Fans Meet Tavares: When fandom and awkward reality collide

I can't experience the curious phenomenon of professional sports fandom without being constantly aware of its strange juxtaposition: We rest so many hopes -- and our moods from day to day -- on the physical performance of 18-40 year-olds playing a game. They wear uniforms that stir passion and evoke memories of years gone by; we provide atmosphere and relevance that helps make their occupation both profitable and thrilling. Both fan and player are inherently human, yet their intersection is not a typical human relationship.

So for the Islanders fans who won the contest to go to the draft, I watch the video of them meeting John Tavares with both envy and bemusement. It's an exciting yet awkward moment: Riveting because they love this team so much they went to Montreal to celebrate the #1 pick, a franchise rebirth. Awkward, because what do you say to the 18-year-old you've been thinking about for months, who you hope brings new light to your sporting days, who you hope scores a game-winner to crush spirits at Madison Square Garden -- who you hope, literally, "saves the franchise?"

The answer is a combination of "Thank God," a handshake, an awkward shake/clench, a "You saved the team," one chest bump and one hug. What would you do? Watch for yourself and decide:

I honestly don't know what I would have done. All the franchise hardships, all the losses from the past season, all the hopes for a resurrection, bottled up into a promotional moment arranged by the team.

Given how nervous I was during the lottery and in the seconds before Garth Snow announced the name, I can hardly predict my own composure. I probably would have punted, focusing on hockey by asking him about when he decides to place a shot and when he decides to deke -- how that in-the-moment thought process/instinct works for him. ("Um, yeah, move this along guys, we have other commitments.")

But that's assuming there is even opportunity for conversation afterward. As for the moment of introduction that actually happened -- well, it's really damned hilarious, and 100% human.

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