I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you’re a pretty woman, you’ll look good wearing a trash bag. That fact apparently applies to geeky glasses, too.
Friday night’s Bruins game was a tribute to the classic hockey movie Slap Shot, and to get into the spirit, local sportscasters Kathryn Tappen and Barry Pederson donned taped, geeky glasses in honor of the movie’s trio of hard-hitting hooligans: brothers Jeff, Steve, and Jack Hanson. To ensure Slap Shot silliness ruled at Friday night’s game, the first 10,000 fans in attendance received a free pair of taped black glasses, which meant the “girls (and guys) who wear glasses” motif was unavoidable. Whole families of fans–mom, dad, and kids alike–wore Hanson glasses. Ushers wore Hanson glasses. Concessions staff selling beer, chips, and hot-dogs wore Hanson glasses. Even the Bruins’ mascot, Blades, wore a bear-sized pair of Hanson glasses…and yes, I wore mine perched atop my Bruins ballcap for that “girls who wear two pairs of glasses” effect.
To say that Slap Shot enjoys cult status among hockey fans is a monumental understatement. Like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Slap Shot was a movie I’d heard endlessly quoted and reverently referenced long before I actually saw it. Slap Shot‘s popularity among hockey fans might stem from the fact that there aren’t many mainstream movies about hockey…but more likely, the movie enjoys perpetual popularity among diehard fans because it manages to capture the comedy in a sport that the uninitiated might think is simply brutal. Yes, hockey is rough, tough, and merciless, and hockey fights can get ugly. But hockey is also a game that’s played on ice, so it naturally involves a lot of silly slips. Bare-fisted (or even foil-fisted) fisticuffs might be pure drama, but a fight that’s doomed to end in an icy pratfall is pure comedy. Slap Shot manages to capture that zaniness.
In a word, Slap Shot is pure slapstick, and hockey fans apparently have an endless appetite for humor. The gags in Slap Shot are purely physical, and like a vaudeville banana peel, they get laughs every time. The Bruins’ pre-game video, for instance, alludes to one classic scene where an organist gets beaned by an errant puck while playing “Lady of Spain.” Time and again, fans laugh at the gag with its boneheaded reminder to “Be aware that the puck can be propelled into the spectator area with enough force to cause serious injury. Please stay alert at all times.” Saying “watch out” would be simple enough, but what better way to drive the point home than with a goofy gag?
Perhaps because I’m a girl who really does wear glasses, I see a serious undercurrent even in Slap Shot‘s shtick. The minor league hockey team featured in the movie–the fictional Charlestown Chiefs–becomes wildly popular after adopting the brutally physical play of those aforementioned Hanson brothers, but only after the Hansons sign onto the team during dismal economic times. Based upon the real-life mill-town of Johnstown, PA, the fictional Charlestown is financially distressed in the aftermath of floods and departed industry. Only after the town becomes literally and fiscally washed-up does full-out hockey hooliganism provide unemployed and dispirited fans with something to cheer about.
Johnstown is to Slap Shot, in other words, what Sheffield is to The Full Monty. In both movies, the male population, like the economy, is depressed by the closing of the local steel mill. Both Slap Shot and The Full Monty suggest that men can’t be men if they don’t have the monetary means of supporting themselves and their families. Economically emasculated, the men in both movies determine that over-the-top, testosterone-laced spectacle mixed with a touch of humor is one way to resuscitate male pride. Even a man without a job can bloody his fists, cheer for the local team, or take it all off to feel like a man again…and if you’ve seen the end of Slap Shot, you know that the climax of the movie incorporates all three of these strategies to comedic effect.
There are no steel-mills, closed or otherwise, in Boston, but times are tough everywhere these days. You don’t have to be a girl who wears glasses to see that both sports and movies about sports are one way that the economically depressed fight back, finding catharsis in a good game.
Click here for the entire set of photos from Friday’s night’s Boston Bruins game against the Florida Panthers, which the Bruins won 2-4. Woooo!