Saturday, September 26, 2009

Inconsequential Clash: Introduction / Jerseys & Logos

Due to the G-20 roaring through Pittsburgh this week, hockey has been the last thing on anybody's mind. However, life goes on in the hockey world, as does Orange, Black, & Gold. So, continuing with our Faceoff Spectacular here at OBG, we're going to take a break from our "Top 10 Most Painful Moments" feature in order to introduce a new feature, which I know will be one of my personal favorites.

So, ladies and gentleman, boys and girl, Flyers and Penguins fans, let's start the "Inconsequential Clash"! The "Inconsequential Clash" will be pitting the Flyers and the Penguins against each other in an unusual manner. The two teams will be stacked up against one another in erroneous fashion, as we look at the Keystone Clash from various angles that are often ignored by hockey fans. Each post will look at the rivalry from a certain standpoint, and the winner of each blog battle will receive a point. We'll keep a running score, and perhaps, over time, we'll see who is the true champion of irrelevancy is.

To get the Inconsequential Clash rolling, we're going to be taking a look at each team's symbols...

Logos: The current logos of the Flyers and Penguins are polar opposites in a sense. The Flyers' logo is baffling at first glance, yet unique when given thought. It is supposed to resemble a wing, but one doesn't think of a wing when they see it. Even though I am a huge Flyers fan, the idea that their logo is a wing-like shape very rarely crosses my mind. Instead, the logo just seems to represent the team, as it has a feeling of abstractness to it that makes it unique, and thus does a great job of symbolizing the organization. On the other hand, the Penguins' current logo, which was also their original logo, is an uninspiring Penguin on skates. Their secondary logo, which was used mainly during the 90's and the early 2000's as the team's primary logo, is a bit more distinctive, with a Penguins head pointing coming out of a triangle. The triangle is also present behind the skating Penguin in their current logo, and it symbolizes the "Golden Triangle," which is the area in downtown Pittsburgh near the intersection of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. Personally, I love numerical symbolism in logos, so that gives the Penguins bonus points. I think the real debate here is whether or not the Penguins were wise to go back to their uninspired original logo. In the end, I'm going to have to give this one to the Flyers, because the Flyers have used their puzzing name and logo to form a unique identity for their organization that clearly sets them apart from any other similarly named team in sports.

(Also, if you're wondering what a new Flyers' alternate logo could look like, take a look at this interesting blog post)

Winner- Flyers
Score- Flyers 1, Penguins 0

Jerseys: Logos obviously come into consideration here, but not in the way that you might think. The Flyers primary logo has come to define the organization, but because of that it's tough for the Flyers to create an inspiring third jersey. Their only attempts at one have been throwbacks and a lackluster silver-lined orange jersey that showed up for a few years before the lockout. The Penguins, on the other hand, have varied their jerseys well, and they have used many combinations of speciality logos and colors that have served them well over their history. There are too many jerseys for me to post the images of all the jerseys here, but if you're already familiar with them, I think you'll agree with me that the Penguins have the edge here, in creativity and aesthetics.

Winner- Penguins
Score- Tied, 1-1

I apologize for the lack of images in this post. Blogger is quite incooperative when it comes to images.
Anyway, we'll pick up with more of our "Top 10 Most Painful Moments," more Inconsequential Clash posts, and more from our Faceoff Spectacular soon! Only six days away from the season...

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Top 10 Most Painful Moments" #7: Luck, Dumb Luck

We continue our "Top 10 Most Painful Moments" feature, counting down the ten times that the Penguins have caused Flyers fans the most pain over the past few years. Before continuing, here's a rundown of the previous moments we've counted down on OBG...
#10: Sykora's Called Shot
#9: Letang's OT Winner
#8: Biron the Boob

#7: Luck, Dumb Luck
When the Penguins lost the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals in six games to the Detroit Red Wings, it was a very satisfying sight for Flyers fans to see. I personally felt that the Penguins performance in that Stanley Cup Final was flat-out embarrassing, because, despite losing in six games, it had taken them nearly seven full periods of hockey to put up a goal. They fought back well towards the end, but in my honest opinion, the series wasn’t as close as one would expect a six-game series to be.

