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I Live In A Joe Pavelski Household Now

DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 25: Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas Stars celebrates a game-winning power play goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during overtime in Game Four of the Western Conference Final of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 25, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Few things in life are less logically justifiable than a rooting interest in a particular sports franchise. They are designed to steal your money, tread on your heart, and spit on your soul, though the second two are optional and funnel back into the first. Your team is usually not going to win a championship and every once in a while it will either demand your tax dollars, threaten to move if you don't pay up, actually move when you don't, or show its essential incompetence when it threatens and then doesn't. But without a rooting interest (and yes, a rooting interest includes gambling, the new American heroin), it's mostly just gym class.

For your intrepid yet inert typist, rooting interests were long ago bred out as a function of the old sports journalism dynamic, namely, "Cover the story without inserting any desires save either a quickly played game or multiple overtimes that blow right through the deadline." Not caring who wins makes life so much simpler, although I understand why most folks need them. It offers a brief respite from the latest political, social, or cultural indignity in this wretched star-spangled dumpster, and if you know a guy who will take your action, it can even prove minimally lucrative.

This, however, does not apply to the author's family, which has two specific rooting interests, starting with the Golden State Warriors. The bride wants them to win because they are close by; the daughter wants them to win because it means partying in the local drinkery; the son wants them to win while complaining that the referees are out to screw them. They all look at the author as the dead-inside brute who genuinely is only interested in the game itself without a concern for the winner or loser because knowing how the sausage is ground ruins most of the fun of the bratwurst.

The other familial rooting interest is Joe Pavelski, the hero of the Dallas Stars' still-quixotic chase for the Stanley Cup Final. Pavelski, who scored the winning goal in overtime Thursday night to beat Vegas and extend the Western Conference final, has all the elements for a casual but fervid rooting interest—a long association with a local team, a normal physical stature that includes several missing teeth in the vandalized graveyard that is his lower bite, advanced age (he is 38, a point made endlessly every time he plays by every broadcaster who references him), and a desperate chase to win one championship before retirement.

He is all about work ethic (he works every shift), guile (he finds empty ice near the goal with an almost uncanny consistency), and wizardry (he may be the best puck deflector of the last quarter century, and that is if you consider Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom and his arse-in-the-goalie's face tactic). He also has the veteran player's gift for answering every question with a polite and traditional nothingness that says, "I know what you asked but I'm only giving you this answer no matter what." He has no known legal quirks (a polite way of saying a police file), so he comes in ethically clean—or at least as ethically clean as the sport of hockey allows.

This is Pavelski's moment. His concussion in the first game of the Minnesota series did not put a dent in that series, but his return in Game 1 of the Seattle series was a four-goal Pavs-terpiece that established him as perhaps the most important Star on a team with Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Jamie Benn (when he's not cross-checking his frustrations away), and Jake Oettinger. In the 11 games since his return, he has been the Western Conference's response to Matthew Tkachuk (ask your friend from Miami who became a lifelong Panthers fan eight days ago).

His game-winner last night also inspired the author's more important half to bark in joy and clap her hands, a rarity in a home where she has been bombarded with way too many games of microscopic consequence. Pavelski is her new objet d'art, the logical inheritor of the burden of favorite-player-never-to-win-the-Cup carried fruitlessly by her actual favorite player of all time, Joe Thornton. Thornton is now doing Just For Men ads, a scary fate to consider.

So we are now a house with a rooting interest, as alien as that seems. The daughter has her quixotic affiliation with Tottenham (she likes the chicken logo), and the son still will spend endless hours grousing about the inherently dishonest NBA based on national bete noire Scott Foster, but there is unanimous consent on Joe Pavelski, if for no other reason that She Who Controls The Voting Shares must have her affiliations supported without dissent. In other words, the diffident lump in the other chair has to shut up and lay out Saturday as Game 5 blooms. This is a Joe Pavelski house until further notice, or until the Golden Knights get their crap together.

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