Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The only hockey game I can handle

So my nephew has gotten into hockey. 

Now I haven’t watched hockey in well, forever. I haven’t watched any sports for that matter in about the same length of time. I am just not into watching sports. I like playing sports just fine. If you call me up for a game of touch football, want someone to run after and catch the balls you whack with a bat so you can get in some practice, organize a bunch of people to play a game of road hockey, toss a lacrosse ball around, have a half assed game of soccer in the park – I’ll be there as soon as I can get there. Love to play sports. Just have no patience for watching them.

And I’ll tell you what my biggest problem is with sports. The sports fan.

You know the kind I’m talking about. Those interminable bores who never could and never will play a sport – but are experts on sports. Ask them to run around the block and they will drop dead of a heart attack after shuffling and gasping through only one side of that block. Ask them to crank out a pushup and a really pitiful sight will ensue as they struggle and fail to manage even one. But they can tell you who got the most overtime assists in the 64 playoffs. Or who the left handed batter that had the most RBIs in the 73 American League. Or who had the most tackles of running backs in the 77 Superbowl. That sort of inane factoid memorization makes my head hurt.

The sorts of people who when they see someone else with a massive gut stretching out the jersey of their favourite team have to bend their ear in one of those excruciating conversations where they hold forth on all the things the players did wrong, and how the coach should be doing this instead, and how management ought to be drafting this player. And of course, none of this “wisdom” comes from any sort of real world experience, no, they’re merely mouthing the crap they hear on sports radio. The only thing they ever listen to.

And the form sports fan-ism that I find most excruciating, is the “we won!” shouts. No. You did nothing. You watched multi-millionaires play a sport. You sat on the side lines and watched. The degree of delusion involved in thinking that they had anything to do with whether a team won or lost always boggles my mind. That kind of tribalistic, group thinking just makes me uncomfortable.

No. Wait. There is one thing even more execrable than that. It’s sports fans that riot because “their” team lost. I’m a pretty tolerant guy, and I believe that people have the right to peacefully express dissent against a political system, but drunken loogans vandalizing a city after “their” team lost (as happened in Vancouver a while back), deserve at the very least a face full of mace and/or a billy club up the side of the head, followed by harsh criminal sanctions.

But my nephew has gotten into hockey. And the perennial sad sack Toronto Maple Leafs are his faves. I’m not about to be all bah humbug to him about it, expressing my dislike of all the nonsense that accompanies professional sports franchises. If it’s something he is into, I will encourage it. If it gets him out, and being active, I will consider that a success. Getting out in the driveway and practicing with him for an hour is great fun. Gives me a chance to teach him some techniques, and it is just plain enjoyable.

While we were slapping a ball around he started telling me all about the NHL All-Star Game. “We should watch it when we go inside.”

Which we did. And I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It was a positively gentlemanly game. There was none of the goon fest, slug session that every other hockey game degenerates into. Sorry, people being smeared into the boards, getting knocked ass over tea kettle, the punch ups, etc., hold no appeal for me. None. It’s one of the reasons why I never bother watching hockey. Well, having to listen to that insufferable wind bag Don Cherry is another part of it. But watching really skilled players, playing a passing, skating, and consequently scoring game, was really appealing. What set out with me being rather cynical about it all, ended up being a game that I really enjoyed watching.

I have a finite amount of time and an infinite amount of things I want to achieve. So sitting around watching other people play a sport has never been something I have wanted to devote that precious time to. But next year, I think I might actually make time to watch it again. I can’t be the only person who would prefer to watch a slightly slower, more humane game of hockey, where the emphasis is on skill rather than the kill.

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