The next time the Penguins faced a 2-0 deficit in a series was the following year, 2009, against the Washington Capitals. The Penguins had beaten the Flyers in the first round in what was one of the more thrilling six-game series you’ll ever see, because while the Flyers fell behind 2-0 in the series, they still had three separate games in which they came inches from tying or winning the game (anyone who watched games 2, 4, and 6 will certainly agree with me).

The 2-0 deficit the Penguins fell into against the Capitals resulted from two very close games, both in which the Penguins scored first. The Penguins managed to fight back in that series and win the next three games, and would eventually win Game 7 in blowout fashion. Now, I believe that some luck went into their seven-game victory- primarily, the fact that Simeon Varlamov inexplicably blew up towards the end of the series- but I think that it was a hard-fought, skilled victory overall. Luck always plays a bit of a factor, but the Penguins losses in that series were very close, and to their credit, they did their homework on Varlamov.

The Penguins’ again won easily in the conference finals, which lead them into a blockbuster rematch with the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams were considered to be stronger than the year before, and that fact made the rematch all the more exciting. The Red Wings got off to another fantastic start, grabbing two 3-1 victories highlighted by the play of two players who the Penguins should have had in check. Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader were prospects who were expected to be good eventually, but not necessarily in 2009. Helm had been playing well for most of the playoffs, but for the Penguins to allow two largely inexperienced prospects to take them to school was quite embarrassing. Meanwhile, I was loving every minute of it, because the Penguins, even the with Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk out, and even with the experience of playing the Red Wings the year before, were still getting schooled. In addition, my anger towards the Penguins had grown considerably since 2008, due to the heated 2009 playoff series between the Flyers and them adding a lot of kindling to my fiery contempt for the Penguins.

The Penguins’ victory in Game 3 was much easier for me to swallow than their victory in Game 3 against Washington had been. The Penguins took a 1-0 lead, then fell behind 2-1, and finally tied it late in the first period on a goal by Kris Letang. In the third, Sergei Gonchar scored the go-ahead goal from the point, and they won 4-2. Their comeback after an early 2-1 deficit frustrated me, but I found comfort in the fact that the Penguins had won Game 3 against the Red Wings the year before, and still lost the series in six games.

What really sent me over the edge and pushed this experience into the top ten was Game 4. In Game 4, the Red Wings came back from an early 1-0 deficit (after an early power play goal by Evgeni Malkin) to take a 2-1 lead for the second straight game. Now, this was the exact same scoring pattern that resulted in the Red Wings’ 2-1 Game 4 victory the year before. I figured that the Penguins had used up a lot of energy winning Game 3, just like the year before, and would lose this Game 4 as well.

However, as you’ve surely learned by now, my dreams of the Penguins having nightmares never come true. The Penguins tied the game midway through the second on a shorthanded breakaway goal by Jordan Staal, and the pack of Pens’ fans at Mellon Arena was going just about as crazy as any hockey crowd that I could recall. Again, I didn’t mind it- that is, I was only fuming a bit until they scored again just two minutes later on a two-on-one when Malkin fed Sidney Crosby for a tip-in. Then, just minutes after that, they got an insurance goal on a fantastic
tic-tac-toe play that resulted in a goal by Tyler Kennedy.

At that point, I actually turned off the television I was so bewildered- something that I don’t think I’ve ever done during a hockey game. I even watched the entire third period of the Flyers and Penguins Game 5 the year before, in which the Flyers were down 5-0 at the start of the period and 6-0 at the end of the game. It was simply too ridiculous to watch- I felt as if there was no way this could be happening. With me web surfing with a frown on my face, the Penguins went on to win by another 4-2 score, and I began to realize that this wasn’t going to be the same series as the year before.

