Apparently the bruisers in the cheap seats hadn't heard about glasnost when the Soviet Dynamo Riga hockey team skated into the Chicago Stadium early this month to face the Blackhawks. The organ was blaring either "Stars and Stripes Forever" or "Grand Old Flag." It was hard to tell. The guy standing next to us in a gray sweatshirt with ripped sleeves was getting the words wrong either way. His Old Style-soaked utterances were something to the effect: "Be proud of the red, white, and blue, you goddamn Commies--check the Commie bastard."
A strong odor of regurgitated hot dogs permeated the air. We stood in the SRO section of the stadium; near us was a Nick Nolte look-alike with a few teeth missing who was trying to explain the differences between communist and capitalist society to his girlfriend, who resembled a flat-chested Elvira in a Blackhawks jersey.
"Those guys--they're the technicians. They know how to pass. They know how to skate. But they don't have the heart. Our guys--they got the heart to win, you get what I'm saying? You ever see Rocky IV?"
"Well, that's what it's like."
A Blackhawks player ferociously bodychecked a member of the Soviet team.
"Check it out," someone yelled. "Guy's bleeding. He's got red all over him. He's got red all over the ice. You get it? Red? He's making the place red."
Along the back wall, two guys in Blackhawks team jackets were swigging beers and discussing Soviet society.
"That left-winger's a big boy."
"He's a big boy."
"Where do they grow boys that big?"
The other, his sideburns grown long in Neil Young fashion, paused before letting the word ooze out: "Moscow...that's where they grow 'em. Moscow."
"You know it. How do you think they get those boys so big?"
A few places down from us, a particularly vocal fan was bobbing his Adam's apple up and down as he tried to lead the stadium in a chorus of "USA, USA, USA."
"Shut the fuck up," yelled another. "They're all Canadian."
A man whose hair was real short in front, real long in back and who was wearing a fake leather jacket and faded jeans that clung to his butt was philosophizing. "This is goddamn cold war on ice," he said.
His buddy, same hair, same jeans, begged to differ. "We got a hot war goin' on down here. We got a hot war."
"What do you mean?"
"You see that guy in the CCCP jersey?"
"Right down there, you see him? I jacked him."
"You jacked him?"
"Yeah, I jacked him like three times. I could feel it."
"I jacked the son of a bitch. I'm telling you. Messed him up."
As the third period began to draw to a close, the Blackhawks were skating away to a rather easy 4-1 victory. The "USA, USA" chant began to echo through the stadium, combined with a few cries of "Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh" led by a young Filipino man who had apparently watched too many episodes of the Morton Downey Jr. show. A family of fans in personalized Hawks jerseys thrust their right fists into the air as if saluting the fuhrer, and as the siren sounded at the end of the game, one particularly generous fan offered this consoling remark to the Soviet team:
"Hope you guys have another earthquake."
The Dynamo Riga squad skated off the ice. Their uniforms were red, white, and blue.