MY son tells me that this week I ought to write about bandwagons. At 16, he’s observed the difference between one type of hockey fan and another.
There are, of course, the die-hards, who, once the season starts, won’t leave the chilly orbit of the flat-screen on Game Night. And then there are those who climb aboard only after the vehicle starts to hurtle toward a spectacular finish – which is the typical Vancouver fan’s reputation Canada-wide.
Bart readily throws his lot in with the latter camp. He was happy during the play-offs to have friends over for sliders and slap-shots, and to go downtown the odd time to absorb, and contribute to, the joyful vibe of the crowd. But he’s a doer, not a watcher, and the moment the Bruins started the slaughter in Game Three, he and his lanky, similar-minded friends were out the door and back on their skateboards. Like the players themselves, these guys carve their own paths, and they’ve got the scarred shins to prove it.
Bart’s sister, on the other hand, is a true devotee. Even in Europe, where the shows are only broadcast live in the early morning hours, loyal Petunia has been trying to watch the odd taped game. She has kept track of the Canuckleheads’ wins and losses at Internet cafes in Portugal, Rome and Greece.
Stanley and I just like watching kids of any age have fun. While we wanted the Canucks to win, we got a much bigger charge out of observing a living room full of teenaged boys sharing the dream of victory. Otherwise, Stanley quickly tired of the local media’s relentless home-team hype, while I continued to be mystified by the point of such grueling physical battles.
Professional sports aren’t for sissies like me, anyway -- our impulses are all wrong. After Game Two, when Boston got crushed, I knew perfectly well that I shouldn’t have been feeling sorry for the Bruins lad who was called to account for his team’s loss on TV. I don’t even know which player he was – all hockey players look the same to me, except for Michelangelo’s Luongo.
I can’t remember whether it was lame goaltending or wimpy stick-work that was being blamed for the Bruins’ ruin that night. Maybe the Bostonians were accused of “not wanting it enough” – an allegation that’s always just plain silly, never more so than in major league play-offs. All I know is that in that guy’s face I could clearly see the same kind of disappointment I had as a kid every time I did badly at something physical, which was every time I did something physical.
The guts it takes to get onto the ice, play expertly, with all your heart, and then publicly account for the fact that your team nevertheless got trounced is mind-boggling. Add to that the pressure forced upon you to sound like a good sportsman, no matter how teary or enraged you might feel. It’s astounding that these guys, not all of whom are naturally verbal, are willing to take that on. I realize that they are well rewarded in terms of money and slavering adulation, as long as they don’t lose -- still, they’ve got incredible moxie. It’s no wonder that some people regard these dented, fuzz-faced, semi-toothless men as gods.
By contrast with playing professional hockey, or even watching others play it, writing for a living is for sissies. Our work requires no hand-eye coordination, lung capacity, spatial intelligence, or padding, though padding does accrue naturally over the years. Our bones remain intact, our lats and pecs stay slack. We never suffer from helmet head unless we take a break from our “labours” and bicycle to the store to get more tea. Groupies only trouble us for bus fare so they can stalk better targets. In other words, the parallels between professional hockey and writing are nonexistent.
Still, I thank God that, after I submit a column and discover that the double negative in my lead paragraph makes a pungent and impenetrable porridge out of all the succeeding sentences, there’s no drunken, face-painted goon yelling at me “Go back to Russia!”
Nor does anybody shove a microphone at me after publication, yelling “Holy smokes, Zimmy! What the hell happened out there? Can you tell us what you were thinking when you made that bad pun? Will you be able to recover in time for your next column?”
Best of all, when Going Coastal accidentally calls Lady Gaga “Lady Caca,” or randomly implies that World War II was won by the French, I don’t have to appear on screens across the country with sweat-slicked hair and a fallen face, saying “I came to win, but I’m going home disappointed, humiliated, minus an eye. I just want to apologize to Canada, my family, and God, may he rest in peace.”
In other words, as always, things could be worse.