Now, as you all know, the Penguins went on to win the series, and we’ll certainly be talking about the latter part of the series later in our countdown. However, I would like to point out now that I truly believe the Penguins’ victory over the Red Wings entailed a lot of help from lady luck. In my impartial opinion as a huge hockey fan as well as a hockey blogger is that the Red Wings were the better team in this series. Mike Babcock, the Red Wings head coach, said that his team had “nothing left to give” after the series, and he wasn’t kidding. Pavel Datsyuk missed a large chunk [?] of the series, and he wasn’t at one hundred percent at any point in the series. Also, unbeknownst to the media and the fans, Marian Hossa was having shoulder troubles, which explains why he- the player who had the most to play for in the series- was kept off the scoresheet. The injuries to these two, who were arguably Detroit’s two best players (or at the very least their two best forwards) that year, coupled with the age of the Red Wings, undoubtedly played a role in the Penguins victory. Having an old team isn’t an excuse for losing, but it certainly does explain why the Red Wings were struggling towards the end of the series.

Now, this all isn’t to take away from the Penguins hard-earned victory, but it certainly does bring into question how things would have turned out if either Datsyuk or Hossa was at one hundred percent. Nevertheless, the frustration that I and many Flyers fans were feeling as the Penguins clawed back into the series stung a lot, and it made the Flyers defeat at the hands of the Penguins in the first round even bitterer.

Next Time on “Top 10 Most Painful Moments”: Evgeni Malkin uses the elimination of the two-line pass rule to embarrass the Flyers’ Mike Richards…

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Top 10 Most Painful Moments" #8: Biron the Boob

We continue our "Top 10 Most Painful Moments" feature, counting down the ten times that the Penguins have caused Flyers fans the most pain over the past few years. Before continuing, here's a rundown of the previous moments we've counted down on OBG...
#10: Sykora's Called Shot
#9: Letang's OT Winner

#8: Biron the Boob

When the Flyers acquired Martin Biron at the 2007 trade deadline, it was considered a big acquisition. Biron was a career backup that many in Philadelphia believed had the stuff to be a number one goaltender. However, Biron never really cemented himself as a number one. It was because of instances like moment number eight on our list that Biron failed to clearly prove his worth as anything more than an above-average career backup...

It was February 21, 2009, and things couldn't have been much better for the Flyers. They were 31-16-9, but the Penguins, at 28-25-6, were down in the dumps. They had just fired head coach Michel Therrien, and were in the midst of a horrible 12-19-1 streak caused in large part by dropping nine of their last ten road games. The Penguins were slowly dropping out of the playoff race, while the Flyers were in fantastic position, as the two met for an afternoon showdown in Philadelphia.

The Flyers got things off on the right foot, scoring first thanks to a backhander from Joffery Lupul. However, the second period brought trouble for the Flyers as it so often had that season, as the Penguins got goals from their three players probably liked least by Flyers fans- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Ruslan Fedotenko. The third period saw the Flyers tie the game twice- once on a shorthander from Mike Richards, and then after another Fedotenko tally, Mike Knuble knotted the game up at four with 5:35 to go.

It was clear that a fantastic ending was in store. I'll give you one guess who that ending benefitted...

With just under three minutes left, Pascal Dupuis plowed through the Philadelphia defense and tried to get a good angle at the net. Now, what was Martin Biron thinking at the time? Let's look back at the brain archives (don't even ask how I got this- I just know a guy) of good old Marty...

Wow, I really should pick up milk at the Wawa. I've had enough with that A-Plus store, especially after they ran out of 2% milk three weeks in a row. That's a load of bull-...

Oh crap, there's a man skating at me with the puck! What was that thing I learned in goalie school- something about cutting off the angle? Yeah, that was it...

Reminiscing about his many years of making honor roll at goalie school, Marty skated right out towards Dupuis, probably yelling "BOO!" when he got a couple feet away from him. Realizing that what he was trying only works on five-year olds in pee-wee hockey; he slid out on his bottom, and momentarily broke up the play. Pascal Dupuis just stood there, in disbelief that Biron had just slid out to stop him when he didn't even have an angle to shoot from. He then calmly just backhanded the puck to Sidney Crosby, who knocked it home, and did a little victory jig.

And what did Sid the Kid have to say about the play?

"It was really a good break. You can't really blame the goalie."

I just laughed so hard that I popped a blood vessel.

Pittsburgh went on to win the game in stunning fashion, and their victory set them off on a tear, as they won seven of their next eight, including winning five of their next six road games. This trend lead to the Penguins eventually overtaking the Flyers in the standings on the final day of the season, and because of that they got home-ice advantage in their playoff series against the Flyers- all of this because, without a shadow of a doubt, Martin Biron is a boob.

