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4/17/2007 02:16:00 PM

Marathon Madness

Marathon Madness
Only the most dedicated fans did not throw in the towel during the Canucks-Stars 4-OT playoff game on April 11.
By John Rolfe, SI.com

The NHL prides itself on conducting the most grueling tournament in sports each spring, and it's safe to say that hardcore hockey fans embrace endurance contests like the four-overtime marathon between Vancouver and Dallas on April 11 until the final buzzer, the Samsonites under their bleary peepers a badge of honor to be proudly worn the following morning.

With networks and prime time ad revenue wagging the sports mutt, even regulation games routinely run over the other side of midnight on work and school nights, so you have to be hardy –- and cuddle an urn of black coffee or a nice tub of crystal meth –- to stay focused on the action through crossed-eyes. Even day games that go on forever present challenges in terms of family strife, gastric distress, dwindling fundage (if you're in the stands) and flirting with phlebitis, a stiff back and a numb caboose from sitting so long.

Perhaps my proudest -- or daffiest –- such moment was the four-OT playoff extravaganza between the Islanders and Capitals on Saturday night, April 18, 1987. I had just moved into a new house and cable had yet to be installed, so I listened to the game on radio. All of it. Had to. It was Game 7 of the Patrick Division semifinals and I couldn't bear to go to bed with the fate of my beloved Isles hanging in the balance.

The game lasted almost seven hours. While the players were, in some cases, losing up to 15 pounds, I was gaining them from compulsively munching on chips, cold cuts, cookies, leftover stuffed cabbage, pickles, wheat crackers, an ancient chicken leg unearthed from deep in the fridge, an entire pound cake and, quite likely, a dish towel or two. Not being able to see what was happening made for sheer torture, especially after the OTs set in. My nerves were continually victimized by the rising volume of the announcers -- I seem to recall TV voices Jiggs McDonald and Ed Westfall were also doing radio -- particularly when the Caps came close to scoring.

I sat. I stood. I paced in shifts that were somewhat longer than the 20-second outings the hobbling Isles and Caps began enjoying on the ice as the night dragged on. Ultimately, my cat and sleeping wife paid the price, too. When Pat LaFontaine finally potted the game-winner at 8:47 of the fourth OT, I let out a loud scream, jumped up and down in a frantic war dance and went leaping down the hall, my unbridled joy scaring the holy hell out of Wubbins and my betrothed. It was 2 a.m., but I was too stoked to sleep for at least another hour.

Now, it's one thing to hang on a seven-hour game when there is something at stake, but it takes a fan of the highest caliber of dedication and derangement to stick with all 25 innings of a relatively meaningless early-season contest like the one between the White Sox and Brewers on May 8, 1984. Or all 3 OTs of the Suns showdown with 7-21 Knicks on Jan. 2, 2006. (Any old-timers out there veterans of the 6-OT NBA classic between Indianapolis and Rochester on Jan. 6, 1951?).

So just how crazy are you? Calculate your degree of partisan madness by awarding yourself points if you've ever:

* Followed every minute of a game that lasted five hours or more (rain delays included): 10 points (deduct 5 if you fell asleep at any point).
* Followed it on a weeknight when you had to be at work or class early the next morning: 15 points (bonus of 20 for regular-season game)
* Attended the game: 20 points (bonus of 20 for regular-season weeknight)
* Watched it at home: 10 points (bonus of 40 for regular-season weeknight)
* Listened all of it on radio: 30 points (bonus of 25 for regular-season weeknight).
* Followed all of it on the internet (on perpetually-updated box score only): 40 points (bonus of 100 for regular-season game)
* Kept score for most of it. 50 points (bonus of 500 for regular-season game)
* Kept score for all of it: 100 points (bonus of 1,000 for regular-season game)
* Bonus of 5,000 if you do any of this on a regular basis

Madness scale: 0-100: Don’t make us laugh
100-495: A momentary lapse of reason
500-750: Genuine cause for concern
755 -995: Hearing voices (Bob Uecker, Mike Lange, etc.)
1,000-1,335: Gates of Delirium

Over 1,335: Book yourself Le Rubber Room at the asylum

When you're done calculating your grade, tell us about your most memorable marathon experience.

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