Mama Madison: Hockey instead of the headlines

Scott Walker and I have a few of things in common. We both sported very bad haircuts in our high school yearbook photos. and I also clearly share a love of the Eagles, although the dark underbelly of 'Hotel California' might better describe my time in 12th grade. But our most striking similarity? According to numerous interviews and addresses the Governor has given over past three weeks, he sees himself as president of the "eternal optimist" club. I am proud to say that I am a card-carrying member, as well.

But Governor, you've made it a quite a bit harder to remain upbeat these days. I am a Mom, so it is my duty to figure out how to make lemonade out of lemons. I'd like to think I am even Pollyanna-enough to try to make lemonade out of horseradish. But I am hard-pressed to figure out how to make something palatable out of arsenic--the only ingredient your scorched earth method of balancing the budget has left folks to work with. I'm finding it difficult to find a silver lining, or even bronze, in your budget -- only a lead-based one.

And now, this erosion of my "eternal optimism" is starting to infiltrate other aspects of my life.

For instance, I wasn't nearly as pumped as I should have been this past weekend as my family and I headed out of town to cheer on my son's hockey team in their bid for the Bantam B state championship. I was disappointed to be missing Michael Moore at the Capitol and was not looking forward to cramming the whole family into a small hotel room for the night. But mostly, I just wasn't all that excited for the games.

Yes, our team had delivered a good, solid season, but it wasn't stellar. I was having a hard time mustering up the optimism a good hockey mom (you know, like Sarah Palin) should have before a big tournament. I just wasn't feeling that success at the state championship was in the cards.

As expected, the guys won their first game against host team Fond du Lac. Our team played solidly, but certainly not great--they'd really need to step it up and then some for the semi-final match that evening. We were playing Appleton, a powerhouse team, both in skill and size. Trust me, eighth graders from the Fox River Valley grow a whole lot bigger than in Madison. The height differential was impressive and left me doubtful our boys could pull this off.

But fortunately, my brief bout with pessimism wasn't contagious. Many members of our team hadn't had the chance to play in a state title game before; they wanted this chance and they wanted it bad. It was a white-knuckle game from beginning to end, but the whole team skated furiously and deftly handled the puck. Our goalie had the game of his life; save after remarkable save after unbelievable save. Appleton never gave up, but this one went our way with a 3-2 victory. A David vs. Goliath moment delivered by 14 tough middle school kids who just had determination.

We parents, almost as elated as the kids, waited at the locker room door dispensing high fives all around. It was a major upset -" momentum seemed to be on our side. I half-seriously offered to gather up the teams' uniforms and drive them cross state lines to Illinois--the Fab 14 could use a little boost and a change of clothes. But once I got a whiff of my son's jersey I realized this was probably not a smart or sanitary option. The smell of his alone, never mind the thirteen others, would have done me in miles before I reached the border.

I wish I could say that it was a full Cinderella story for the West Madison Polar Caps. No such luck in the Championship game"we were definitely outplayed by a well-organized Ozaukee club, losing 6-2. Lightning doesn't always strike twice.

But that semi-final game was magnificent. Our moment. And it restored my optimism that it is possible for 14 valiant people to stage an upset. Just skate hard and protect the net. After all, they can't win if they can't score--or have a quorum.

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