Next time on "Top 10 Most Painful Moments": I get so frustrated at the Penguins that I actually turn the television off- and I don't think I can stress how shocking of a thing that is for me to do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Report from Penguins Training Camp

Today I did something that required a bit of restraint, but more importantly required me to die a bit inside. I decided that, for the sake of reporting and getting photos, I would go to Mellon Arena to visit the Penguins' open training camp session- without any Flyers gear. And, as you're about to see, it was much, much harder to do than I expected...

Here's the rundown of time there:

11:50- Arrived at Mellon Arena
11:52- While walking up ramp, I look down and saw Ruslan Fedotenko getting into his car, less than twenty feet below me. I gritted my teeth angrily, because Fedotenko is my least favorite athlete on the face of the earth. This is due to the fact that Ruslan Fedotenko never managed to play well during his time as a Flyer, yet managed to play quite well after that- especially when facing the Flyers in huge games. In my mind, I was yelling obscenities, but in reality, I was just getting out my camera in the hopes that I'd catch the next player on camera.
11:55- I see none other than Sidney Crosby walk out of the garage, towards a mass of waiting fans. I ran down the ramp towards the street trying to get get good shots of him. I even snapped a couple pictures on my phone to send to some of my friends and family. Sid signed a few autographs, and then pulled a guy in a wheelchair aside to give him a special autograph and photo session. After that he got in his car and left, while one crazy guy ran on the sidewalk alongside his car (I don't think he even wanted an autograph- rather, it seemed like he was just chasing a car like a child will occasionally do when their parents pull out of the driveway and go to work).

12:03- I just miss Marc-Andre Fleury, but I snap a shot of his sports car revving its engine as he heads out. I also see a few other players as well whose faces I can't identify.
12:19- I enter the arena through Gate 1 and spend about ten minutes trying to figure out what tickets are available for a couple of the Flyers games there
12:23- I enter the stadium bowl and see the inside of Mellon Arena for the first time in my life.

12:23- Players take the ice, and begin warming up for a scrimmage. The key players that were still there (i.e. those who were in the afternoon practice group) included Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin, Kristopher Letang, Brook Orpik, and Mike Rupp.

11:53- I leave the stadium bowl for a bit, and head back to the box office to buy tickets for the final Flyers vs. Penguins game of the season, which is March 27th at 1:00PM in Mellon Arena. When I return, the scrimmage is already underway. There are now hundreds of fans in attendance, with some scout scattered among them- easily identifiable in their dressy clothes, holding copies of the Penguins' roster in their hands.
1:13- Finally, a goal is scored (click to see the video), which I had wanted to see because I wanted to hear the goal horn and goal song. However, neither sound is heard (which I suppose is to be expected as a scrimmage). Nevertheless, I left feeling that the visit had been a success, as I had kept cool and done some good old reporting.

So, overall, it was a great few hours, and it wasn't as hard as I had expected to enter the building that hosted so many of the "Top 10 Most Painful Moments" that we're in the midst of counting down here at OBG.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Top 10 Most Painful Moments" #9: Letang's OT Winner

We continue our "Top 10 Most Painful Moments" feature, counting down the ten times that the Penguins have caused Flyers fans the most pain over the past few years. Before continuing, here's a rundown of the previous moments we've counted down on OBG...

#10: Sykora's Called Shot

#9: Letang's OT Winner

After the Penguins defeat of the Flyers in the first round of the 2009 playoffs, I found myself strongly hoping that the Capitals would be able to knock off the Penguins in the second round. It would be a double victory- not only would the Penguins be eliminated from the playoffs, but they would be knocked out by a team the Flyers had beaten in the first round the year before. If the Capitals could earn the victory, it would make the Flyers' botched playoff run that much less painful.

The Capitals started off the series well in Game 1, with a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory. Game 2 was one of the most incredible games of the entire playoffs, a game in which both Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby notched hat tricks. It was a huge game that got a lot of coverage in the following days- and that made the Capitals' 4-3 victory that much sweeter. Crosby had been edged by Ovechkin- who now had as many goals as he had managed in the Capitals' entire seven-game series against my Flyers the year before- and the Penguins were in a 2-0 hole. Everything seemed to be going the Caps' way.

Game 3 got off to a fantastic start. Under 90 seconds into the game, Marc-Andre Fleury made an embarrassing mistake when he tried to play a puck behind the net. He completely misplayed it, and it ricocheted right out in front of the net where Alex Ovechkin knocked it home to give the Caps the early lead. Ruslan Fedotenko would tie the game in the second period, and the game remained tied going into the third. It remained tied until late in the third period, when Evgeni Malkin scored one of the more electrifying goals I've seen, cutting back behind Washington forward Brooks Laich and snapping home the go-ahead, power-play goal. He showboated a bit on the celebration, but the electricity was short-lived. Nicklas Backstrom put a smile back on my face with an impressive power-play goal of his own, as he scored from an impossible angle on a rebound shot with 1:50 left to tie the game.

So the stage was set for overtime- the Penguins, without a shadow of a doubt, needed to win the game to have any chance in the series. If they won they'd still have a lot of work to do if they wanted to win the series, but the thought of the Penguins being all but eliminated by an overtime goal was irresistible. Even now, I smile at the very thought of it.

However, as always, my dreams weren't meant to be. With a little over eight minutes to go in overtime, Kristopher Letang scored on a point shot right off the faceoff, putting the Penguins back in the series. While I knew that the Capitals were still the heavy favorites, I felt very uneasy about the Penguins, despite their being down 2-1 in the series. Sure enough, the Penguins won the next two games, and eventually blew out the Capitals in Game 7 by a score of 6-2.

So, it was a 3-2 victory for the Penguins, starting a 3 game winning streak that launched them into the 3rd round. I hate the number three...

Next Time on "Top 10 Most Painful Moments": Concrete evidence as to why Martin Biron is currently the third-string goaltender for hockey's worst team, the New York Islanders...

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Top 10 Most Painful Moments" Introduction / #10: Sykora's Called Shot

Welcome back to the "Faceoff Spectacular" here at OBG (which is, for those of you kids who forgot, or who were in the bathroom for our first two posts, the Orange, Black, and Gold blog). As promised, it's time to get going on one of our top pre-season features, the "Top 10 Most Painful Moments" from the Flyers/Penguins rivalry over the past couple years. Now, the fact that they are all painful to Flyers' fans isn't because the Flyers have been the lesser of the two teams over the past couple year- at least I think that isn't the reason...

Anyway, just a few notes before we begin. Every lovely clip will be accompanied by a video, from either, YouTube, or another lovely provider of years worth of life-wasting videos. In honor of those of us whose browsers can't handle over a dozen embedded videos at once, the videos will be posted as links. Feel free to comment, and make sure to check back often, because these posts are going to be going faster than the issue of GQ with Sidney Crosby shirtless (although that's not really a hard feat to accomplish...):

#10: Sykora's Called Shot

I, for one, am a fan of hockey above all other sports because of the unique emotional outpouring that a goal can provide- especially playoff overtime goals. Series winning goals are even better. However, nothing can compare to the sight of a cup-winning goal. In 2000, I was in third grade, and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, with my dad sleeping on the couch next to me, hoping the New Jersey Devils, up 3-1 in the series and playing at home, could win the cup in overtime. I didn't even care that the Devils, who had just shockingly overcome a 3-1 deficit to knock off my Flyers in the Conference Finals, would win the Stanley Cup if they scored. That's how badly I wanted to see it. The game went three overtimes, and Mike Modano killed my hopes by scoring a lucky goal in the third overtime to win it for the Stars. The next night, I was deemed too tired to stay up, and I missed Jason Arnott winning the Stanley Cup in double overtime for the Devils.

In 2008, I faced virtually the exact same situation, but everything was flipped. It was the Detroit Red Wings up 3-1 to a hated rival team of mine, this time the Penguins, and the Red Wings were trying to win the cup at home. The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead, much to my dismay, thanks to goals from Marian Hossa and Adam Hall. However, the Red Wings came roaring back in the second and third period, scoring three goals of their own. The fans became counting down, until, somehow, Maxime Talbot tied the game with 34.3 seconds to go. Now, believe it or not, I didn't mind- it made for fantastic hockey, and I love a thrilling game. Besides, I didn't think the Penguins had a chance in the series, and now, I had a shot at potentially seeing a cup-winning overtime goal at home.

