“It’s some bullshit at the Bulls game!” the man yelled. “Imma get me a yellow vest and make me some money. I’ll make sixteen hundred dollars some other way, ha HA!”
The man with the vest ignored the yelling man and crossed the street. I started to realize how wrong a turn I had made.
On Tuesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks lost 1-0 to the Anaheim Ducks after Devante Smith-Pelly scored with what the Tribune called a “nifty stick-handling move.”
On Tuesday night, with 20 minutes left on the car share car, I turned a small, Enterprise-owned Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car left onto Madison Street, not knowing the game was letting out with a sea of red jerseys and booze buses blasting “Chelsea Dagger.”
Mine was not a nifty move.
The first clue something was awry was the pedicabs, those bicycle/rickshaws that have taken over Chicago tourist events the last five or so years. First one, then another, slowly growing in number like the playground scene in “The Birds,” if you replace Tippi Hedren’s attack crows with thin, angry men pedaling unsmiling tourists through an October night.
Then, the red jerseys. Men, women, children, all laughing and cheering (some stumbling) as they poured out of the United Center in waves and waves of red like the elevator door scene in “The Shining” if we want to keep the classic horror film metaphors rolling.
Now there is a word that sports fans don’t like to hear, but one that is accurate nonetheless. It’s a pre-existing word that describes when someone, for whatever reason, decides to dress as the people they see on TV.
That word is “cosplay.”
When sports fans dress in the special jerseys of Kane, Toews or any of the other star Blackhawks, they are not making a special homage to a beloved figure. They’re cosplaying, as surely as any “Game of Thrones”-garbed nerd at Comic Con.
They dress in someone else’s work uniform. It would be like wearing a janitor’s shirt that says “Lenny” because Lenny mops really well.
I like sports, I do. I don’t care for them as much as, say art, or music, or movies, or literature, or theater, or cooking, or grammar, or webcomics, or free point-and-click games online, or… I forgot where I was going with this.
But somehow it seems sports fans get a bye on the absolute nerdery of their passion.
Sports fandom seems to the outsider to be based on cosplay, obsession and memorizing long lists of numbers. How much time must it take to quiz yourself on standings, wins, losses, free throw percentage, average time on ice, ERAs, RBIs, opponent third down conversions in the red zone in games played on natural grass against left-handed quarterbacks of Dutch origin whose mothers’ maiden names had consecutive vowels?
They stare at Patrick Kane in a shirt that claims they’re Patrick Kane and somehow they’re the cool ones?
Mired in a sea of sports fans in a small electric car, I thought about all these things. I inched the car down the road in an effort to get home.