When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, I was standing behind the bar at the Beacon Pub. At the end of the night, my ears were ringing. It felt like I was leaving a punk show, not my job.
I make this comparison because, for years, I’ve identified as a music fan – not a sports person. This wasn’t always the case.
My father is a major baseball enthusiast. I was raised accordingly – as a diehard Cardinals fan. I lived in St. Louis until the age of 8. When we moved to Chicago, my dad and brother remained loyal to the Cardinals, but I wanted to root for a local team. It’s no fun cheering for a team you hardly got to see. Obviously, the Cubs were not an option. So I became a White Sox fan.
My dad’s Chicago team of choice was the Bulls. Even though I didn’t find basketball as compelling as baseball, I joined watching him on the couch, eager for father-daughter bonding. I remember being thrilled as they collected championships during the early ’90s. That certainly made Dad happy. However, this was around the time when sports and I started to drift apart.
Junior high was to blame.
Though I enjoyed watching any sport aside from football – like baseball, my love for which is definitely genetic – I was never particularly good at any of them. Somewhere around sixth grade, my peers started being incredibly cruel to me about this. Instead of being synonymous with bonding, as sports had been for me in the past, they became a thing that divided. There were the mean-jock popular kids. And then there was me, a freak-geek. So I turned to books and my music – in punk rock, after all, no one cares if you’re good – and shut sports out of my life.
Then in 2003, I started bartending at the Beacon. As soon as you walk in, you can tell the Beacon is a White Sox bar. That doesn’t mean Cubs fans aren’t welcome; they’re just the minority. Everyone’s welcome at the Beacon, and the friendliness of sports lovers there is what got me back into the game. Within two years, I was completely re-addicted, even when attending school in Los Angeles during the 2005 playoffs. I actually called the Beacon the night the Sox won the World Series and asked the bartender to put the phone on the bar so I could hear the celebratory shouting. Of course, that only made me even more homesick.
As the Blackhawks progressed in the playoffs this year, all I could think was that I must be at the Beacon when they win. The Beacon is entirely responsibly for my love of hockey. I had a bad association with hockey for many years because of an evil high school boyfriend. They finally started regularly televising Hawks home games in 2008 -the year I went back to work at the Beacon. The enthusiasm of my customers – my hockey-loving friends – was contagious. I was sucked into the fast pace and sometimes violent nature of the sport, like a good punk song.
So, yes, when Kane scored that winning goal, I was exactly where I wanted to be: behind the Beacon bar, screaming my lungs out, hugging, high-fiving, and distributing celebratory shots to the people who helped the misfit girl rediscover her love for sports. Thank you, Beacon customers, for sharing such an incredible moment with me. And congratulations to our Blackhawks, 2010 Stanley Cup champs!
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.