I’m not one to normally wear my emotions on my sleeve. I pride myself on my ability to keep a cool head no matter what I’m dealing with. While there are moments where I let my feelings show (I’m neither Vulcan nor robot), I usually keep them on the back burner to be used as needed.
If one is a spectator at a sporting event, one is expected to show a basic level of emotion throughout, whether it be when something good happens for the team of your choice, when something bad happens to the team you want bad things to happen to, or even during non sports-related events, such as during the playing of the national anthem or when the home team honors a veteran. For when all of these events occur during a game I’ll show the required amount of emotion required, whether it be standing, clapping, whatever, but rarely do I go crazy. If the Mets won the World Series I’d go crazy, trust me, but I’d rather not go to a game and lose my mind every single time anything one thing happens; that’s just not worth the emotional energy. Depending on the game and the company I’m with, I’ll often watch games in stoic silence, discussing the plays or making fun of athletes when required.
I was at an Islanders hockey game today when late in the third period the Islanders scored their fifth goal of the game. Whenever a home hockey team scores a goal the arena goes nuts, and the Barclays Center is no exception. After a round of fog horn blasts, several call and responses of “Woo!” and repeated chants of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” goals seem to be adequately celebrated. I participated in these post-scoring rituals as someone who isn’t Jewish might approach dancing the Horah at a Bar Mitzvah party, doing my best to following the lead of experienced fans. By the time the fifth goal was scored I pretty much knew what to expect and performed my spectatorly duty well enough.
Imagine my surprise, then, when after that fifth goal the man sitting next to me had the audacity to try to force me to give him a congratulatory high five, as if he were John Tavares himself! I was minding my own business clapping after the goal when I felt a quick nudge on my shoulder. I looked to my left and saw the man standing up, holding his hand near my face in a open invitation to slap palms. Hadn’t I done enough in to celebrate in his eyes by clapping my hands? Had I done something to make this man believe that I wasn’t a real fan, and this was his test to prove for certain whether I was or wasn’t? I really didn’t want give this man the satisfaction of a high five, given how forceful he was in expecting one. If the goal had broken a 4-4 tie that would have been one thing, but being a tack-on goal in a 5-2 game just didn’t inspire the same level of passion in me as in him.
Alas, I appeased the man and allowed my hand to meet his in the middle. I didn’t want to have to sit next to this guy for the remainder of the game having him resent me (especially since he had already downed a few beers), and I knew I couldn’t just leave him hanging. I think he sensed my apprehension, though, and didn’t try to engage me for the rest of the game, which I appreciated. There must have been something welling up inside of him that caused his emotions to boil over, leading him to try to high five everyone within arm’s reach. I, on the other hand, was fine with my own reserved gesture.
Call me when the Islanders win the Stanley Cup and I’ll get a little more excited.