Hockey

Spread Your Wings and Fly Away – Smell Ya Later, Sam

With the season suspended, we thought we’d take a second to share some thoughts on Fels’s new adventure. Enjoy.

They say you should never meet your heroes. Sam Fels disabused me of that notion.

I can remember a game back around ‘08-‘09 with my uncle. We got there right as the gates opened, as is tradition whenever we go to any sporting event. As we approached the gate from our spot on Washington and Paulina, my uncle told me, “I need to get my Program.”

We walked around the gates until my uncle saw a man with a stack of papers in one hand, a wad of cash in the other, and a PigPen-esque cloud of cigarette smoke in his wake.

“Two Programs,” my uncle boomed in his deep clergyman’s bellow. As we walked into the United Center, I asked him, “What is this?”

It didn’t look like any program I had ever seen. It was homemade and had no gloss. It was cartoony. It said “fuck.” A lot.

“The Indian,” my uncle said.

I didn’t know it, but this was my introduction to Sam Fels, punk rock, and hockey as I now know it.

I remember sitting in the 300s, nary a soul around us, and laughing uncontrollably with my uncle. We each pointed out our favorite jokes and one liners. I pored over that Program the entire game. I don’t remember who they played or who won. But I remember the Program.

Since then, we’ve had three Cups and nine playoff appearances with the Blackhawks. Over the past 11-12 years, Fels has given us weirdos a voice, a guide, and more recently, a place to commiserate. He made the math fun and introduced many of us to why the stats mattered. More importantly, he clarified why this team mattered, on the ice and in our lives.

What always mattered most to me was the laughter and the irreverence at the bullshit. I remember killing time at jobs I hated, reading everything Fels wrote on SB Nation and finishing the day with a rare smile. From 2010-2013, Fels’s writing was a refuge from a reality I tried desperately to drink myself out of. And during the summer of 2015, Fels’s writing helped me confront and cope with a lot of problems I’d buried. It was always a bright light, even when the subject matter was dark.

Fels’s writing—in its punk rock, fearless, fuck-you way—changed us for the better. It gives me and people like you, dear reader, a sense of community and oftentimes respite. Fels’s writing combines art, arithmetic, and angst to create an easily adoptable identity and legacy. It’s a legacy we’ll do our best to keep alive here.

Fels’s writing is important. To me. To you. And now, to the wider audience fortunate enough to introduce themselves to it.

Congratulations, good luck, and smell ya later, Sam. You’ll do well. Because everyone’s got to get their Program.

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