You can buy a new TV. You can get twenty new hardback books or sixty paperbacks at retail, and several hundred books used if you know where to go. You can get a new DVD player and every movie worth watching that was made in the last thirty years, which, granted, is not a large number of movies, but work with me here.
Or you could get one - one - nosebleed seat ticket to see tomorrow's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Chicago between the hometown Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers. That doesn't include parking, gas, tolls, refreshments, souvenirs, meals, or taxes. Just the ticket.
I've been a Flyers fan for most of my life, with varying degrees of intensity. It's a sport I enjoy watching no matter who's playing, and they are by far my favorite team in it. I can remember the last time they won the Stanley Cup, in 1975 - my brother and I were in the bedroom we shared as kids, not sleeping at all, when all of the sudden horns started blaring and it sounded like the Russians had invaded Philadelphia in search of cheesesteaks. We didn't find out what the story was until the next day, by which time I might have been writing in Cyrillic had things gone differently. I've actually gone to a few games, too - once as a kid when my dad scored some tickets, and twice courtesy of my brother's in-laws, who gave me a game from their season tickets a couple of years' running. Both times they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime, oddly enough. And when Tabitha was born I put a Flyers pennant (and an Eagles pennant, which was a leap of faith at the time) over her crib, in the fond hopes of raising another fan. It sort of worked, as much as she follows any sport.
Part of the effort, way back when.
This year I've been following the Flyers' improbable march through the playoffs as best I can out here in the nation's tender midsection. It has not been easy.
For one thing, there is the fact that NHL hockey in general is not exactly a major draw out here. The local newspaper does not regularly print standings, let alone scores or stories, during the regular season, and while you can often get video of high school girls basketball on the local news they rarely give you NHL scores even on the bottom-screen crawl.
For another thing, the Powers That Be were not all that interested in showing the Flyers on their little television network when the playoffs rolled around. There were eight playoff series in Round 1, and they televised some 35 games, not one of which included the Flyers. We were the only series that didn't get a minimum of two games. Some got seven.
On one level I can sort of understand that, since the Flyers qualified for the post-season literally on the last shot of the season, winning a shootout on the last day of the regular season just to get in, and very little was expected of them. But their opponents were a 2-seed, the division winner, and you'd think that would count for something.
But you'd be wrong.
So I listened to them on internet radio as they beat the New Jersey Devils. And when the network finally decided to show some of their games, I watched them go down three games to none in a best of seven to the Boston Bruins, only to pull off the fourth ever comeback from that deficit in North American sports history to win in seven. This despite going down 3-0 fifteen minutes into that seventh game. Apparently they like a challenge, this team. I then watched them take care of the Montreal Canadiens with some efficiency, because there are only so many challenges one's heart can take in one season.
And now it is the Finals. In Chicago, a city within easy driving distance.
Kim told me I should go see a game. "It's not like they do this every year," she said. "You may never get this chance again."
So I looked into it.
There is just nothing appropriate for a married man to spend that kind of money on for three hours of entertainment. I've thought about it and the only things that qualify as worthwhile on that scale of dollars-per-hour involve large quantities of alcohol, several new acquaintances of questionable virtue, and fevered attempts to reconstruct events from police reports over the following weeks. This might conceivably have worked when I was 22, but even if it sounded attractive to me now I don't think I would survive it.
So I guess I'll watch from home this year, which is just fine.