I will never forget watching the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup last night, mainly because we watched most of the game on a little laptop screen in a little ballpark in Winchester, Virginia. Somehow, that seems quite appropriate.
Martha and I had been invited to attend Men of Opequon Night at Bridgeforth Field to watch the Winchester Royals take on the Harrisonburg Turks in Valley Baseball League action. The “MoO” group, as they call themselves, an Opequon Presbyterian Church organization, had asked me to speak about Fathers, Sons, & Holy Ghosts: Baseball as a Spiritual Experience back in May, and we enjoyed talking with one another so much that they graciously extended us an invitation to their outing last night. Of course, as it turned out, the Capitals were playing the potential clinching game for the Stanley Cup. We set the DVR and hoped to get home at least in time for the 3rd period.
The baseball game was a sloppy affair however, that included multiple hit batsmen, walks, wild pitches—in fact Winchester scored two runs in an inning in which they never recorded a hit. As the game dragged on into the cooling Virginia night, the crowd diminished. To our left, however, were two Shenandoah University volleyball players, one a junior the other a senior, and both in their Capitals jerseys. Martha had cheered them upon their entrance to the stands with a “Go Caps!” The public address announcer was keeping us informed of the hockey score and there wasn’t much concern among the baseball fans when the 1st period ended in a 0-0 score. As the teams furiously traded goals in the 2nd period, however, our attention turned more and more to the hockey game and at that point we noticed that the two volleyball players had a laptop computer on which they were streaming the Stanley Cup. Realizing our interest, the girls angled the laptop so that we could see and began announcing the goals. When Washington went up 2-1 I said, “You know if the Caps keep winning we won’t be able to leave. We’ll have to stay in the stands lest we mess with the Cosmic mojo.”
“We’ll be the only ones here in the dark, if we have to,” replied the young woman in the Ovechkin jersey.
We were bonded from that point on.
In the 7th inning—or maybe the 8th—Harrisonburg put seven runs on the board to go up 16-4. We were now the only four people left in our section of bleachers.
“They have to win tonight. I can’t take any more anxiety,” said the junior whose boyfriend was coaching first base for Winchester. We agreed, but it didn’t look good until Devante Smith-Pelly tied the game 3-3 about half-way through the 3rd period. At this point, Martha was walking around, too nervous to watch on the laptop, and I was sitting in the aisle next to the girls.
Winchester added a meaningless run in the bottom of the 9th to make the final score 16-5 and ending the three-hour forty-five minute affair. With the hockey game tied, we were released from our vow of having to stay in the bleachers in order to maintain the Balance of the Hockey Universe. We weren’t yet out of the parking lot when we turned on the radio and heard Lars Eller put the Caps ahead 4-3 with about 7:30 to go.
We hurried home and into the house where we watched the final 28 seconds and the finest moment in Washington Capitals history. We didn’t watch together, of course. Martha raced upstairs to watch on the bedroom television because that’s where she had watched the entire playoffs. Had the Golden Knights scored while she was watching downstairs, she never would have forgiven herself for causing that.
I felt joy as the Caps celebrated, but I also felt the joy of our two young friends bouncing around like radio waves emanating from somewhere in Winchester. We never got as far as introducing ourselves; names weren’t necessary anyway as we knew all we needed to know about one another as the innings drifted by. And so, I’ll never remember the Caps first Stanley Cup without thinking of our two friends and how we huddled around this little screen in an empty section of bleachers on what turned out to be a glorious night indeed.