I have a Ph.D. in literature from an institution you’ve probably heard of. While I’m no longer certain that an advanced degree was worth seven years of my life, it definitely comes in handy for bar trivia; it also means that passages of books, poems, and plays sometimes drift through my brain, unbidden, and refuse to leave until I figure out why they came. Last Monday, the soliloquy from Act V, Scene V of what actors superstitiously call “the Scottish play” suddenly surfaced like the Loch Ness Monster. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I couldn’t figure out why.
I plucked the play off my shelf and sat down to read the scene from the beginning. At that point, Macbeth has just received the news of his wife’s death (she of the “Out, damn spot!” fame), and his castle is soon to be besieged by enemy troops. “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” the thane of Cawdor muses, and suddenly, there it was.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Tavares and Tavares and Tavares.
On the eve of the final regular season meetup of the Rangers and the Islanders, was it any surprise that the name of their leading scorer and Hart trophy contender was circling in my head, albeit in Renaissance disguise? Hell, it even scanned right.* Like Macbeth’s tomorrow, Tavares was the thing Rangers fans both dreaded and knew would come, a living, breathing synecdoche for a team that had handed them three tragedies in their own theater. I’d been in the Garden for the 3-0 shutout/bloodbath on January 13th, and, even though we’d beat them (barely — and after losing another one) in the meantime, I honestly didn’t know if I could sit through that spectacle again.
Macbeth doesn’t wonder “what’s the point?” so much as decide there isn’t one; we’re all just fools following shadows, listening to idiots, signifying nothing … which is pretty much how I felt the night of that second loss at MSG. Macbeth might have spilled more blood, but the Rangers fans seemed more drained. I’m not sure which cut went deepest: losing the glow from the historic California sweep the week before, Nash and Brassard hitting three posts in the last three minutes, or hearing the “You Can’t Beat Us” cheer in our own barn. (Hubris, anyone?) Now, no matter how bad a game gets, I don’t boo, and I don’t leave. I may, however, slam far more Jack and gingers than I need, and feel sick for several reasons on the F train on the way home. (After extensive research, I think it’s safe to say that my Rangers, unlike my pool game, do not get better when I drink.)
On February 16, the Rangers finally managed to win, forcing the Fishsticks fans to retire what may have been the most irritatingly immature and historically inaccurate cheer in sports (and don’t even get me started on that goal song). This past Tuesday, we did it again for good measure, ending the regular season series at 3-2, leaving fans on both sides feeling older and grayer, and fans on one side – mine – feeling a combination of elation, exhaustion, smugness, and relief. Mostly relief.
Like the Rangers, I’ll start (with) our “backup” goalie, Cam Talbot. There really aren’t enough positive adjectives to attach to how he played, or that stop on the Josh Bailey breakaway, or the insane final five minutes after which I peeled myself off my ceiling and made appointments to have my newly-white roots done and my gnawed-off fingernails replaced. Just choose your favorite: marvelous, spectacular, not-at-all-backuppy (ok, I invented that one). It struck me that, if this season were a Shakespeare play, Prince Cam would have orchestrated that weirdly medieval attack on his King in order to ascend the throne. As it stands, his position is more boringly ironic: he signed a one-year extension right before he stepped into the spotlight, and the Rangers own his ass – and his trade value – for another year. (Note to readers low on irony or big on conspiracy theories: I am in no way suggesting that Cam actually ordered a hit on Hank. The guy wears an Optimus Klein t-shirt, for crying out loud. You have to love him.)
It wasn’t all wine and witches; in fact, at first it looked like the boys were back in the Bad Place. Derek Stepan, who seemed to have just come out of the box after the penalty that lost the Detroit game, was back in almost immediately, and this time it was in fact his fault. Chris Kreider was demoted to the 4th line, possibly because the last thing he’d gotten past a goalie was Duncan Keith. The power play was atrocious; here’s hoping the boys are not aspiring to 0-37. (Then again, 0-36 got us to the Final last year, so maybe we should stick with what works?) I was hoping that Dan Boyle would sock Cal Clutterbuck again – Lord knows someone should – but he fell down instead. OK then.
On the up side, Zucc was as fearless as ever, scrapping with Matt Martin, who got the best kind of comeuppance when Kevin Hayes outskated him for a patient, physics-defying goal, a sort of cubist spin-o-rama that I still can’t believe I saw. Martin immediately checked him into the net, but after a highlight reel GWG, who cares? That week, in Detroit, Chicago, and again in Nassau County, it suddenly wasn’t all that hard to imagine the Rangers holding the Cup…
… or art thou but
A chalice of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from my beer-oppressed brain?
Look at it this way: unless something egregiously awful happens, the Rangers’ season has got to end better than Macbeth. Right? RIGHT?????
*Like a hockey team, Macbeth is composed of lines; like playing JT Miller with Stepan and St. Louis, “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” is actually a deviation, with a feminine, or unaccented, last syllable. **
**This analogy is not intended as a comment on the quality of Miller’s performance, but if it was, it would be a compliment. #playlikeagirl