On a Tuesday night at the corner of 14th and Clark, we saw what it can look like when sports crosses beyond the borders of the sports pages and embeds itself in the consciousness of the community. Buckle up, because it’s going to be there for a while.
The sports page portion of this story reads, “St. Louis Blues go to double overtime in a do or die game 7 and pull out a dramatic win.” Storylines abound, including the fact that a local kid, Pat Maroon, scored the game winner.
The community portion is something far different. Inside the Enterprise Center, more than 18 thousand people from all walks of life simply didn’t want to leave. The roar that erupted with that winning goal would not pass. I watched as people hugged and high fived complete strangers all around them. They cheered, chanted and sang for half an hour inside the arena. They did it some more in the concourses. Then they took it to the streets outside.
As the crowds moved up 14th, passer’s by joined the party. There was a man who appeared to be homeless offering high fives to all who passed. What stood out was the fact that so many responded. People who might normally walk past him and avoid his gaze, looked him in the eye, returned his smile, and clasped hands. All who wanted to be part of the party were welcome to join.
A city bus driver cheered out the window as he offered an encouraging burst of three toots from his horn. Police officers and pedestrians shared grins that, for at least a moment, seemed to melt the barrier between authority figure and the guy or gal who may have had one Budweiser too many.
In our city we have had heated debates about funding for sports venues, including the expensive, publicly funded renovation of the building where this all took place. We have argued over and over again about the value, or lack thereof, of a sports team when it comes the perception of a community. This Blues victory, or even a march on to a Stanley Cup, likely won’t change most people’s views on those subjects.
But we should all be able to agree that there is value in an event that brings people together. There is value in an entity or group that can cause a smile to draw across the collective face of our town.
You didn’t have to be a hockey fan to enjoy the impromptu street party that erupted in our downtown Tuesday night. You just needed to be a St. Louisan. All were welcome, and will continue to be if this magical sports ride, over half a century in the making, keeps going.