’s room midway through the first period when, after Nathan Horton appeared on the video screen and the Garden began to hum and sway with screams, a small boy peered up at his father at the urinal next to him and said, “Dad. This is crazy.”

“I know,” the boy’s father replied. “I know it’s crazy. That’s why we’re here. If we were at home, Mom would tell us to be quiet.”

If you slept well this week, you probably aren’t one of the two fans I saw at Game 7 of the Canadiens series wearing white F*CK THE HABS t-shirts, both female, their faces ringed by cotton candy perms, neither one a day under 75.

If you slept well this week, you probably aren’t Cam Neely, the Bruins president, who played for two Stanley Cups but never won one. You probably aren’t Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who set his sights on a Cup at the February trade deadline and brought Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly on board. You probably aren’t Shawn Thornton, who lives in Charlestown, buys his steaks at a mom-and-pop shop in Medford, and has said that he’ll reside in Boston for the rest of his life. And you definitely aren’t Tim Thomas, the can’t-do, never-will, won’t-amount-to-nothin’, ’53 Hudson Hornet of a goalie who didn’t even start in the NHL until age 31 but has since won one – ah, make it two – Vezinas, the breathless praise of every lifelong puckhead with a pen or a microphone or a bar stool soapbox, and the chance, this very night, to Paul Bunyon his way to an audience with the Stanley Bleepin’ Cup.

In short, if you slept well this week you aren’t him, or me, or the homeless man I saw holding court this morning in his usual spot outside Border’s, his standard uniform of worn gray pants and a ratty green flannel accessorized today by a vintage Bruins jacket, frankly startling in its spotlessness, similar in style to the one the players award to each game’s MVP, the same one left hanging in Nathan Horton’s locker after he was felled by Aaron Rome in Game 3. Somehow, this gleaming, immaculate coat had found its way to this man’s shoulders, and he sported it proudly as he chatted animatedly about the game with three buddies, while all around him strolled people wearing Bruins t-shirts and jerseys and hats, kids and adults, butchers and businessmen, the young and the old. I didn’t recognize these people, don’t know any of them from Adam, but I know this: no matter what they call home, whether it’s an apartment in Southie, a rambling house in Weston, or a corner of curb in Downtown Crossing, none of them slept well last night, not a one, and they won’t sleep well tonight either, win or lose.

Do it for them, guys. Do it for fathers who eat dinner with their sons. Do it for grandmothers who want to see another Cup before the lights go out for good. Do it for kids in Natick who undoubtedly are at this very moment setting up street hockey goals in a cul-de-sac and arguing over who gets to be Tim Thomas, or Milan Lucic, or Shawn Thornton. Do it for the babies at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital who with their tiny white Bruins hats deserve to nurse from Lord Stanley’s Cup. Do it for a city like ours, a city with fierce pride in its hockey history, a city which is, right now, right outside my window, thrumming with energy and excitement, a city full of people who care so much about the Bruins that they simply cannot fall asleep.

After the 2008-2009 Bruins season ended on a Scott Walker overtime goal, my mom sent me an email.

“Tom, I’m sorry the season ended for the Bruins last night,” she wrote. “Dad and I watched the game and thought of you being part of the live crowd. Glad the sun came out and hope that you have a good day. Love, Mom.” Seven months later, after a long battle with cancer, she passed away.

There’s a Game 7 tonight in Vancouver. One team will win, the other will lose, and tomorrow the sun will come out. But, man, it’ll sure shine brighter if the Bruins win, won’t it?

I don’t think I’d sleep for a week.

  1. Hey Tom! Congratulations on your Bruins’ victory–how sweet….We were thrilled for Tim Thomas….Great article. loved the ending. Say hi to Kate…..c u in July….(Kate’s aunt) Karen

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