Last night, 15 June 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup once again, the third time in six years and the sixth time total.
It almost seems paradoxical that I would live in a city so fanatical over team sports as it is; I have noted before that I do not quite understand such fanaticism as I myself am not that interested in team sports. I am, however, highly fascinated with sports fans. I find their zeal, enthusiasm, passion rather curiously intriguing. It therefore makes much sense for someone like me to live in Chicago, then, as this city is absolutely crazy over “da Beairs,” “da Bulls,” “da Sox,” “da Hox,” and, fiercely yet futilely, “da Cubs.” Simply put, I am a fan of fans.
With a 3-2 game lead going into Game 6 last night, there was a possibility of the Hawks winning the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938. It therefore behoved me to be out with a camera as every single bar, every single place with a television of some sort, would be jam packed with fans adorned in red and white. Despite the torrential rain storm, I decided to be out in the thick of it. My original plans of meeting up with a few friends at a bar up north and west of the city to watch the game fell through, so instead of capturing the reactions of fans in one location, I roamed around downtown. I had intermittent thoughts of venturing up to Wrigleyville where a Cubs game was postposed to document the fans around the slew of bars along Clark Street. Ultimately, I decided against it. Although when it comes to photography I often espouse the spirit of, “who dares wins,” I was already feeling a bit physically fatigued from being bogged down in the rain. While the M-65 field jacket I wore last night is touted by its manufacturer, Alpha Industries, as “water resistant,” that does not mean that it is waterproof, as I have come to discover. That said, my Canon 7D held up quite well in what was essentially a monsoon last night.
At around 21:45, with about 10 minutes left on the clock, the Hawks were leading 2-0 against their opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Chicago police has already begun closing off streets in anticipation of a win. Chicagoans can get a bit rowdy to say the least. (See Into the wild green yonder.) I found myself bouncing around several bars in River North, at one point watching the game from outside through a window along with several police officers.
With only 2 minutes left on the clock, fans began taking out their smart phones to record sports history in the making. At 21:56 (on my watch at least), the clock hit zero; the Hawks had won, 2-0. As the crowds screamed and waved their arms in the air, I quietly said to a police officer standing next to me outside, “And so it begins.” He nodded and said, “Yeah . . . “ followed by a sigh and a look of concern.
I wandered around for an hour afterwards, encountering overjoyed fans shouting and screaming, cars passing by with horns honking in victory, and the sound of “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis (the Hawk’s goal song) playing in the air. I could not help but to feel like an outsider, though. Admittedly, the only reason why I myself wanted the Hawks to win was so that I would have rowdy fans to observe and document. Eventually, my mind recalled to a first date I had five years ago with a girl who thought it was bizarre that I was not into team sports such as football and baseball. I never heard from her since.
As I entered the Red Line station at Grand later that night, I once again had to make a decision: head south to catch the bus home to Hyde Park and rest, or head north to Wrigleyville and right into the powder keg for which the area is known. I choose the former. I was certain that whatever I would encounter in the chaos of Wrigleyville would be redundant to what I had already captured downtown to some extent. In choosing to take the train south into the Loop, I found myself in a packed train car chatting up with fans and doing what I do best—photographing them.