ST. LOUIS — Roger Sterling 7, Don Draper 2.
In the world of celebrity sports fans, no one is better known for his St. Louis devotion than Jon Hamm, the actor best known for an Emmy-winning portrayal of Mad Men’s main ad man. But on a historic hockey night in St. Louis Saturday, it was the man who portrayed Draper’s boss, John Slattery, who earned bragging rights for his native city, with Slattery’s Boston Bruins outclassing Hamm’s Blues by the five-goal margin.
Such is the nature of sports, where nothing is scripted, even it if feels that way to everyone outside of New England, who are tired of seeing Boston engraved on so many championship trophies. The Patriots are the reigning Super Bowl champs. The Red Sox are the reigning World Series winners. A Bruins win in the Stanley Cup would bring a nearly unprecedented Triple Crown to the Hub City. After Saturday’s victory gave Boston a 2-1 series lead, you could practically hear the duck boats quacking all the way from Boylston Street. You could most certainly hear the rest of a sporting nation groan.
“I have very strong opinions on New England sports,” Hamm said prior to Saturday night’s game, his stint behind a press conference microphone every indication you needed of how much this city has hopped on the Blues train, his pursed lips all the evidence required of how much he was biting his tongue so as not to inflame the Boston army. “Very few of them are positive.”
Forgive Hamm for he’s seen this scene before, from the Busch Stadium stands in 2013 when the Sox took the second of two recent World Series from the Cardinals (“Still not over that one,” he said). He’s been in the Blues corner since the youthful days when his dad would drive him down Highway 40, see the arena marquee lit up for the hometown hockey team, and pull off to buy tickets. From the highest echelons of stands, amid the swirling cigarette smoke those very Mad Men Lucky Strike commercials were famous for, a hockey fan was born. “It was so exciting to watch, especially as a little kid, guys flying around on the ice,” Hamm recalled. “It was like nothing you’d ever seen.”
From then to now, what St. Louis had not seen was an appearance in the Stanley Cup, with Hamm wryly noting how new this was for him considering the last such run came 49 years ago. “I wasn’t around in 1970,” he said. “I was negative 1.”
The current generation of Boston sports fan has no such complaint, not with six titles since 2001 from the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots, four Red Sox crowns since the curse-breaking magic of 2004, a Big Three Celtics title run in 2008, and a Bruins Cup win in 2011. That the initial Patriots win came at the expense of the heavily favored then-St. Louis Rams, that both the 2004 and 2013 World Series titles were won against the Cardinals would be enough to leave the likes of Hamm feeling so strongly in his anti-Boston feels. But consider it was the Bruins who swept the Blues out of that last Stanley Cup appearance — it was Bobby Orr who went memorably airborne after his overtime Cup-winning goal — didn’t it just have to be Boston on the other side again when St. Louis hosted its first Cup game since?
“It’s been an interesting back and forth between St. Louis and Boston, hasn’t it? Pick your sport. We’ve got kind of a beef, don’t we,” Hamm said. “I do like working in Boston, I made a couple movies in Boston [e.g. “The Town”]. But I would like our team to win.”
Google any map polling sports fans across the country and you know he is not alone. But listen to him talk about his teams, hear from the athletes in the locker room that he’s been excited to meet, and you can appreciate the authenticity of his feelings.
“He’s a legit hockey fan, absolutely,” veteran Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson said. “I met him in Los Angeles, I met him last series here, he’s a great guy. He loves hockey.
“It’s pretty cool to see him around and other celebrities I didn’t even know were Blues fans. We really appreciate the support. The lady off the Office [Jenna Fischer], Andy Cohen, a bunch of people from St. Louis I wasn’t even aware of.”
In that, they are not unlike any of us, drawn to sports for the outlet it provides, for the passion it inspires, for the dreams it spawns and excitement it incites. If actors like Hamm allow us to lose ourselves in their worlds, so, too, can they lose themselves in ours. Sports is a great equalizer, even when some cities are more equal than others. St. Louis wouldn’t mind taking a hockey turn in the spotlight.
“Sure. I mean, who says no to the Stanley Cup?” Hamm said. “But yeah, we could use a win. It’s been a rough run for the city the last three decades or so with the odd Cardinals championship here and there and what-not. It would be nice for a million different reasons, but mostly I think for the guys on this team. When you look back, whatever it was, January 2, last in the league, and to have the guts and fortitude and strength and character and the skill to come back from that, yeah, I mean, I think these guys believe. And I think the city’s starting to.”
Boston might have something to say about that, much to the rest of the country’s chagrin. In the words of the inimitably quotable Sterling, ““My mother always said, be careful what you wish for, because you’ll get it, and then people get jealous and try to take it away from you.”