just a game

Hey, you. You there. I know you sense that I’ve written here about sports, and I know that you don’t really care. I can already see your eyes glazing over, your jaw going slack. I can already see a thread of drool slowly unspooling from the corner of your mouth. You might want to wipe that thing, actually, before it reaches your… uh… too late. By the way, is that a new shirt? Damn. That’s a really nice color on you.

If you’ve read my blog for more than three minutes, you’ll know I love hockey. I also love American football (especially college), but professional hockey is like my firstborn. Football is a big ol’ box of buttered popcorn, but hockey is popcorn coated in caramel, and maybe some peanuts sprinkled on top. Unless you hate popcorn/caramel/nuts. So football is your favorite paperback book, and hockey is all your favorite books loaded on an e-reader. Unless you’ve Pledged to Read the Printed Word. Shit. So football is like walking into your favorite establishment and everyone turning to happily greet you by name, while hockey is like walking into your favorite establishment and everyone turning to happily greet you by name and then suddenly a bunch of $100 bills start fluttering down from the ceiling while DINOSAURS pick a fight behind the bar with BEARS and the BEARS have LASERS and are wearing LEDERHOSEN and ALSO Jeff Bridges is just standing there up against a wall, grinnin’ and strummin’ a guitar.

Well, this is getting kind of weird.

Believe it or not, there was a time I wasn’t quite so enamored of sports. I’ll call that, oh, pretty much my entire youth. Which is a relative term, youth, because to my parents I’m merely a dewy-eyed baby and to my youngest cousin I’m an ancient, hobbling, papery-skinned matron with a vile penchant for cursing. So I’ll simply say I was 23. I was 23 when I started watching hockey in earnest, huddled in my parents’ basement after college with only a bottle of raspberry-flavored Smirnoff vodka (oh yes I did) and the chirping lilt of the announcers’ offscreen voices for company, and I’ve never looked back.

This summer, the NHL Network has been airing classic Stanley Cup hockey games. I began watching this series the day they showed the 1983 game, and just today they aired the 2002 game. This was game 5 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Carolina Hurricanes, in which Detroit won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. Prior to this particular hot streak, the Wings had gone over 40 years without taking home the Cup.

It was the first classic game I’ve watched that actually sparked my memory. I remember this game. I was going to university in Michigan at the time. I was sitting in a corner of the apartment at my giant Hewlett-Packard desktop computer, instant-messaging on ICQ with an old friend back in California. My then-boyfriend was sitting on our old brown couch, whooping and yelping at the game on TV. After the final buzzer sounded, I went over and sat on that couch and watched the celebration with him. The entire arena — the Wings won at home in Detroit — was going nuts. Ticker tape fell, trophies were awarded, heartfelt speeches were given, victory laps around the rink were skated.

And my then-boyfriend, who had grown up in Michigan rooting for the so-called “Dead Wings” of the 1980s, was practically writhing with glee. Dude was nearly foaming at the mouth. He was so ecstatic it was infectious. And I remember at the time being amused. I remember thinking, “Well, isn’t this quaint.” But I also remember being taken by the spectacle, and the electric joy of the crowd, and the gratitude and elation of the team, and even the shock and defeat on the faces of the Carolina players. I remember the enormity of that night.

It’s just a game. It’s just a game.

And a relationship is just a relationship, right? That person I called my boyfriend on June 13, 2002, now lives in a tiny town in Michigan in the same house his grandmother used to own. I remember that house, filled with plastic-covered furniture and gold lamps, and the Easter dinners I once had there. Today — according to his most recent Facebook status — he is weighing names for his second child with his pregnant wife.

Meanwhile, today I stood barefoot in my living room in California and fleshed out logo concepts for a client while an old hockey game played in the background. Later, I packed up my laptop and met a friend at a coffee shop for work and chat time. Tonight, I texted my husband — who is traveling in Texas this week for his job — some choice Rick Perry jokes and then, fortified by red wine, I typed up this post.

Sports are a tableau of life writ large. Each game is an intense drama with a neatly-resolved ending. No matter what happens during the fight, there’s always a winner, and there’s always a loser.

I like to think I won. I’ll bet my ex believes the same.

You could say one’s personality, interests, tastes, fashion sense, etc., are all just bits stolen from others. You take pieces of the people you’ve known and you make them your own. I got my interest in hockey from my ex, but now it’s mine. It’s mine, all mine, and I’m never giving it back.

He can keep the rest, though. All of it.

And today, right now, in this brief minute, I’m skating a little victory lap.

Photo credit: detnews.com

14 Responses to “just a game”

  1. I. Love. This. Post. From the first drool to the last victory lap.

  2. More sports pleeeeeeease! I’m a sports fanatic (college football, NBA, a little NFL, NCAA basketball) and love posts about sports. I’m always a little afraid to write them, myself.

    But you are so true about getting little parts of yours”self” from other people, particularly other romantic relationships. I inherited my politics almost completely from the guy I dated before my husband, and sometimes it weirds me out when I think about that. A whole section of my brain, grown and developed and built around the words and thoughts of someone I will likely never speak to again. Hm.

  3. I second Kerry, more sports!
    I also second how weird it is when you start to remember classic games. Ahhh, Seattle Mariners playoff run of 1995…

  4. Okay, have to admit, my eyes did glaze over when you mentioned the word sports. I will (more or less) cheerfully listen to B talk about football (college and NFL) and occasionally even basketball (college only), and I will go to sports bars to watch the games with him, and even attend actual games in freezing weather… but that’s the limit on my sports-related attention span. Hockey is definitely beyond me, though I’ve been to a live game and enjoyed the fighting.

