Well, right now (two hours before puck drop) might not be the best time to write this entry but… it might also be the very best time.
You see, if you’ve dropped off the face of the earth in the past week, our mighty ‘Guins have somehow lost three straight games to none other than the Filthadelphia Flyers. (What I’ve just told you is basically the equivalent of someone saying they dropped their Terrible Towel in the mud and then let their neighbor’s dog chew it up and poop it out.)
It hasn’t been pretty: our defense has been absent in key moments, Fleury hasn’t been on his game, and Geno has somehow been held scoreless across the series. On Sunday, in an attempt to help turn the tide, we headed down to Uncle Mario’s TV outside the Consol to root on the Pens with the home crowd.
The Big Screen is a tradition that started here in Pittsburgh during the 2008 playoffs (which we had to watch in a tiny corner booth at our favorite Irish pub in Burbank, CA), but by this point, it sure feels like it’s been around forever. Most years, the locally-broadcast playoff games (on our home station of Root Sports) are televised on this massive screen outside the arena. But this year, we somehow won the battle against NBC, and the games televised on that channel are also available on the Big Screen. This was one of those games. (But lucky for you, I won’t put you through all of my frustrations with the jagoffs that commentate on the NBC games.)
You can bring snacks and drinks with you, though none of the alcoholic sort, and since it’s on grass, you can’t bring a grill. There are a ton of pizza shops in walking distance, so we watched people bringing pies back to their seats throughout the entire game. We stopped at our favorite Sunday afternoon spot, Fuel n Fuddle and got an order of their nachos and ‘Rosemary’s Breasts’ chicken sandwich. Everything was a little melty by the time we got into our seats, but still delicious!
We even had a celebrity sighting! Mikey and Big Bob (who do my favorite morning radio program, The Freak Show on 96.1FM) host the events at Mario’s TV and get the crowd pumped up, handing out Pens prizes to some of the best- (and worst-) dressed fans.
Unfortunately, our Pens needed more than luck to get through that game. Game 3 turned out to be a total Slapshot-esque goon-fest with more fights than I remember seeing across the rest of our matchups with the Flyers this season. We just weren’t playing well, and our boys responded to that frustration in mostly negative ways (although there was this brilliant move by Sid the Kid to tap away Jakub Voracek’s glove that made us crack up).
While the game was disappointing on the whole (we lost 8-4, Flower got pulled, like 27 of our players were suspended and there was a combined 158 penalty minutes across both teams), it was fun as hell to be at the Big Screen with everyone. We did have at least four reasons to cheer, and the crowd got SO into it each time we scored. (Well, except for the people in front of us, it appears from this picture. I promise you, they were cheering, even if not standing!)
I can imagine how this place must be during a home playoff game. We chose to go on an away game for our first visit to Mario’s TV, since we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but I know that we’ll be back again. There’s nothing like watching the game with a few hundred of your newest friends, nothing like the electricity in the air when the ‘Guins score a goal.
While the Pens are in danger of ending the season tonight, I, for one, still have faith. Yes, it will be tough. Yes, the odds are against us. But these are the Penguins we’re talking about. This is, in my opinion, the best damn team in hockey, with the best damn players in the league. And as my old softball coach, Coach Kenny, used to say, “It only takes one.” And right now, that’s all we need. One win. And then one more. And then one more. And then one more.
And we can do it.
LET’S GO PENS! BELIEVE!