When I turned 18, my father wrote on my birthday card, “Happy birthday. I love you. I hope it hurts like hell.” He wrote this final line in response to how I would be spending my birthday — having the Atlanta Thrashers logo tattooed on my leg.
When I had proposed this idea to my family and friends in the months leading up to my 18th birthday, everyone raised their eyebrow in the same way people do when you are suddenly engulfed in a gaseous aroma in an elevator. Then they asked questions.
“But what happens if they change their logo?” Well, then I will have the original logo, I said.
“But what happens if you stop being a fan?” That’ll never happen, I responded. I’ll always be a fan.
“But what happens if the team gets sold and moved?” We are talking about the modern-day NHL, I said. Teams don’t just get sold and moved.
I wish that last question and answer had been fabricated, but my father, the very man who wished me pain on my birthday, asked what would turn out to be a prophetic question.
When the Thrashers were sold in 2011, and subsequently left Atlanta faster than someone with pollen-sensitivity in April, I was understandable devastated.
After all, this was my team. My team. And suddenly they were gone.
Non-sports fans may not be able to relate, but when you follow a team’s every game, every trade rumor, every draft pick and you celebrate every win with fervor and are crippled with depression at every loss, you have developed an amazing passion and dedication. And when it’s suddenly gone, entire kegs of beer cannot drown your sorrows (I know because I tried).
So with the NHL playoffs going full bore, this is a depressing time to be a Thrashers fan — watching and hearing the excitement in the stands as fans cheer on their team that they likely follow just as closely as I followed the Thrashers.
And yes, though the Thrashers only made the playoffs once — and were swept — I still like to imagine they would have made more playoff berths from 2011 to now. Then I look at the Winnipeg Jets, the relocated and rebranded Thrashers, and I realize that may not be true.
I tried to become a Jets’ fan. My thought was that this was essentially the Thrashers in a different city with different uniforms. But in the end, I had to come to the realization that I was trying to be a fan and was not actually invested. The change in city, and country for that matter, was too much. My team was gone.
But every day I am reminded of my team as I look down to my right leg, because there it sits — the tattooed reminder of how much I love the Thrashers.
Of course I have become the butt of many jokes due to my tattoo, and truthfully, they still sting a little. But slowly but surely I’ve just started joking around as well, telling people I was a very early adopter of Tesla (the Tesla logo looks similar to the Thrashers logo).
Jokes aside, the Thrashers are still my team and I am still a fan. As I said when questioned, I will always be.
And no, the tattoo didn’t hurt. But looking at it now kind of does.