Eulogy: Remembering the 2013-14 Columbus Blue Jackets
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers who hated them the mos. Here are J.R. Lind from III Communication, the Internet's preeminent Conference III blog, with photo help from Michael Devine, fondly recalling the 2013-14 Columbus Blue Jackets. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
By J.R. Lind from III Communication
Unfortunately, Columbus, I fear that like a Boone Jenner elbow to the head, what I'm about to say is coming far too late.
They don't really love you.
No one does.
It's appropriate to begin a eulogy with such stark honesty, what with "eulogy" coming from the Greek for "honest words" — or "real talk" in the parlance of all the Buckeye bros slugging back Natty Light in the Short North.
As the Blue Jackets struggled valiantly against the Pittsburgh's unbeatable superstars and also Marc-Andre Fleury, it sure felt like all of America and the English-speaking parts of Canada had your back and truly, deeply cared about you.
And despite a last gasp rally in Game 6, victory was just beyond your fingertips, like the top-shelf cereal is for Cam Atkinson every time he visits Kroger, Columbus' No. 1 retailer.
And how precocious were you in your white T-shirts, no doubt handed out because your jerseys had to be returned to their rightful home in the What-The-Heck-Were-We-Thinking Wing of the Major Indoor Soccer League Hall of Fame.
Ah the hockey world's hearts were warmed by your plucky story, which, like a Frank Capra movie, made them feel just swell.
But here's a dirty secret about Capra movies: at the end, nothing's changed.
The dirty machine was still in charge at the end of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
Old man Potter still owns Bedford Falls in It's A Wonderful Life.
And Columbus is still a forgettable fourth place finisher in the worst division in the history of American sport.
"But they do love us! Everybody loved #Lumbus."
Indeed. #Lumbus. That diminutive the Kings hung on you. #Lumbus is a hashtagged pat on the head. A social media isn't-that-cute. It's the kind of nickname a cool Californian puts on the kid who dresses funny he feels sorry for.
Sorry, Columbus. You're Screech.
And like Dustin Diamond, we'll all forget all about you until you do something embarrassing, like put out a sex tape or sign Jack Johnson through 2018.
Right now, the hockey world which so embraced you just days ago is scratching its head, looking around and trying to remember why they cared about you in the first place. "How did we get here?" they ask, echoing a question every person who has found themselves in Ohio for any length of time has ever asked, right before demanding a trade to New York or Los Angeles.
Not to say your trajectory into the good graces of the hockey world hasn't been rapid. Until you put a scare in Pittsburgh — a brief, if concerning bump in the road for the Pens which, if they go on to win the Cup, will be scored in the commemorative DVD by something in C-sharp minor as the narrator takes his booming baritone down to a sotto voce basso profundo — most of the world viewed you as the Red Wing's side piece, the lagniappe the West threw in for the East to chew on instead of having to try to find something edible in Detroit that wasn't vulcanized.
After making the playoffs only once during your tenure in the old Central Division, you decided you'd had enough with the rough and tumble west and you grabbed on to the bumper of the Red Wings hearse and headed east. Five hundred centuries of human existence, five hundred centuries of people striving to get as far west as possible, chasing the setting sun.
Not you, Columbus. In your very Ohio way, you wanted safe. You, like the corrupt, language-mangling newspaper editor you catapulted into the White House, wanted normalcy.
But you didn't get normalcy, which in your case is mathematical elimination sometime before the Buckeyes accept their annual invitation to Capital One Bowl. You surged, you soared, you sneaked into the playoffs primarily because you got to play the Islanders 14 times. And suddenly, you no longer seemed like LA's weird little buddy or Detroit's lackey. Suddenly, it seemed like you were America's Team.
But you're not — for one thing you ice more Russians than Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn and, thus, are ineligible for America's Team status — because the love you think people feel for you (and, heck, maybe they think they feel it too) is false and fleeting.
I'm not telling you this to be mean, Columbus. I'm not telling you this because I care about you either. Like politicians since time immemorial, the hockey world chooses to forget about Ohio until it needs something from it. For those ambitious presidential hopefuls, it's your 18 electoral votes. In hockey, we need you to feel good about ourselves.
