Latecomer Hawks fans, here's the score

Come on in, everybody, come in, come in. Quick!

Now bolt the door before that Blackhawks die-hard who's been chasing you whomps you with his hockey stick.

Whew.

Some of those hard-core fans'll kill you faster than you can say "bandwagon."

Sorry, folks, I know it's crowded in here. But the good news is that this is a safe space, maybe the only space in Chicago where you can admit you've been a Blackhawks fan for approximately two days.

In here, there are no taunts for the fair-weather likes of you. No nasty names. No penalties for admitting you have no idea how to pronounce "Toews."

But out there in the gritty city? You are vermin.

How do I know this? Because I, too, am a fair-weather fan? No, no, no. Only a masochist would admit that in public.

Let's just say that I know some fair-weather fans who feel that their late-breaking ardor for Chicago's hockey team subjects them to resentment and ridicule.

But why, you may be wondering, why do they hate us?

When I quizzed my Facebook friends on this matter Thursday, my colleague Phil summed it up nicely:

"I think there's a 'Revenge of the Nerds' dynamic when die-hard fans, who know the game inside and out and have memorized the statistics of their favorite team, find themselves on top of the knowledge heap when that team nears a championship, and everybody starts paying attention. But I find it strange that said die-hard fans resent the newcomers, as though the right to cheer for a team is something to be earned."

Fighting words, Phil. Glad you said it, not me.

Now, not all hard-core fans are alike, and neither are all the fair-weather types.

For example, there's Tom Schraeder, a 29-year-old Chicago musician who answered my Facebook query on the topic. Tom has seen the divide from both sides.

Once a hard-core Hawks man, he lost the faith. This team is so good his faith has stirred again.

"After all these years of placing judgment upon fair-weather fans," he says, "I've become one."

He grew up on the team, he explained, played hockey, skated on the Blackhawks' stadium ice and loved the Hawks until ...

"Until I lost the love for them on two separate occasions," he reported. "When old man Wirtz banned the Hawks from TV and when 'Chelsea Dagger' became the goal song."

Yes, yes, yes. I know what some of you are thinking: What did he just say? And who is Chelsea Dagger? A talk show host?

My fair-weather friends, you have a heavy crash course ahead of you.

Now, some of you who are here today are the most despised kind of fair-weather fan. Unlike Tom, you've never given a flying puck about the Hawks, and you don't now either.

Pure and simple, you're faking it. You know that to survive the next few days in Chicago, you've got to talk the hockey talk.

Meanwhile, a few of you — I have to say it — refuse to fake it. You think all professional sports are a pox on American society.

That's cool. But be careful. Don't launch into that lecture in front of anyone who has had more than two drinks. Not in Chicago. Not this week.

Meanwhile, some of you are genuinely excited. You're the promiscuous ones. Sox. Cubs. Bulls. Whenever any Chicago team makes the playoffs, you're waving the pompoms and crowing to your far-flung friends about how great this town is.

Finally, some of you here with us today are just fatalists: You may as well get interested in hockey because nothing else is going to happen on Facebook for the next week except cute-kitten photos.

And all of you are welcome. But you can't stay here forever. You've got to get back out there, into the frenzy. So before you go, a couple of survival tips.

Show the hard-core fans some deference. Let them know you know they're the reason there's a Hawks team.

And remember, it's "sweater," not "jersey."

Or is it the other way around?

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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