Monday, March 9, 2009

A Call To Rise

It's been a long time since times have been so desperate in Florida. Then again, it's been just as long since times have needed to be this desperate.

Mired in mediocrity and given up for dead at the beginning of the season, the Florida Panthers are alive and kicking in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. We won games that nobody said we could. We've gotten lucky, earned more than our share, been ripped off and had bad bounces, but here we are, with a chance to do what no Panthers team has done in so long.

We fans have the easy job. We get to sit, on the edge of our seats mind you, and watch everything. You guys have the tough job. No Horty and no Caber, but still we must press on, into the Igloo where the Penguins play has been melting ice lately. No team has escaped a game against Pittsburgh with two points in a half dozen games, yet we stare this task down right in the face with a shorthanded roster.

Then we go to Buffalo, for the first time since one of our own nearly gave his last breath to the game he loved. Now, he will lead us, back onto the ice of our temporarily rivals, but family at heart. They have suffered as much hardship as we have. Yet they are still breathing, surviving time without leading scorer Vanek, and still without backbone Miller. Two hurting teams battling for two huge points, settling for less no longer an option.

Tampa comes calling this weekend, and carries with them a gunner that almost finished one of our own with a knee to the hip. Peg leg Pelty carries on, and so do we. Two points on the line in a game we must win, as not many opportunities such as this one lie on the remaining battle front. Back in front of the home faithful, you will have help in your pursuit of victory, with the roar of a seventh man.

Anyone who wants to get off, the bus stops once more. If you don't think you can handle the rest of the journey, you see the exit. One last call to join us on our journey, one that I have given many sore throats and thousands of miles to. I have spent many a night without uttering a tone, after a heartbreaking loss that could shatter the foundation of any base. I've spent many a night bouncing off of walls, matching my tone to the goal horn's, celebrating huge victories. I have given what I can, albeit a small sacrifice, to an ultimate journey that started so many moons ago.

South Florida has been transformed from a place people looked forward to arriving, to a place of battle, where the Cats rise victorious more often than not. No more comments about how horrible we are or what an easy game is coming up. Instead, rival fans come to tell us how much they enjoy watching us play. This is thanks to nothing other than the effort you give night in and night out.

Times may look tough without a couple of our warriors, but they will be back. You musn't deviate from the task at hand. So many of us are behind you, celebrating every goal with you, and licking the wounds of every defeat.

This is a call to rise. Let every Panthers fan from South Florida to Israel, from Greece to the Bronx, be heard as one.

Playoffs or bust.

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