I again found myself battling to stay awake into the wee hours in the morning, but this time things got too interesting for me to even consider falling half-asleep. Penguins' winger Petr Sykora actually knocked on the glass next to NBC Inside the Glass reporter Pierre McGuire, and told him that he would get the winning goal. I thought he was insane, and I couldn't wait to see his ludicrous statement double the pain of Penguins fans if and when they lost. However, for the second time in my life, a third overtime goal dashed my hopes of seeing a cup-winning overtime goal live. The Penguins got a four-minute power-play, and just 35 seconds into it, the prophecy came true. Sykora scored on a bullet shot from the point, and my whole dream came crashing down. It couldn't have happened in a more embarrassing way- not only was I not going to get my playoff overtime winner, but the Penguins had gotten a miraculous victory that validated them as a top-tier team and kept them alive in their cup hopes. In addition, they had done so on a called shot. So, essentially, instead of just wishing that the Penguins lost the game 3-2 instead of tying it, I wanted the game to continue. It was a classic case of "be careful what you wish for," and it was a sour feeling to say the least. And, to make matters worse, it wouldn't be the last time (stay tuned to find out what on earth that means)...

Next Time on "Top 10 Most Painful Moments": Even further evidence as to why three is my unlucky number...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welcome to OBG!

With that lengthily introduction complete, I'd now love to formally welcome you to the Orange, Black and Gold blog- which will hereby more affectionately be known as OBG. This concept of this blog has been forming in my mind ever since that painful Game 6 experience I had, but it was lacking one thing- a name. A number of sub-par names had been floating around my mind, but each had major shortfallings:
  • Behind Enemy Lines- Sounds like I'm a spy (although if I was, I probably wouldn't tell you)
  • Keystone Clash- Already overused by the media
  • Orange Crushed- Sounds overwhelmingly negative
  • %!*@# the Penguins- Probably wouldn't show up too often in search engines
  • Orange and Black in a Sea of Black and Gold- I'd like to be able to tell people about my blog without fainting
Brainstorming the last one brought me to the ingenious conclusion that the Flyers and Penguins have a color in common- black. At first, the idea of mixing the two teams colors together repulsed me a bit. However, it is actually quite appropriate- Pittsburgh is notorious for turning its college students into Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates fans. Thus, my time in Pittsburgh would be a struggle to maintain my own athletic allegiances in a time when my teams were being trumped by those of the Steel City. In addition, it made me realize the only thing separating the Flyers colors from the Penguins colors is a bit of red- if you take the Penguins' "gold" as the yellow it really looks like, adding red to it gives you orange. This is quite appropriate due to the Flyers' fans notorious bloodthirstiness.

So, in short, the name stuck. Unfortunately, the domain name was taken by some guy who took five minutes creating a white-and-black blog with a single, two-word post, so OBG will have to resort to the less-glamorous domain name Over the next few weeks I'll be running a number of features, which will hopefully quench the thirst of Flyers fans, Penguins fans, and neutral fans of the Pennsylvania Cold War alike, until the season finally begins in October. At that point, it'll be time to start the lead-up to the first meeting between these two powerhouses on October 8th in Philadelphia.

So sit back, and enjoy the ride (despite the many bumps it is sure to bring). Check back often over the next few weeks, as we'll be counting down the Top 10 Most Painful Moments in the Flyers-Penguins rivalry over the past couple years. It's all part of our "Faceoff Spectacular"...

Well, again, welcome to OBG, and I hope to see you back soon!

P.S.: If you need something to tide you over, enjoy this colorful image of the Flyers' Randy Jones and the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin:


PittStart- the beginning of a University of Pittsburgh student’s college experience.

