The Underappreciated Goodness of Brian Boucher
I got a haircut today.
What does that have to do with Brian Boucher, you might ask?
Stay with me.
When I moved from Philadelphia to the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia 21 years ago, I asked my dad three questions:
Where’s the subway? (He laughed.)
Where, for the love of all that is holy, am I supposed to get a freaking CHEESESTEAK in this god forsaken place? (He laughed again.)
Where am I gonna get my hair cut?
He didn’t laugh there.
For a black man, getting your hair cut is serious business. I can’t just walk into the Hair Cuttery and put nine bucks on the counter, despite what they tell you on TV. No, it takes a special set of skills to cut a brother’s hair properly.
Not that black folks’ hair is special, or anything. It’s just different.
Fresh out of high school, at the tender age of 16, I’d gone from the inner city to a place with no public transit, no cheesesteaks, and no black barbershops. That I could get to, anyway, I had no drivers license either.
My dad had been shaving his head, so it wasn’t an issue for him. But it sho’ nuff was for me. So, lacking any oasis in this wilderness, he volunteered to cut it for me.
I’d love for this to be a wonderfully horrifying tale of my hair being butchered, but the fact is, my dad is pretty good at cutting hair, as he is at most things. But still, it’s not cool for your dad to cut your hair for too long.
Six months later, a new barber shop opened within walking distance. We went to check it out, and stopped shortly after walking in.
It was fully owed and operated by Vietnamese people.
Now, for anything else, of course, this is not a problem. But my then 17 year old brain was not ready to handle anyone but a black man cutting my hair. I’d never done it before. Well, one time I had a black woman cut may hair, and it did not go well.
I looked at my dad, who had a grin on his face, then at one of the barbers, who told me, loudly, to come sit in his chair.
“Can you cut my hair?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, sit, sit,” he said.
I looked at my dad again, who leaned over and whispered, “Go on, I can fix it if I have to.”
So I sat in Mr. Li’s chair.
He has been cutting my hair ever since. He cut it for my baptism. He cut it for my wedding. He has even cut my sons hair from time to time.
It wasn’t the best haircut I’ve ever had, but it was far from the worst. It was fine.
Since that time, I’ve moved several times, still in Northern Virginia, and now I live 25 miles away from the ageless Mr. Li. I still go there occasionally, when I have time, like today. Why?
Because I know what I’m going to get.
Since then, I’ve tried other places. Some were ok, some were amazing, some were awful. But none were ever as relentlessly consistent as Mr. Li.
Which brings me to Brian Boucher.
Look, Boosh is never going to steal a series for you. You know what you are going to get with him in each game: he’s going to be steady, he’s going to make a couple fabulous saves, he’s going to get beat on a great shot, and he’s going to give up one where you go, “Aw, shoulda had that Boosh.”
Which, with the level of talent the Flyers have, will be good enough to beat Buffalo tonight and Sunday.
Occasionally, Boucher will get run out of the building. But that’s rare.
Occasionally, Boucher will stand on his head and pitch a shutout. But that’s rare.
Bottom line is, just like one of Mr. Li’s haircuts, he’ll be fine. And over time, you come to appreciate that consistency. When I sit in Mr. Li’s chair, and he says to me with his heavy accent, “Same ol’, same ol’?” I know what I’m getting. And I know it’ll be good enough.
Better than that actually.
Sometimes it takes stepping back from something to appreciate it.
Are there other goalies with more talent? Sure. There are better barbers than Mr. Li around here. But I like the fact that I don’t have to wonder if it’ll be good. I know it will.
Just like I know Brian Boucher will be. We don’t need him to be great. We need him to be him.
Which is pretty good.
Just like Mr. Li.