A FAN’S NOTES
Late in the Game
While rooting around in the basement storage room last week I came across my old football. A Canadian Football League branded knock-off of a much more expensive and slightly larger official game ball, one that won’t make me cringe when it scrapes pavement. I held it for a moment and then mimed launching a 60-yard game-winning bomb as the clock on the stadium scoreboard ticked down to double zeros.
In the cabinet beside the football was a soccer ball whose internal pressure has ebbed, leaked into the atmosphere. Standing in the corner were my two wooden Sher-woods, each a quarter-century old but still perfectly adequate for a lone skater pushing a puck around on an outdoor rink: black tape on the blades, white tape over black atop the shafts to make knobby grips. There’s a tote bag filled with baseballs hanging off a coat hook, a stack of gouged pucks on the shelf.
In the downstairs spare bedroom there’s a bookcase filled with sports biographies and journalism. Leaning against it is an Adirondack Super Stik, a red-ringed bat I’ve carted around with me since my days in university. Tucked under the mattress is a newish baseball mitt with a ball crammed into its pocket. I bought it four or five years ago in a massive sports emporium in
. The leather is supple even if it’s
a little jaundiced in colour. Still, the
Butte, Montana ‘Synergy
fp’ is a worthy substitution for my mysteriously missing Wilson Bobby Bonds
model, the best baseball glove I ever owned. Easton
I’m getting on toward 60. I don’t play much of anything anymore except the fool, Scrabble, the radio, CDs and LPs. As I’ve aged I’ve gleaned some insight into myself: I want and need less and less (some music and books aside). Consequently, any once treasured or sought after possession that leaves the Crooked 9 in a bag, a box, on the bed of a truck or by any other means (ambulances not included) never to return is another victory for my late embrace of minimalism. Logic dictates that I should donate or throw away the various implements required to play childish games.
Though I still pay attention to the results, I have for the most part soured on professional sports. My lifespan is shrinking and I’ve got better things to do with my money and time. I’m tired of the agents, the lawyers, the crimes, the hype, the dope, the new revenue streams and the civic extortion. Full disclosure: I miss Montreal Expos baseball, and am beyond infuriated that the hockey Canadiens have been mediocre for nearly three decades.
It’s arguable that elite, blockbuster sport has reached its saturation point with fans. There’s too much going on in the blur of overlapping seasons. Every league has tinkered with the rules of its game, a sop to broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers. What’s left though is the essence of our games: baseball hides stained green, scuffed or deflated footballs and dried up, brittle hockey sticks. Nobody has to pay to play with relics like these.
Despite the merit of de-cluttering, parting with old sports equipment has proved exceptionally difficult. Every piece evokes a memory and all of it evinces a false promise that I may yet compete again another day. There’s a warm comfort too in old leather and wood that’s been used for nothing more than social distraction and a bit of exercise, a feeling a lot like listening to the red and blue Beatles albums on vinyl instead of the re-mastered and digitized 1 collection.
Bob Dylan once said that nostalgia is death. And I get that point of view, that of a vibrant artist who refuses to settle into stasis. I think of nostalgia as a mild hallucinogenic because we all innately understand that the good old days were accompanied by long, sleepless nights. Memory and history inform us of the monsters under the bed and in the wardrobe. Name a sin. Name a crime. Name the Four Horsemen, those eternal skeletal riders.
I can still throw a spiral but probably no farther than ten or 15 yards. I still have a decent wrist shot, never had a slapper. As a ballplayer I was all glove, no hit. I am surrounded by disused and distressed sporting equipment. There’s no pressing need to keep any of it. None of it reminds me of any particular game or exploit but rather the blessed respite of play, when everything else in the world and my life ceased to matter for a couple of hours. I used to know a guy like that back in the day.