    I always felt out of place growing up as I did in a mid-western, college-football-lovin’ town. But watching sports just wasn’t part of our family culture. I was a theatre geek in college who did not paint her face or put on “the colors,” and instead of tailgating, always had a rehearsal or performance on game days. B’s hardcore love of sports hasn’t exactly been infectious, though I no longer turn my nose up at the crazy fans, and have been known to get carried away with my yelling, while watching a good game. And I can actually discuss a few teams and players with a slight degree of knowledge (don’t ask me about their defensive strategy, though). But if he weren’t in my life, I don’t think I would tune in… except maybe once to make myself cry, like I did once when we broke up right around the end of football season.

    That said, I would totally cheer on “BEARS [with] LASERS and […] LEDERHOSEN,” because that’s just awesome.

  5. I have always dated (and been married to) men who were, by and large, uninterested in sports. But there seems to be ONE sport for each person. Tony loves soccer. I have never seen a man so crazed about a sporting event as Tony was during the last World Cup. My ex loved hockey, and we both loved college basketball, which is pretty much a requirement if you grew up in Tucson during the Lute Olsen heyday of Bibee and Eugene Edgerson.

    I will get into sports if we go to a game, but watching them on television has never been my thing. Unless you count the World Cup (which is now a thing — I love, love, love watching the Italian teams cry and fake injuries) or watching the Wildcats try to break through the Sweet 16. I will even listen to that on the radio.

  6. I grew up in Canada, but didn’t get in to hockey until I was 22, and dealt with my companies 28 Flames tickets. (Well, technically, 28 WHL Hitmen tickets the first year, because of the strike.) I’d go to a game every two months and really started to enjoy it. And then I invited this guy I had a crush on in university to go to a playoff game. We won! The Sea of Red energy was insane, and infectious. And then that guy’s hockey obsession was catching, and now he has quasi-season’s tickets and I’ll watch ~30 games a year live, plus games on tv, not to mention vacations partially based on hockey schedules. (Guess who’s going to Boston to watch them raise the banner? Oh yeah!) I would have never got in to it without him, but it’s pretty damn entertaining. (I also enjoy getting crushes on players and bugging him about it. Rene Bouque, <3!)

  7. you’re brilliant, lyn. i used to say that all the time as a bad thing…when i was in high school, i BECAME pieces of my boyfriends at the time. a little skater girl, a little rocker girl, a little nerd, a little blah. by the time i graduated i didn’t have any idea who i was, ha. just pieces of shitty ex bf’s and all of that.

    obvously, your take is much more optimistic and beautiful.

    • You were trying on styles and personalities! We all kind of do this into our adulthood, I think. Even with acquaintances; I catch myself mirroring their opinions and even the way they talk. Maybe it’s a social instinct that helps us survive….

  8. I’ve always felt that was one of the redeeming aspects of relationships that didn’t work out…even those that ended badly. That you can take the parts of that person that appealed to you and make them a part of yourself.

    This is a beautifully written post! (Also I love sports….specifically baseball…so keep it comin’. :) )

  9. I remember this too! Well, not technically the finals, because I was home from college and laid up after having my wisdom teeth out at that point, but I definitely remember watching the Redwings-Avs series on the enormous tank of a big-screen TV in my freshman dorm lounge with my Michigander roommate and another hallmate from Boulder. Said roommate and her dad went to Detroit for the victory parade after the Redwings emerged victorious and I heard all about it.

    I’m not a huge hockey fan, but I will always cheer for the Redwings in honor of my hockey-fanatic roomie. (It is the most perfect thing in the world that she is now engaged to a hockey-playing Canadian and living in Vancouver.) I’m thanking my lucky stars my high school/early college boyfriend didn’t rub off on me at all! (Because he’s really lame, doy.) Redwings and Cubs are my adopted teams, but the Cubbies will always be second fiddle to my hometown Atlanta Braves. Just so happens my husband and his brother are both rabid Braves fans, so that worked out well.

    College football and baseball are probably my favorite sports seasons (though I love some world cup soccer and olympics in general. Those big international things are always a good time). I also thank my lucky stars quite regularly that my team is in the Big 10 and thus precludes my involvement in the intense shit-talking that goes on within my SEC-centric family. That can get ugly REAL fast.

  10. Fantastic post (all my favourite bloggers are on fire today)!

    And I hear you – about making something you once shared with someone your own.

  11. I LOVE this post. And it’s just so funny because I had felt such a similar feeling a few months ago.

    I’ve been working in Miami since March. When the NBA playoffs were in full swing, I was die hard rooting for the Mavs, while of course everyone around me was a Heat fan. I hadn’t paid all that much attention to the them in a few years, but it all made me so nostalgic of an old relationship where my ex boyfriend was obsessed with basketball and I just thought Dirk Nowitski was so cool, I told him I’d be a Mavs fan for life. I rooted for them that entire relationship, and then my interest in basketball waned when we broke up. When the Mavs won the finals this year- I almost wanted to call him to laugh about how my die hard love had finally prevailed. But we’re in such different places in our lives now and have nothing in common. Still, I think he might have thought about me for a minute too…t’s just so funny how things like this really bring out such vivid memories.

  12. The first and last hockey game I ever saw was in the box seats at the United Center, Chicago vs LA. The puck is really hard to see. I was most interested in the amazing desert cart.

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