As I write this, I'm watching the New York Rangers play the Ottawa Senators in the NHL Playoffs.
And I'm trying to appreciate every second of it.
Because while it may seem that in hockey 'everyone makes the playoffs', or 'the playoffs last forever', that's still a concept that's somewhat novel for me.
It doesn't matter what sport it is - seasons with playoffs are far outnumbered by seasons without.
When the playoffs arrive and my teams are involved - I just can't get enough.
We'll start with hockey - the Rangers are still owners of the most recent championship of the teams I root for. But they also went 7 seasons (an eternity in hockey) without even making the playoffs...and their recent playoff appearances have been fairly quick exits. (Even in years where they advanced past the first round they've gotten their doors blown off in the second.)
Then last year the Rangers showed some promise. Their first round series loss to the Capitals featured outstanding play by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but some unfortunate bounces left the Rangers on the short end in an extremely tight series. I couldn't wait for this post-season to see what the Rangers would be capable of with more support for Lundqvist.
Lundqvist is that special kind of player who can lead your team to a championship. It's something I've seen a lot of on other teams the past decade or so.
I've written a lot about how it seems like everywhere I turn someone around me is celebrating a championship. I live in Massachusetts, where we all know about the recent success of the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins. And many of my close friends and family are Yankees fans, where the playoffs are a constant expectation, and Giants fans, who I've seen win four Super Bowls. All of those teams have had plenty of special players who have been able to bring titles to their teams and to their cities.
They've also established cultures where, as I said about the Yankees, the playoffs are the norm. Anything short is considered a tremendous disappointment.
That doesn't mean their fans appreciate the playoffs any less when they roll around - it just means they get a chance to appreciate them more often.
For me? If the Mets make the playoffs this year it'll be a shock to everyone. I still haven't had a chance to see them redeem themselves in the post-season following the Game 7 NLCS heartbreak in 2006. The Jets, of course, had their back-to-back AFC Championship Game runs just a couple of years ago, and despite their relative success in the past ten years or so....well, it's never easy being a Jets fan. It just doesn't seem natural to consider them legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
This isn't a 'woe is me' situation. It's not a 'my situation is worse than yours' situation. (It's certainly not a 'my situation is better than yours' scenario.)
It's just a statement of fact. My team is in the playoffs and I'm loving every second of it. I hope it lasts until June and ends with a championship banner.
And maybe, just maybe, this will be the moment we look back on as the starting point for a period of success by all of my teams.
If that were to happen I know this: No matter how successful my teams ever are, I'll never take a playoff appearance for granted.