On the night the Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds to win the 2013 Stanley Cup, I experienced my first mugging about 30 feet away from my apartment.
All things considered, that wasn’t the worst part of my night.
After all, as armed robberies go, this one was as non-confrontational as they get. Not to mention that I am a terrible candidate for a robbery target: this gentleman’s entire score was a 3G Droid with a faulty camera, $5 in cash, and one debit card that accesses the checking account of a journalist. You’re better off robbing a pizza delivery driver.
No, the night’s low point came a few hours before the robbery, when I failed to see the game-tying and series-winning goals.
Earlier in the day, I’d headed to O’Hare with my friend Rob to see him off on his return flight to San Francisco. But the flight was delayed two and a half hours, so we kicked it in the Hilton hotel bar until his departure. I watched the first period at the bar and then took the Blue Line back to Wicker Park.
When I got back to the neighborhood, the game was in the second intermission. Rather than going to a bar, I went home to finish some work that was derailed by the delayed flight. Since I don’t have cable, I figured I would just watch the game on a bootleg web feed and then head right back to the neighborhood if the Hawks won.
But the web feed was choppy, so I kept an eye on the score on espn.com as I did my work.
After Game 1, I figured this series would go the distance. And when Milan Lucic scored to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead, my seven-game series intuition seemed accurate. I kept refreshing the browser: 2-1 Bruins, seven minutes left … 2-1 Bruins, six minutes left … 2-1 Bruins, four minutes left … 2-1 Bruins, two minutes left … “Well,” I thought to myself, “that’s gonna do it.” I hit refresh again: 3-2 Blackhawks, 40 seconds left …
Now, if there is an upside to missing one of the greatest moments in Chicago sports history, it’s that it proves just how NON-bandwagon I truly am. I would never miss an analogous moment for the Bulls or Bears. While I have always rooted for the Blackhawks, they have never been my team because hockey has never been my sport. I took a certain amount of pride in that distinction.
In retrospect, that was probably just the shock talking: I was downright dumbfounded in having missed one of the seminal moments in Chicago sports history. I snapped myself free of my philosophical daze, grabbed my wallet, my phone and my keys and darted out the door. Already the sounds of chaos were building: cheers booming out of homes, fireworks exploding, cars honking. “I missed it!” I kept thinking. “How the hell did I miss it? And what even happened??”
People were pouring out of the bars. I staggered over to the 6 Corners Sports Bar on North Avenue and stood outside the windows with a pack of police officers and civilians, all of us watching the Hawks celebrate on the Boston ice. 6 Corners was blasting “We Are the Champions,” and fans were chanting “M-V-P!” for Patrick Kane, who was accepting the Conn Smythe trophy.
I was flabbergasted. I stepped into the parking lot across the street from Santullo’s and called my girl. “I missed it!” I shouted to her in disbelief. I got a text from my dad: “No Game 7 like you thought, but it was all worth it. How about that game?” I called my folks and told them the bad news.
As we talked, I saw a friend-- the rapper Que Billah--walking up North Avenue. “I missed it!” I said to him as we shook hands.
“I did too!” he said, equally shocked. “I was in the car on some whole other shit, heading to the studio. All of a sudden I heard people cheering. I figured, ‘Oh, I guess the Hawks won.’ Then I drove a bit more and--bam--more cheering! I was like, ‘Damn, why are they cheering again?’ ”
He was heading into 6 Corners, and I joined him for a drink. On TV were helicopter shots of the madness in Wrigleyville, Clark Street choked with people in red shirts like the CPS protests times 50. Suddenly I realized that 6 Corners had thinned out, and I went outside and saw that the North-Damen-Milwaukee intersection was now overrun with revelers, just as it had been in 2010. Traffic was frozen in all directions. A 72 bus was stopped in front of SubT, and a Papa John’s truck was stuck trying to go south on Damen.
Meanwhile, people were hoisting friends onto each other’s shoulders, spraying champagne and beer, kissing inflatable Stanley Cups, and of course chanting “Let’s Go Hawks!” and “Boston Sucks!” and, for some reason, “U-S-A!” There was even a man dressed as a Stanley Cup via tinfoil and masking tape, and he was marching around the intersection saying, “I am the Stanley Cup! The Blackhawks won me tonight. Take a picture with me!” Plenty of people did indeed pose for pictures with “the Stanley Cup.” Others posed for pictures in the crowd, with delayed motorists, with the people stranded on the 72, and with police. Camera phones were everywhere, filming the ruckus. I tried to take a picture, but my crappy old Droid would not allow it. Fortunately I ran into several friends, including one who took a picture of the two of us with his phone.
I went back into 6 Corners and had another drink with my friend and some of his friends. Then, with the police cordially clearing the intersection, I walked home. I was barely buzzed and felt a greater intoxication of spirit than of body. I checked the time on my phone as I walked up Pierce, and as I turned onto Hoyne, I saw a man crossing the street toward me. I looked in his eyes. They were trouble.
“Hey,” he said as he got onto Hoyne, about 15 feet behind me.
I kept walking, my phone in my hand at my side and my building now in sight. “Hey,” he said again, rather casually, and I turned around.
“Put it down,” he said as he cocked his pistol--click-click. I set my phone on the sidewalk. He neither approached me nor pointed the gun my way. We were staring at each other, still about 15 feet apart, his face in the darkness. “Wallet,” he said, and I put my wallet on the ground next to my phone. “Take off,” he said, and I turned and started walking. Then he asked, “Is there money in there?”
“There’s a five,” I said.
“Keep going,” he said. And then, changing his mind again, “No, go down the alley.” So I turned left, walked down the alley that loops around my building, came out the other side back on Hoyne, looked around, and dashed home. Woke up my roommate to borrow his phone, called the police, and filed a report.
“What did he take?” the police asked me, and I described the unimpressive haul. I can only imagine this man’s disappointment as he realized, yes, I did only have five dollars in cash, plus a debit card good for only a single fill-up at a gas station in Forest Park. All told, it was a rather unlucky night for my new acquaintance. One can only hope that he at least saw the goals.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. He'll have a new phone by tomorrow, latest.
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