I have been a hockey fan all of my life, and a Red Wings fan most of that time (beginning roughly around the time when a certain Minnesota team defected to a state without ice, no I’m not bitter, why?). But here’s the thing about the NHL: the season is LONG. Eighty-two games long, and then the playoffs begin, and each series is at least four and as many as seven games, and if you’re a hockey fan you’re currently reading this and thinking, “Yeah duh, get to the point.” Sorry, that explanation wasn’t directed to you. Many years, I just haven’t had the time or the TV access to get all that invested in the first half of the season, because God forbid they should broadcast a Red Wings game in New York more than once a year.
This season has been different. I’ve been in it since the preseason. Actually, I’ve been in it since last season, because once the lockout ended, I was like a desert wanderer happening upon an unexpected pond: you don’t just drink a little, you fling your entire body into the water. And I may have been paying more attention than usual to the development program in the last few years, so it was fun to see the young guys come up and play a part in the end of the season.
Basically the point of all this is that I’ve fallen off the deep end this year. Getting game updates on my phone became subscribing to Gamecenter so I can watch any game I want, you know, if I had endless amounts of free time. Twitter, once a world of occasional ministry observations, has been subsumed by the live-tweeting of games and a stream of commentary between. I spend a piece of every day reviewing blogs and columns about the last night’s happenings. I STAYED HOME TO WATCH 24/7. And then I watched it again, because I wanted to know if it really was that boring or if my expectations were too high (both, but I enjoyed it more the second time around).
In a fairly short period of time, my whole vocabulary and frame of reference seem to have shifted. It’s not that I didn’t know the terminology before (although…behold, the brave new world of advanced statistics!), I just didn’t use it on a regular basis. The number of things my brain relates to hockey events is astounding. Unfortunately, no one around me has the slightest idea what I’m talking about when I let these thoughts exit my mouth. Suddenly I find myself ranting about incidents no one has heard of, pontificating on the merits of this, that, or the other thing that no one cares about, and answering questions that no one has asked.
And that, my friends, sounds suspiciously like the contemporary church.
There is a place for ponderously detailed discussion of this sport that some of us so deeply love. Apparently that place is called “Twitter,” although I do wish I could separate out my followers into categories so that the theology crowd wouldn’t be bored by my hockey ranting. That place is NOT anywhere there happens to be a pair of ears at close range. And on the rare occasion when a non-fan is interested, it’s best not to lambast them with a barrage of Corsi numbers, obscure game references, and unfamiliar names.
And there is a place for internal wrangling about minute theological topics. Here’s looking at you, my fellow church order wonks. There might even be a place to discuss things like whether there is a war on Christmas. That’s a stretch, but I’ll leave room for the possibility. I’m just not sure that’s a discussion best held in broad public space, where we subject unknowing bystanders to a conversation they don’t care about and often can’t escape. But don’t worry. If you start that conversation with me, I’ll be happy to discuss the length of Shawn Thornton’s recent suspension.