I was ecstatic for my PittStart, as I was chomping at the bit to make any sort of jump I could into college life. I couldn’t wait to get my first taste of Pittsburgh as a college student, and to finally complete my transition out of high school. Just like the vast majority of college-bound high school seniors, I was already thinking ahead to the many wonderful, life-changing, and exciting experiences college would be sure to bring. That being said, I came up with the crafty idea of choosing an early PittStart date- June 15th and 16th- which would allow me an early jump into college life, and a chance to register for classes early. It was, in my mind, a foolproof plan.

I departed for my PittStart on the morning of the 15th from my hometown of Cheltenham (a northern suburb of Philadelphia) with just me and my lovely ’95 Buick Regal. I was making fantastic time, and found myself at the Pittsburgh exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in four hours and change (I won’t specify my exact travel time, just in case anybody reading this post happens to be a Pennsylvania State Trooper…). I paid my toll, and took the ramp to Interstate 376 (the road into the city of Pittsburgh). I took off down the highway, happy as a clam. I was doing sixty-something without fail for a few minutes until I hit a brick wall of traffic.

I was afraid that this might have happened. I switched on my 90’s-style car radio, and began scanning the channels. It only took me a few seconds to reach a station broadcasting the death sentence I was expecting…

“…bumper to bumper on about every major road within the city limits. These Penguins fans are coming out in droves, and it’s really a sight to see. Seeing this many cars out on the road, filled with yellow-and-gold sporting fans, gives me just as many chills as seeing Crosby tie Game 6 against the Flyers, Letang rocket that OT winner in Game 3 against the Caps, or watching Talbot stun the Wings in Game 7.”

Of course, these weren’t the exact words I heard, but I couldn’t hope to remember what exactly was said, because my mind was on the verge of exploding. I couldn’t take it anymore. It hadn’t even been a minute, and I was already infuriated. The oasis of college now felt like it was millions of miles away, because each mile I drove was bringing me further away from that oasis. I saw the next four years of my life flash before me, and among all the great things I saw, there was a faint buzz of doubt. It sounded like the Penguins goal horn.

At that point, I was on the verge on going mad. I couldn’t take it anymore because I, unlike everyone around me, was a Flyers fan. A really, really, big Flyers fan…

Complex imagery and climactic, exaggerated narratives aside, this is, in essence, how my life as a Flyers fan in Pittsburgh began. While I had been excited to begin my time as a student at Pitt from the second I sent in my enrollment deposit, I had always been dreading the idea of coming to Pittsburgh, the home of my team’s most hated rival, the Penguins.

My move to Pittsburgh was one laced in irony. Prior to 2008, the place most deserving of the title “Philadelphia Sports Hell” would undoubtedly be Philadelphia itself. With the city stuck in a 25-year title drought, Philadelphia sports fans were living in pain and frustration, as their four major sports flopped time and time again in key situations. Finally, though, in 2008, the Phillies World Series championship brought the city out of its living hell, and all seemed right in the world.

Over the next nine or so months, the other three Philadelphia teams were knocked out of their respective playoffs. The Sixers were knocked out in the first round by the Magic- but I never really cared too much for the NBA. The Eagles were upset in the NFC championship by the Cardinals, who went on to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers- who the Eagles had beaten in the regular season. The Flyers, meanwhile, were stuck playing the Penguins in the playoffs for the second straight year, and again lacked home-ice advantage due to a sloppy regular season finale in which they allowed the Rangers to make a surprising comeback victory. The Flyers were steamrolled in the first game, and shockingly upended in comeback fashion in the second game, but they managed to stay in the series, coming back home down 3-2 for Game 6.

That Game 6 marked my damnation into the new Philadelphia Sports Hell. I was attending the game, and I knew it would be the biggest of my life. The Flyers jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and, long story short, they blew it (don’t fret; you’ll hear plenty about this game in the posts to come). The Penguins won the game 5-3, leaving all of Flyer nation stunned. This victory ended up being a huge boost for the Penguins en route to a Stanley Cup title.

All of a sudden, Pittsburgh now had two titles that year, and we still only had one- and, to make matters worse, both had come at our expense. The one title we had barely even mattered. If you are to point out to a resident of “titletown” that the Pirates haven’t won a title- or even had a winning season- in years, they’ll simply reply, “I don’t like baseball.”

So now, a new Philadelphia Sports Hell began to take form, and I was headed right for it…