One night, some friends and I watched a crippled rat crawl out of a sewer grate while we waited for the trolley outside Johnny Brenda’s.
“Hoppy” we called him. He was our friend.
“Go, Hoppy, go!” we cheered as he strolled laboriously through the intersection. For several elated moments, it seemed as though Hoppy had a prolonged existence in front of him, filled with a family of rat babies with fully functioning limbs who he would sadly grow to resent as they were awarded athletic scholarships and he was left at home, popping pills and plummeting into the bottle as his bum leg grew old with him.
And then the headlights hit him.
At first, it seemed impossible. What kind of god would allow such a cruel fate to befall a rat; nature’s bad penny? In the course of a few heartbeats, it became apparent that rats may survive a nuclear firestorm, but the front right tire of a beat-up Saab is a bit too much to handle.
Hoppy was a sickening crunch and a puddle of bones.
Tonight, the headlights hit the Flyers and Sixers as well, but unlike Hoppy, they survived.
“Facing elimination” can’t be a fun way to enter a game. For the Sixers, it was even worse; they could be jettisoned from contention without so much as a panicked gurgle. The douchey Miami Heat were prepared to sweep them, in Philadelphia no less, and they’d do it with the same smarmy self-entitlement that made the Heat the Heat in the first place.
The thing about the Heat is that they feel they deserve to win. When they don’t, they cry and try to actually get sympathy by having childlike pity parties in public. They combined forces and assured the city no less than seven championship rings.
But the worst part is, they will win. At least, they’ll beat us. Yesterday, we kept ourselves alive and did not make it easy for them. A speed bump’s better than an open road. In the face of humiliation, we refused to be embarrassed in our own home. And while the Heat will probably move onto the next round, they will do so knowing they couldn’t even sweep the only team in the NBA that employs Spencer Hawes.
The Flyers, however, are expected to win. And after last year, they are expected to do so as cinematically jaw-dropping as possible. Down 3-0 in Game 5, they came back to tie it after putting Michael Leighton in goal; a sequence of moments that fell one goal shy of Peter Laviolette hastily perfecting time travel in the locker room between the second and third periods. But the Sabres got the stupid winning goal in overtime, setting up yesterday’s blood-pumping, heart-destroying contest that ended with the Flyers pushinga Game 7 in Philly.
Buffalo is one of those towns they show as they cut to commercial that nobody recognizes until there’s text on the screen, but their head coach, Lindy Ruff, is making it easy to hate them. He said the Flyers weren’t tough and his players weren’t intimidated by them. Which is fine, but they seem to be tough enough for his daughter, unlike drinking laws.
So as the Wells Fargo Center fills with orange and the newly healed Chris Pronger glides around the ice like a flying serial killer, there is a simple philosophy that is set to inspire both of the arena’s inhabitants in either sport: A win’s a win. So just keep winning, and stay alive.