After a seven year absence, the Stanley Cup is coming back to Pittsburgh. The Penguins laid waste to their final foe in San Jose last evening with a strong defensive showing, superb goaltending, and a total team effort that accurately depicted the character and resolve of the 2015-2016 NHL champions. The result was one most fans, myself included, thought would be the norm after they hoisted Lord Stanley’s fabled Cup in 2009. However, year after year of shortcomings and missed opportunities kept us all waiting impatiently, celebratory cigars unlit and rare, special beers left capped for another occasion.
The Penguins’ biggest victory of the season, while still sweet and well-deserved for a squad all but doomed when the calendar flipped to 2016, happened just hours after the worst mass shooting in our country’s history in Orlando. The juxtaposition of events that transpired these past two days are a reminder what a whirlwind of events and emotions life can be. As fans of a sport and choosing this form of entertainment as our outlet for temporary escape, we figuratively live and die by our team’s accomplishments and defeats. But as we return from that escape, we face the fact that we live in a world often times riddled with injustice. And while the decisions of a few look to jeopardize what billions have fought for, it’s imperative we never lose sight of the power humankind wields.
In 2001, a small group of college kids from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford traveled to New York City at the end of September and saw up close what was the tragedy of 9/11. We went because we made a decision, conscious or unconscious, to not let an act of terrorism dictate how we lived our lives. Our plans had been made for weeks. It would’ve been easy to stay home fearing more was to follow. But we chose to live our lives. We chose to stand up to terrorism, even if in the smallest of ways. We were humbled by what we saw. But we didn’t let terrorism keep us from experiencing life.
Humankind is powerful. We continue to fight. We continue to live. We continue to search for a way to put an end to these vicious attacks and, hopefully one day in either ours, our children’s, or our children’s children’s generation, live in a world where all of this bullshit is simply content in a history book.
While happiness overflows in Pittsburgh today, we remember our brothers and sisters in Orlando who were effected by this horrible act. While we celebrate the heroism of the Pens and their victory on the ice, we celebrate even more so the bravery of all those men and women who helped the hurt and the wounded in the face of one of life’s scariest scenarios. Those who stand up to terrorism, fight for our freedom to enjoy our teams of choice pursue championships, and make a difference in a world constantly stricken with heinous acts like this past Saturday evening…those are our heroes.
Here we are, Pittsburgh. A unified city with something major to celebrate. There’s the anticipation of the Cup literally making it back to town transported by the athletes, coaches, training staff, and front office who pulled it all together at just the right time. There’s the anticipation of professional sports’ most gorgeous trophy once again making its way into Pittsburgh watering holes and #66’s swimming pool. There’s the anticipation of 250,000+ fans gathered to see the grand march down the streets of the City of Champions sometime this week.
But while that anticipation becomes reality, let’s not forget those who lost their lives in Orlando this past weekend, as well as those who’ve lost their lives defending the country we love and those who’ve fallen fate to the terrorist acts of days past.
Life is precious. Full of highs, full of lows. Let’s celebrate our heroes in black and gold while we celebrate our heroes fighting the fight for life and freedom each and every day.
Cheers, and Godspeed.