"There is no friend like an old friend, who has shared our morning days." — Oliver Wendell Holmes
On June 12, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup for the first time in the franchise's 52-year history. That day sits in an exclusive happy place of memories, behind the likes of my wedding day and the births of my two daughters, but very close to the first World Series the St. Louis Cardinals won in my lifetime (1982). A team that sat in last place among all 31 NHL teams in early January skated away with the greatest trophy in sports last June in Boston (the day after my silver wedding anniversary).
Last Saturday night — precisely four months after the Blues raised the Cup — I sat in TD Garden with four of my dearest friends, high school classmates collectively celebrating the year we each complete 50 laps around the sun. I did not wear my Blues gear. (I have a wife and children. This was Bruins country. It was preservation of life.) But the Blue Note on my heart swelled in that arena, particularly among some of the few people on the planet who knew of my devotion to the Blues in junior high.
Sports set the agenda — and provided the background music — for my three-day escapade in Beantown, a total of eight classmates (currently residents of five states and Guam) gathering to check receding hairlines, tolerance for cheap whiskey, and the ability to keep a straight face when someone shares a chapter from the glory days. We bowled a series, and then some, Thursday night under big screens featuring the latest New England Patriots conquest. (If there's an American sports figure who commands a city the way Penny Hardaway does Memphis, it's Tom Brady in Boston. You can't escape the number 12 jerseys, especially in a bowling alley on game night.) We played pool across the street from Fenway Park on Friday, alas the home of the 2018 World Series champs busy only with bulldozers this year, resodding underway after a disappointing season for the Bosox. Then Saturday, I managed to get the Memphis-Temple football game on one of the screens at the Bell in Hand Tavern (Boston's oldest bar) while we ate lunch, my buddies mystified at the notion of a Memphis football
team anywhere near the Top 25.
We squeezed our way into Sullivan's Tap — Boston's "longest bar" and recent winner of "Best Bruin Bar" according to Boston
magazine — a couple hours before face-off Saturday night. Watched my beloved Cardinals continue to be baffled by Washington pitchers in the NLCS. I begged my old friend from Guam to approach a patron in a Bruins jersey and ask if Boston won the Stanley Cup last season, but to no avail.
The Bruins looked great in shutting out the New Jersey Devils. I suppose it helped the collective mood for our postgame at Sullivan's, but I can't imagine even a blowout loss by the home team interfering with our laughter that night.
Early Sunday morning — very early — we caught an Uber back to our hotel near the USS Constitution
at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Our proselytizing driver, Daniel, took the opportunity to share more than his direction through Boston streets. Waving his copy of the Bible in his right hand while gripping the steering wheel with his left — as gospel music seeped from the van's stereo — Daniel stressed, "This is my guide."
Perhaps the five of us in that van needed some direction in that moment, as we each stared hopefully toward a sixth decade of life. But I'm not sure we haven't had our own guides — each other — on the way to this special, somewhat sports-related weekend together. There was a time we competed together, as passionately as the Bruins and Devils did at TD Garden, only on a smaller playing field. Since those "morning days," we've become husbands and fathers, said goodbye to moms and dads, and somehow retained the ability to laugh together at the madness, as though we were 17 again. And again. It's as though we earned our biggest win together long after we stopped keeping score. Teammates in the purest form.