A reasonably haggard group of Internet commenters walk into a warmly-lit converted board room. The standard table-and-shitty-seats has been replaced with poofy chairs that were probably comfy when the agency bought them. The more resolute of the group still wear burgundy and white out of sheer defiance, but most of them are clad in their bereavement black. One wears a Rockies jersey. A group member stops at the coffee pot, checking whether it's warm (it isn't) before sitting with everyone else. Trailing the group is a 31-year old mother of two young kids who basically looks exactly like a stereotypical therapist to keep you from breaking your immersion here. She takes a non-powerful spot in the circle as the door slowly clicks shut.
"Well everyone," she says, "it's been more than a month. Don't you think it's time we start to process what happened?"
One of the bereft scoots forward in his chair and runs his hand along his head like that guy in Walking Dead.
"Welp," I begin, "I guess someone has to go first.
"The first sign of trouble was the tying goal in the third. When you're ahead late in Game Seven, unless you're LA apparently, you know the next goal is going to win. An Adjective scored that goal and it became waiting for the crushing inevitable. 'Not like this,' I thought.
"Not that dropping the game winner hurt any less because I expected it. It was still a fucking gut punch to the diaphragm. Can I say words like that?" The leader nods, looking expectantly for anyone to take issue, and they do not. "Cool. And so I dropped off. I have hardly watched a game of what I've seen Twitter call over and over some of the best playoffs hockey we've seen in years. I hardly missed a game the last two postseasons. The hurting was too Mystery Science Theater deep, man. I just couldn't. I half-assed watched game seven of LA-Chicago while I played a game and I took in game one of the Final but haven't engaged at all since. I've barely participated in our player grades. I've not written a thing. Not a single motivation to return to that... feel. Being a non-playoff team ever since I've actively re-engaged as a hockey fan, I've never understood why fans quit watching when their team is done. It's the freaking playoffs! I get it now.
"Game one of the final, by the way, that felt pretty familiar eh? The faster team gets out to a hot start and even takes a 2-0 lead before the team who possesses the puck better and has more experience just absolutely dominates later on. All the way down to dropping it in overtime. It was like watching a one-game version of our series. I couldn't care any more. Especially after winning game one in overtime, jumping up and running around the living room, man I was just absolutely whalloped at work the next day because I couldn't sleep that night. Too jazzed. It was like watching Liquid win the baserace against iG last International," he adds, in a reference that he's fully aware makes less than five readers really really happy and confuses all the others. "They were just... doing it. Then to come out and stomp game two?
"I guess Josh was right after all. This is a team that has accomplished absolutely nothing. They have won regular season games which are, at the end of the day, the real preseason. And suddenly because we were seeded higher, we just fuckin expected to burn on through not the Wild, no, not the first opponent, the second one. 'Holy shit you guys, we can take Chicago, we could make it to the conference finals completely reasonably, and from there it's a hot goaltender from the Cup!' This team that has won exactly 2 playoff games since 2008, we just, fuckin, we just expect them to walk into the second round and maybe beat a team that they've for some reason 'had their number' in the regular season lately? Of course we're spoiled if that's what we think is just coming our way.
"Of course it didn't help that the team they lost to was the spoiled goddamn little sibling of the NHL, and I don't know, maybe the daddy's girl is a sexist archetype, but that's what comes to mind for them. Despite their team being absolutely the definition of not interesting they fixate about the tiniest drama and howl when you don't pay attention to them or give them what they want, until finally Cliff just buys them the expensive Parise and Suter he can't really afford--but he, of course, blames that on anyone but himself. But enough I mean... it just made losing suck a little more that it was to such a nonfactor in the overall scheme of the playoffs. You always want to lose to the Cup winner. 'At least it was the best team in the League knocked us out.'
"That's just my feelings about losing game seven. I dunno if it makes any sense. And sure we all say the right things after. It's a good team, it's a good future, it's an exciting time, but it was like listening to the losing team's post game interview. You know they're just saying whatever gets them out that door to go stew and be depressed fastest. Maybe somewhere we think these silver lining things but for right this minute fucking ow.
"I know there was a lot to learn from it. I know the players can learn how they have to play in the playoffs, how they have to elevate their game. I know the team can learn that hey you know maybe, when Varly is less than superhuman, this team is not anywhere close to challenging for the top of the conference. They hopefully should learn that controlled breakouts get you to the Final, and throwing it off the glass sends you home. God I'm still actively pissed about that. It's a turnover. It's not the safe play. It's giving the other team a free setup into your zone. Stop doing it. And we as fans have a good deal to learn too, or re-learn maybe, but we aren't going to get there, or I can't speak for you guys I guess, but at least for myself, I know I'm not going to get there until I get past this bullshit. Why does summer have to suck so hard?"
He throws himself back into the seat. "Thank you, Steven," the leader says with a soft half-smile.
"Steve, if you don't mind."
"Sure. Does anyone else have anything they'd like to say on why they're here? Or maybe the better question, why they've been away?"