What's it like to be a passionate New York Rangers fan? It's like being on a roller coaster that you don't want to get off.
The highs and lows, the unexpected twists and turns. It's a ride that takes you up, where you feel like you're on a cloud. But when you least expect it, it also will send you crashing down -- so much so that you feel sick to your stomach. Funny, as I'm reading the words I'm writing, it sounds as if I've just described what it's like to be in love.
Perhaps you're wondering how I can let a professional sports team have such tremendous power over me. I can thank my childhood for that. I was a kid with low self-esteem who longed to be popular in school. I didn't have a lot of friends. I was trapped in a shell I couldn't break out of -- until I discovered hockey. Not only playing it, but also watching it with my dad.
Because I grew up on Long Island, you'd think I would have supported the home team, the New York Islanders. But their timing was off. They were not in the playoffs when I discovered hockey, while the Rangers were (although usually not for long). The Rangers gave a shy, young girl like myself something to look forward to, something to get excited about, something to share with my dad.
As I've grown up and broken out of that shell, those strong emotions I felt for the Rangers as a child have stayed with me through adulthood, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Let's dive deeper. There are many levels of fandom. I'm extreme! I'm one of those Rangers fans who doesn't take defeat well. For example, if the Rangers fail to make the playoffs in a given season, I make it my mission -- as do many other hard-core Rangers fans -- to root against their most hated rival, the New Jersey Devils. In fact, during the past few weeks I have found myself cheering for the Rangers' two biggest annoyances -- the Devils and the Islanders -- in games in which they've faced teams the Rangers are trying to catch to make the playoffs. That's how low you have to go sometimes when you love the Rangers.
Some of my "SportsCenter" colleagues are the same way. Scott Van Pelt has told me he can't explain his actions when it comes to his Maryland Terrapins. John Anderson appreciates my insanity and has even written a blog item or two on SportsCenter.com about what it's like to sit next to me while I'm watching a Rangers game.
I have no crystal ball. The Rangers have broken my heart so many times. Will they make the playoffs this season? ESPN hockey analysts Barry Melrose and Matthew Barnaby eliminated them weeks ago. But, remarkably, the Rangers have done just enough to stay in the playoff race. (Scott Burnside even thinks they'll make it!)
That next big game gives Rangers fans like me something to look forward to. Experiencing the lows is what makes the unexpected highs so amazing.
Keep it going, Blueshirts! Because I'm not ready for this roller-coaster ride to end just yet.
Linda Cohn is an anchor for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS.