Watching the Big Game

a great team effort
Watching the men’s and women’s gold medal hockey games for the Sochi Olympics was a great experience.  In the future, when we are reminiscing about these kinds of things (maybe because the professionals won’t be going to the Olympics) I can always tell people where I was.  However, it will be with a little regret because I was watching the game by myself while drinking coffee and eating cereal.

It isn’t overly profound to make the statement that “big games” are better when they are shared by a group of people, but it doesn’t diminish the truth of it.  Watching a big game with friends, or even a crowded bar of strangers is pretty amazing.

I remember when the Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series.  I was in a bar in London (Ontario) called the Governor.  We had a great time drinking, cheering and even dancing out on the street when it was all over.  I won’t ever forget it.

Fantastic work ladies
When they won their second World Series I was in Japan and had to read about it in the Japan Times.  I still cheered, but the memory is unclear.  They delivered the newspaper quite early in the morning, and I am sure the motorcycle delivery guy made a hell of a lot of noise bounding up my steps to deliver the paper.  Beyond that, I can’t really be sure.  Maybe I had made my coffee, maybe I had it after.  Maybe I went across the street to the vending machine to get the coffee.  It just isn’t that memorable.

Just like it was yesterday
When you think back upon big moments, including both the good and the bad, what do you remember.  I bet it was where you were and who you talked to about it.  I doubt the words you said were particularly profound, but the feeling should still be there.

Maybe it was the time difference, or maybe it was the effect the internet has had on news transmission.  I am in no way qualified to pontificate about that.  I do know that watching the game with friends or family would have been much better than it was.  I can only blame myself for not making that happen, but at such an early morning hour I don’t know many who did.
When the Leafs finally win their next Stanley Cup, I hope I am surrounded by my friends.

A Japanese Moment

A Japanese Matsuri, or festival, was held in Toronto today.  Things Japanese took over the Yonge and Dundas Square.  As a fan of things Japanese, and lover of Japanese food (over the top five-star cuisine as well as homey festival food) I decided to partake of the event.

It was pleasant to walk around and hear the sounds of Japanese mixed with the tones of tourists asking questions.  It was nice to smell the wonderful cooking odours of takoyaki, and karage.  It took me back some seventeen years to festivals past. to parts of my life that seem so remote from now, but really aren’t so far removed.

I think of Japanese festivals held down by the edges of rivers, hundreds of stalls (Toronto had maybe a dozen) selling all manner of grilled things, fireworks lighting up the night sky, children panning for goldfish, and people enjoying beer.  Sometimes I feel like I have come so far and other times I feel like I have gone so far.  Strange journey I have undertaken, which has, for this afternoon at least, left me melancholy.

Sweet Nostalgia

When I was gro wing up, getting to go and see professional sports was always a highlight.  If I knew I was going to see my Maple Leafs, Argosor Blue Jays I wouldn’t stop thinking about it. I looked forward to it with the same nervous anticipation as Christmas Day.

When I got to the Maple Leaf Gardens, or Exhibition Stadium I was giddy with excitement.  My eyes were wide open to see everything.  Whichever adult was with me probably wondered why I wasn’t walking in a straight line and bumping into everything.  There was so much to see, so much too experience.

I have such fond memories of the games, the excitement, the crowds, the energy, the snacks.  I remember that at Maple Leaf Gardensthe cokes came with a cellophane cover instead of a plastic lid. I remember the idea of “family size cokes”, popcorn boxes and hotdogs.

I remember most of the games I have been to.  I remember my first Leaf game, my first Argo game, and I remember that first Blue Jay game.  I even remember my first Marlie game (and the parade of flattened popcorn boxes that made their way down from the grey seats).

I started collecting Maple Leaf memorabilia that first game I went to.  I still have the team photo and the puck from that game.  I can’t imagine every parting with them.  As you can see from the ticket stubs above, I don’t part with much.

These days, though I have been to more than my fair share of games, I still sometimes catch that same sense of wonder that I had. When I go alone, I try to drink in the atmosphere as much as possible.  I check the souvenir stands, I listen to the scalpers and the vendors barking at people and I wonder what kind of snacks they have.

Printing technology has come a long have prices.
I hope it is no different today.  I hope kids don’t take these great days for granted.  I guess, for their parents, these moments must be magical.

I don’t keep many of the ticket stubs these days.  I am not sure why, but I guess there is something different about seeing a game as an adult and as a child.  Things are different, but I would still go to a game at the drop of a hat.

I would love to hear about any of my reader’s first pro sports experience.

Calvin and Hobbes

There is nothing that makes me more nostalgic, or take me back screaming to my younger days than Calvin and Hobbes.  There is no denying it, it was a fantastic comic strip, and it makes me laugh every time I open the book–and I do that a lot.

I am not sure if it was the theme of a boy and his tiger, or the time travelling, or the incredible daydreams….. but it struck a chord with me that has never stopped.  I love it now as much as I did the first day I read it.

It raises the hard what if question.  What if Bill Waterson hadn’t stopped when he did?  Would we still be laughing at the exploits that precocious boy and his rational, sceptical tiger?  I would like to believe that we would.  In that way the world would be a better place.

I still find a few comics worth reading.  Zits and Retail come to mind.  In recent months Dilbert has also come to have greater importance.  They are funny, and occasionally profound.  However, if I miss them, it doesn’t cause any fuss.

All I can say about Calvin and Hobbes is that profoundness along with humour were a given.  If I missed a day, (and this was pre-internet) I was crushed and recovery was a hard road.

I miss you Calvin and Hobbes.

The Massive Collection and the Mind of a Child

I admit it.  I admit it freely.  I was incredibly jealous of my best friend while growing up.  What gave rise to this jealousy?  My friend, in his few short years on the planet, had amassed a massive collection of Playmobil figures and vehicles.  I, on the other hand, had a small collection of micronauts.  My friend’s collection was large enough to warrant its own cabinet.

He had a vast array of figures and vehicles from all different eras.  I grant that I couldn’t identify everything he had because some of it was ….subtly different than what I was seeing on the streets of our small town.  Looking back on it, he got most of his collection as birthday and Christmas presents from his overseas relatives.  Playmobil wasn’t as common in those days so I was fascinated by it.

We didn’t often play with these toys.  They sat protected from dust in their cabinet.  That is, until one day, I proposed a daring feat.  I suggested, maybe cajoled is a better word, that we use all the Playmobil in one massive scene.

We spent hours laying out all the figures vehicles and accessories in his living room, dining room, as well as up the stairs, throughout the hallway and into his bedroom.  We debated the merits of each placement like we were planning a great battle, right down to the posture of each figure.

It was with great sadness that I had to leave shortly after we placed that last piece to let him have dinner.  I would have come back after dinner to help him put it all away if only he had asked me.

Got’em, got’em, got’em, need’em, got’em.

Every now and then the thought of collecting hockey cards jumps into my brain.  Sometimes it is because I am at a store that is selling them by the box rather than the pack.  This is a strange novelty that I would never have considered when I was a child.  It also seems to happen when, rare though it is, I am in a local convenience store.  They keep the packs up at the counter, at eye level, where they used to keep the cigarette packs.

My earliest memories of hockey cards are walking to the local variety store with a quarter in my hand, maybe more, most likely less dreaming of the treasures I would buy.  I don’t remember how many seasons it was, but for at least a few of them, hockey cards were that treasure.

Most people, when reminiscing about sports cards, never fail to mention the gum.  And while smelling that pungent odour yesterday  is what provoked this blog, I am not one to lament the disappearance of that hard, brittle, flour tasting gum.  Although I understand the nostalgia for the crackerjack toy, the nostalgia for gum that nobody would purchase on its own seems rather ridiculous.

My hockey card collection is not worth any money.  The cards were played with, sat on, tossed against walls, and run over by my self-righting battery powered wall tumbling car.  The back of each card was scrutinized for statistics, fun facts and trivia.  They were crammed into pockets, jostled by friends and haggled over by all the kids in my grade.

Whenever the thought to take up this hobby rears its head, so do the reservations that I have..  Cost is a huge factor,  Gum or no gum, several dollars for each pack of five cards seems rather high.  I have heard of inflation, but printing technology should have made this cheaper, not more expensive.    There are also so many card sets and makers that I would have a hard time choosing which one to buy, leading me to buy more than one set.

That makes space another factor.  Where would I keep all the albums full of cards I would inevitably buy?

Perhaps the biggest thing holding me back is something less tangible.  When you’re a kid, sports stars are heroes.  I wanted their cards because they were larger than life.  I would watch Hockey Night in Canadaevery Saturday, rifling through the cards between periods like Catholic clutching his rosary beads.  They were as much an article of faith as anything.  I still enjoy the game and cheer with every goal, but those heroes have to compete with other heroes.

As an adult, there are other ways to get the statistics.  I can watch lots of highlights on YouTube and there are a lot of souvenir items out there.  I suspect, beyond collecting my team, there really isn’t much in the hobby for me.  I suppose I could be a market speculator, hoping to make a buck, but that really isn’t who I am.  I’ll probably just settle for a few Doug Gilmour cards and try and keep that idea in check.