The Penguins are a cruel mistress. They're insolent, they're selfish, and they're frustrating to no earthly end.
They're the girl who laughs when you tell her you love her. They're the boy who will never care for you as much as you care for him. And you know it.
This team sits there, the bowl of candy in the waiting room of the dentist's office. They're bad for you, but they're irresistible, and like a sap you just can't help yourself.
You keep saying your finished. You won't watch. You won't care. You just won't. If they're not going to give everything they've got, why should you even give them a second thought. That's it. You're done.
Then you wonder what the score is.
Then you ask yourself where they are in the standings again.
It's easy to be a cynic. You don't have to believe in much, just that people, when given the choice, will consistently disappoint. They'll underwhelm and underachieve just when you need them the most and it will be par for the course. Cynicism doubles as realism with this team so often that by now even the shock value has worn off.
How often can you muster up the effort to really care when you continue to see the drop passes to nowhere, the intercepted cross-ice passes at the blueline, nobody working hard for the puck, or any of the other dozen hallmarks of a team that only shows up when it feels like it?
How many days are there in a hockey season?
The honest truth is that this is a bad Penguins team. It should be an interesting one, with all this youth (Beech, Kraft, Petersen, etc.), and all this potential (Morozov, Hrdina, Lang, etc.), yet it continues to drip with so much that is wrong in hockey. Lazy efforts (usually at home) uninspired coaching (usually come game time), and enigmatic players that frustrate more than finish.
The creativity this team once exuded in the front office and flaunted on the ice is gone. You know it, you feel it, and worst of all you can see it right out there in front of your face. Where's the work ethic, where's the pride, what happened to the foundation of 'the Penguin dynasty'?
It left via free agency. It retired. It was traded for players you'd never heard of.
It takes a while, but finally it sinks in. What's the point?
Then it happens.
Like that phone call out of the blue. Or flowers for no reason.
There's that smile you could never say 'no' to, that plea for forgiveness, that soliloquy about how it's going to be different. It's genuine. It's sincere. It's a hat trick from Aleksey Morozov and a four point from Mario Lemieux.
It's classic Penguin hockey.
Of course, you know it's just a ploy. You see right through it. You realize that Dan LaCouture is going hard into the corners on every shift right now, but eventually that will wear off simply because of the colors on his sweater. This team won't sustain such effort. They never do. They're the Penguins.
You know, perfectly well, that this team will come home and fall flat on its face. It's Lucy pulling the football out from under Charlie Brown. You know it will happen. You are absolutely, one hundred percent, almost positive of it.
So you curl up alone, and you tell yourself that this is the last time. Absolutely. Positively. It will be different this time or else.
Because this time they mean it.
You know it's not true, but you decide that you'll just wait and see. After all, you've come too far to give up now. Besides, the Penguins play again tomorrow night.
Brother Karsh appears weekly at LGP.com and certainly knows what it's like to be mistreated by an inconsiderate mistress and an unconscionable hockey team. That said, eighty-two games of this stuff simply isn't enough.