There’s a ghost of a chance this is all in my head.
In classic 2011-12 fashion, the Texas Stars exerted their split personality on the home crowd this weekend, dicing a pair with in-state nemesis the Houston Aeros and further cementing their extended summer break.
Today however is the Texas Stars Foundation’s Golf Classic, where fans who can afford it (not me or my wife) and players shoot some golf for charity.
Each time the Texas Stars arrange a get-together between the fans and players like this one and my wife and I do take part, I feel this dull, aching dread whispering You don’t wanna do this. The first one my wife and I went to, we stopped at Applebee’s on the way, got drunk, and never made it.
Finally we attended one, a Meet ‘n Greet that opened the 2010-2011 season. Parking lot, dread.
But once inside, you couldn’t shut me up.
- I tell Scott McCulloch about his slick GWG against Hershey in the Calder Cup Finals.
- I tell Aaron Gagnon ‘good patience on that pre-season goal in Dallas.’
- I tell Richard Bachman I will boo and heckle Matt Climie—one of the most beloved Stars—when the San Antonio Rampage come to town not because I want to but because I have to.
- I tell Tyler Beskorowany that the year before, Manitoba’s Mike Keane slipped out of the Cedar Park Center covertly, likely because he’d been told there was a creepy, dangerous grown man and potential head case looking for him. (It was all a huge misunderstanding, I swear).
After that, my wife and I are on a roll, attending every event from autograph signings to Casino Night. I develop a familiarity with some of the players. We’re not friends, we don’t know one another, but we’ve talked hockey often enough to become acquainted.
That dull dread though, it persists. Why?
Because of the clash between my self-perception and reality. On my way to these events, I’m a 40 year old man. I can see this.
But if I were the players, I might have a question or two for me, because at my age, and being childless, and knowing perhaps more statistics and remembering more plays than is immediately acceptable, I fall into what I call- and maybe what I’ve created out of nothing- The Creep Zone.
The Creep Zone is a place where I’m too old to be chewing it up with minor hockey leaguers (Shouldn’t that guy have a job and a mortgage and a kid and be committing adultery somewhere?) but not old enough to be retired and have nothing better to do with my time.
Over the years, more than a few players have given me a half-freaked glance. It is the same face I saw on Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo in 1997 after QR played at a local Italian restaurant and a googly-eyed man with an armful of QR albums approached Cavazo with a slathering grin and a Sharpie (no, unlike the Keane fiasco, it wasn’t me).
To their credit, the players have never failed to be friendly. In fact, the chats I’ve had with guys like Ray Sawada, Richard Bachman and Brenden Dillon are good reminders that their time in the AHL might be the last time we all share something resembling the same income tax bracket. Thus, the fan interaction can be especially rewarding because these guys are still regular guys. While that doesn’t imply that reaching the NHL makes a man irregular, the salary boost does draw an economic and social iron curtain of sorts between the hockey Haves and the hockey Haves-a-lot-Less that is not derogatory or insinuating, just reality.