In Nashville, we've been there. We know. We used to be the plucky team with the aw-shucks-just-happy-to-be-here fan base that the neutral observers backed in April whose oh-so-close efforts in the playoffs made people feel less cynical, even for just a moment.
Nashville was the child star of the NHL and now that's you. But child stardom almost never ends well. A few misses, and those fresh-faced kids are either down-on-their-luck and dead on a beach or wandering around in a weird, clingy grotesque, singing "I've Written a Letter To Daddy" or its modern day equivalent "I've Written Fedor Tyutin A No-Trade Clause For Some Reason."
Right now, you're experiencing the fun side of child stardom: the part when everybody loves you and you can do no wrong. You like the attention and that's fine, but it's going to turn ugly faster than you can say "Nikita Nikitin" ten times.
Today, you're a critical darling, your tongue-twisting general manager and your hockey ops president/Hollywood Squares host getting praise from El Paso to Edmonton and other places with more to do in one city block than exists in the entire old Virginia Military District.
I know what this is like. You're scouring the Internet for nice things people are saying about your team and your city. It makes you feel good, like that child star winning an Oscar.
But it's going to go pear-shaped, I promise. During handshakes, Sidney Crosby strongly gripped the extended hands of his now-vanquished opponents and gave them all the same look Olga Balcanova gave in the "One Of Us" scene in Freaks, a documentary film about the writing of the Ohio constitution.
"Who are these guys?" was all but written on Sid's face like a gratis tattoo given to an OSU football player.
These guys, Sid, are the youngsters who thrill the fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets and, lo, do those fans love their Johansen and Anisimov and Murray.
I have bad news, though, Columbus.
They'll be traded in some foolish push for the playoffs or else they'll be offer-sheeted and maybe that alliterative Finn will match it, but that contract will hang around longer than the average Ohio State NCAA post-season ban. And sure, big name free agents want to sign with you now, but what happens when Nathan Horton finds a zoo he likes better? And one day, Blake Comeau will wake up from the sugar coma he's been in since that one time he scored 24 goals inexplicably and realize he should have quit while he was ahead.
And you should heed that same advice, Columbus. Everybody loves the precocious little Oscar winner. But that love fades and the aging child star has to do something for attention, like affect a bad Southern accent and take off her top in a poorly-written vampire drama. Look into your future, Columbus, it ain't pretty.
It's all promise now, Columbus. The Jackets break-out day will be a weirdly happy affair. There will be a few more days of glowing stories about your franchise. This is going to feel good and I want you to enjoy it. Ohioans so rarely have anything to brag about, which is why they are so weirdly proud of the eight Presidents the state has produced. Grant, Hayes, Taft, McKinley, Garfield, Harding and not one but two Harrisons?
Stand up and cheer, Ohio; how could the Republic have survived without that octet of accomplishment?
But by the time April's showers turn into May's ragweed, everyone not entrapped by the Jack Nicklaus Freeway will go back to the status quo ante Bylsma and forget Columbus exists. Not just the hockey team, I mean. The whole city.
But you won't care.
You'll head down to the box office at Nationwide Arena — which is really and truly named the "Big Lots Box Office," because it is a place where people buy deeply discounted knockoff items and because sometimes the jokes just make themselves — and you'll go to your games. And you'll string together some lengthy winning streaks, benefiting from sharing a conference with Buffalo and Florida and whichever goalie Philadelphia flings on to the ice next year.
Maybe — heck, even probably — you'll make the playoffs again and you'll hear those familiar cheers again with their unfamiliar accents. They'll love you again. Briefly, of course, because you aren't going past the first round. But for now, that's good enough to earn their artificial affection.
But don't think they really care about you, at all. The NHL engineered a lockout just to keep you from hosting an All-Star Game, after all, and suddenly you think you're everybody's darling?
You're the third most relevant sports team in the third most relevant city in the fourth most relevant state bordering the fourth greatest Lake and your success is no more important to the NHL than any of the parade of spunky upstarts who preceded you into the bleeding hearts of cynics needing a salve.
And they want you to fail, because they want what you have.
"Respice post te. Memento mori."
Look behind you, Columbus, and remember that you will die.
And they want that even more than they wanted you to succeed.
I speak the truth, because I've seen it myself.