Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Modern Artifact

The Stanley Cup walked past me last Friday. I suffered through an all-company meeting at my day-job to be rewarded with a hearty view of the mythical cup, carried by two gloved handlers. The victorious Chicago Blackhawks were celebrating a post-parade after-party in the hotel lobby that hosted the company meeting. Needless to say, the Stanley Cup is a beautiful object.

After the meeting, I found myself at the Art Institute, wandering through the lackluster Matisse exhibit, and stopping to study the vibrant H.C. Westermann and accompanying printmaking exhibit. En route, passing through the antiquity sculpture room that features stone Buddhas and ancient artifacts, I couldn’t help but think about how neatly the Stanley Cup would fit in this room. After watching the Hawks hold and kiss the cup, parade around with the cup, drink libations from the cup and even tongue the cup (thanks Patrick Kane), it’s hard not to compare today’s athletes with Greek Gods and the cup as manifesting intense masculine power-- homoerotic, warlike, pagan, communal, victorious, spiritual.

The parade was pure Chicago-- loud, colorful, raucous with a hearty mix of die-hard Blackhawks fans and drool-case lemmings who crave any excuse to join an outdoor party and glom onto somebody else’s success. Traveling on the el to work that morning, it was a unique spectacle to view a large cross-section of worshippers of the athletic apollos-- many bloated, drunken, out-of-shape humans donning their favorite player’s names on the uniform and saying idiotic declarations such as “we did it,” as if they trained, strategized and shed blood and teeth along with the players. Incidentally, when a team wins, the mantra is “we did it,” but when a team loses, it’s “THEY lost." I wonder why sports fans don’t try harder to emulate their heroes-- like run some laps and engage in some physical activity besides guzzling cheap beer, huffing nachos and staring at the television.

I love sports, but generally dislike sports fans. But I understand the excitement this tournament generated, nonetheless. The Blackhawks were fierce and beautifully focused.... artful.

Sometimes I feel as if technology encourages people to occupy such a mentally remote space within society at large that we are distancing ourselves from history at an alarming rate. Scrolling through tweets and status updates, humans seem to float within their personal bubbles of reality. And despite the addictive nature of this activity, it perhaps makes people feel more alone than anything else. And as social people in an individualistic world, we crave community. So, when a sports team wins, people grasp onto some form of communal joy that unites a city or country, and reminds us all that human beings really haven’t changed much through the course of history. And the Stanley Cup is a symbol of this perceived communal victory.

Congrats, Hawks, champions and heroes of Chicago.