Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Month: An Ocean of Emotion

“Let it go, let it go, this is smaller than you know…”

“Let it Go” – Great Big Sea, (Something Beautiful)

On March 18, as the Boston Bruins were about to lose to Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins, anger’s undertow threatened to drag me down into the dark water of discontent. My frustration wasn’t with the players but rather with the fans who jeered—“the Bronx Cheer” at Tuukka Rask, after he made a routine save.

A friend told me to take the fans’ reaction with a grain of salt. They’re just frustrated, he wrote in an e-mail.

His comment made sense, but as the Bruins play improved after that 0–3 loss, waves of frustration crashed over me; some fans persisted in booing Dennis Wideman, seemingly every time the defenseman touched the puck.

Deep breaths, walk away from the radio and the commentary, I would tell myself. Just a game.

But this resentment has been like a red tide, ebbing and flowing, often sneaking up on me. Letting go, only to be surprised by its toxic return.

Why has the negativity bothered me? Booing strikes me as lazy. Uncreative. Unproductive.

A few weeks later, NESN commentator “Mad Mike” Milbury called out fans who continued to boo Wideman, saying “…It’s not working…the effort is there….” I sat in front of my TV and applauded, thus alerting my still-seething anger that its free-loading pal, pride, had surfaced.

Then, on April 10, Peter Chiarelli, his comments published in the Boston Globe, expressed the same disdain and disappointment in the booing, the singling-out of one player. And my faux friends surfaced once again, attempting to sink my spirit.

Shipwrecked, I asked myself again: Why is this bothering me?

What has nagged at me more than the jeering and booing has been my reaction to the negativity; I’ve been mad at myself for being mad at the angry people.

This absurdity prompted me to reach for my hockey bible: The Complete Hockey Player, by Dr. Saul Miller, and I was buoyed by these words on pages 28–29:

“The neck and shoulders are an area where most athletes tense when they experience fear…check your body for tension from time to time. If you notice it the neck, shoulders or hands, remember to release and breathe. Always release and breathe.”

As I inhaled and then exhaled, I could feel the tension drain from my deltoids.

Later that day—three short-handed goals and an empty-netter (against the Carolina Hurricanes) later—I was ecstatic that the Black-and-Gold clinched a playoff birth.

Now, almost a month after that loss to the Penguins, I find myself revisiting Dr. Miller’s book more regularly, to rediscover lessons I’ve learned but sometimes forget. For example, the good doctor references (pages 17–18) an NHL All-Star who says that praying for the people that trigger his anger prompts improved performance.

“You’ve got to find a way to focus on the positive,” the All-star says, “Prayer made the difference for me.”

Amen, brother. Letting go, a great big relief.
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