Like any self-respecting Atlanta sports fan, I have an instinctive, virulent, extremely strong dislike for any sports team bearing a NY logo. Doesn’t matter: Mets… Knicks… Giants… Islanders… especially the Yankees. Don’t like them. Never have. Never will. Their fans are brash, rude, loud, and have a limited vocabulary, which inevitably seems to include some form to the statement, “[name], you s*ck!”

We had the misfortune of sitting directly in front of a group of Yankee fans at the opening game of the 1999 World Series vs. the Braves at Turner Field. Opening ceremonies included honoring the Sporting News Top 100 Ballplayers of the 20th Century, many of whom were at the ballpark that evening. As each player was introduced to warm southern applause, inevitably one or two—or 20—of the Yankee fans would shout, “Hey, you s*ck!” After the first dozen times, it became extremely annoying, and it didn’t help later in the game when the Braves bullpen gave up four runs to destroy a masterful Greg Maddux performance, resulting in a 4-1 loss, whipping those same obnoxious fans into an even more obnoxious frenzy.

This is not to imply that Southern fans never cross the line from enthusiastic to obnoxious. Obviously if you’ve ever attended at UGA Bulldawg football game, or if you’ve sat in the stands during a NASCAR race when Kyle Busch takes his trademark bow to the throngs of boos after winning another race… well, suffice to say we too have our share of obnoxious fans. But we’re rarely rude… and our taunts tend to be a bit more creative than “You s*ck!”

All this comes in preparation for a startling self-revelation this week. You may recall that Atlanta is (once again) without an NHL team this season. Hockey withdrawal is bad enough when the Stanley Cups Champs are crowned and October seems so far away, but when you’re faced with the prospect of no home team to carry you through the next dreary winter… well, as a Yankee fan would say, “it just s*cks.”

Hence, the season-long search for a new favorite team. When you don’t have a team to follow, watching teams as they rotate across the television schedule provides a new perspective on the game. You come to appreciate players you once disdained and you are free to pick a different team to cheer to victory each night (Thank you, NHL Center Ice!). Rather than live and die and agonize over one team’s season, you have the luxury of switching teams mid-game, all the while discovering new candidates for “favorite player” honors.

Though, I do have to confess. Every time I choose to cheer for a team of the month, the week, the night, it starts them on a skid in the standings. Favorite players of the moment suffer a similar fate—injury, illness, scoring drought, suspension, whatever. My sincere apologies to all teams and players thus affected.

One team has escaped this fate, however; most likely because the universe would never believe that this Atlanta girl would ever consider pulling for a team from New York. Those Rangers (Yes, the New York Rangers, not the Texas Rangers) are just too much fun to watch. From the leader behind the bench, Coach John Tortorella, to the leader on the ice, Ryan Callahan, to the guy who minds the net, Henrik Lundqvist (and everyone in between), these guys have me wishing they played Anywhere but New York!

I’m not saying that I’m actually hoping they win the Stanley Cup—that would immediately torpedo any chance of that happening at all. Besides, there are still plenty of other contenders in the mix.

Good old-fashioned dislike and years of holding a grudge are hard habits to break. At least from the safety of the living room, we can pretend these guys in red, white, and blue are really and truly America’s NHL team—and no one has to know the truth.

Let’s just keep this between us, though, ok?

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