In case you haven’t heard, the Chicago Blackhawks brought home the Stanley Cup this week. It was an awesome season of hockey. There were ups and downs and moments where we didn’t think we could do it for a third time in 6 seasons, but we did it! And when I say “we” I mean, we, as in all Blackhawk fans, no all Chicagoland sports fans! You see, Chicago may not get along during baseball season, but we all get along during playoff hockey! It’s amazing to see an entire city come together, and that got me thinking. How do team traditions and alliances begin?
For me, it all comes down to my parents. My dad took me to all of my first games…baseball at Wrigley and Comiskey, football at Soldier Field, basketball and hockey at Chicago Stadium. I loved going to games with my dad and I hope and pray that my husband can bestow the same gift to our children. I always loved how special I felt when he’d take me downtown for a game. My mom made sure we had all the right fan gear and that my younger brothers didn’t get too upset if they couldn’t tag along.
As I got older, my brothers and I fell into the typical Chicago household rivalry….northside vs. southside. However, my mom always knew one way that she could bring us all together… the Chicago Bears. We watched the games religiously and my mom knew how to do it right! She’d make a buffet of snacks, pizza, pigs in a blanket, soda (and then beer as got older) and the best t.v. to view the game. My mom had the greatest team spirit. She wore the same team related shirt each week and was a heavy believer in traditions and team superstitions. Over the years our game days shrunk in size as members of our family moved away and eventually grew as we added members to it. But one thing never changed, my mom’s team spirit.
You see, there was a grave day back in April of 1998 that I heard life altering news, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was a time when I wasn’t sure if she could survive the chemo and the radiation. During those first few months I studied everything I could about cancer, went to her doctor appointments, researched her suggested treatment plans, formed my own opinions, and asked a lot of questions. You should know that my mom is a fighter, she pulled through. Our family game days were more treasured after her first bout of cancer, and even more after her second bout 5 years later.
Before my mom was sick I didn’t realize what those game day traditions meant. I didn’t realize how her superstitions and buffet style celebrations would shape me and my team spirit. At the time, I didn’t realize that her exuberance and love of the game would one day lead to my own children looking to me to guide them and show them how to cheer on our teams. But what I really didn’t realize was that my mom’s team spirit was nearly a reflection of her own spirit.
My mom’s battle with a significant illness taught me how to fight for the life I want to live, even when faced with challenges and setbacks. And she approaches Chicago sports the same way, even when a team is on a losing streak. We still have game day parties and celebrate together. She cheers the loudest and lets the quaterback have it, and she does it all with team spirit…and a lot of it. I am forever grateful for her spirit.
Watching my kids cheer for the Blackhawks these last few weeks lets me know that my mom’s legacy of undeterred team spirit is in them. They cheer because they see her cheer and sometimes I wonder whose smiles are the biggest. I am pretty sure mine is the biggest since I get to watch my mom play with my children. That is a gift I treasure daily.