A simple theory to explain the success of this year's Blackhawks

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Andrew Shaw: another master of psychological warfare
  • cbssports.com
  • Andrew Shaw: another master of psychological warfare
It seems only right and fitting that a team that did not lose a single game in the first half of the (admittedly abbreviated) 2013 hockey season should win the Stanley Cup. You could credit the success to the talented players and their talented coach (and his equally talented mustache), but you should not neglect the effect of the environment in which they play.

To put it simply, United Center is quite possibly the most annoying place in all of sports. Even if you like the Blackhawks, it's annoying as hell. Can you imagine what it's like if you don't like the Blackhawks?

It's not just the rowdy fans and the stadium's acoustics, which amplify and magnify every single cheer, or the laser light show just before game time. Those exist everywhere. It's also not Jim Cornelison's ritualistic performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" before every game, where he majestically raises his hand, bedecked with the enormous and gaudy 2010 Stanley Cup ring, for "our flag was still there" or the little blast of air that shakes the American flag up near the rafters for "oh, say does tha-at star spangled banner yeeeet waaaaave".

Evil genius
  • suntimes.com
  • Evil genius?
It's not just Tommy Hawk, the avian mascot who bears a strong resemblance to the Saint Louis Cardinals' annoying Fredbird, who roams the stands beating his little drum, sometimes loud enough to be heard over the hysterical announcers during TV broadcasts.

All these things help, but what really puts a Hawks game at United Center over the brink of annoyingness is "Chelsea Dagger", the Fratellis song that plays whenever the Hawks score a goal. Owner Rocky Wirtz allegedly introduced it as the goal song to attract a younger audience. But I think he had another motivation.

"Chelsea Dagger" is one of the most annoying songs ever recorded. It's annoying even when performed by a world-class outlet like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But even worse, it sticks in your head for days and days. To a visiting hockey player, it must be like the sound of failure, the desperate need never to hear it again overshadowing everything else, even playing good hockey. (And if you don't believe in the power of music to drive people mad, read the story "How to Tell a True War Story" in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.)

Surely it's not coincidence that the Hawks started to become great as soon as "Chelsea Dagger" got introduced.

So three cheers to you, Rocky Wirtz. You have earned that ring, just for being a master of psychological warfare. Does the U.S. Army know about you yet?

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