Friday, March 20, 2009

Why It Matters - Being A Fan

I have a very good friend, one of my best friends actually, who loves sports. When we go out to the Communist Bar for pints, which has been rare lately because life is getting in the way, he often talks about how his wife, as well as others, don't get it. They don't understand how he remembers the offensive line of the 1993 Buffalo Bills or can rhyme off the entire roster of the 1976 Sabres, including their hometowns, stats and what the comics on the back of their hockey cards looked like.

Two players waving at another player in his full equipment on waterskis. "In the offseason Stan enjoys waterskiing"

My buddy is a bright fellow, a writer and musician, politically active, helps run a poetry festival. So there are people who can't believe that he is a hockey fan. It doesn't fit they think. I had a girlfriend who marvelled at me for the same reason.

They didn't understand.

I've talked before about what being a fan means and tried to figure out why we do it.

This morning I was reminded of the purest simplest reason.

Its a diversion, an escape, a way to pass a few hours and forget about life.

This past Monday morning my father in law had a massive heart attack out of the blue. He was choppered from PEI to Halifax immediately and underwent three surgeries, one Monday, one Tuesday, one Wednesday.

My wife flew out immediately with the baby, figuring she would be back in a few days. Wednesday night when she called me it was pretty grim.

Since then he has improved and is stable. He's not out of the woods yet and the road to recovery is going to be a long hard bastard but things look brighter.

I've always been lucky when it comes to this sort of thing but this has been a lesson in how life can suddenly turn upside down, scattering your plans and notions of what lies ahead like a whole lot of nothingness. It has also shown us, strangely enough, how lucky we are as our friends and families have rallied around us, stepping in to help with the kids, giving us food and shelter, helping to keep us going in these tough days.

What does this have to do with the Edmonton Oilers? Why does a hockey team matter right now?

In bed at 10:30, urged to do so by my parents who are taking care of my kids while I try and work, at 1am I woke up. Tossed and turned with worry for an hour and finally gave up. Got up and grabbed the laptop and turned it on and checked out the sports page.

8-1 Oilers.

And for a minute I forgot my troubles. I smiled as I read about Gagner's game and Kotalik and Nilsson and Gilbert with another assist, my God he's terrific, and Souray defying us naysayers with another and my favourites, Horcoff and Pisani, each scoring.

Guaranteed to still be in a playoff spot come Saturday morning.

Hanging around. Hanging around.

For a moment (well, more then a moment) I forgot.

That's the beauty of being a fan. Thank you, you Oilers.


rananda said...

our ability to love and fall in love knows no bounds, and it's a beautiful thing. serves a purpose too.

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Right on. The Saturday after my uncle passed away last February the Leafs were playing the senators. We flicked over and the Leafs were up 5-0. It helped remind us how much he loved sports and we joked that he was letting us know that things were going to be okay.

Darren said...

I was just explaining this to the wife Monday night. How when you step onto the field/ice/court, for that hour or two, nothing else matters. Nothing except that ball. Everyone knows what they have to do and how do it. Life ceases for those moments and its like your mind is free. Sure it all comes back to you when the game is over, but it always seems alittle easier to take at those times. Ah, the beauty of sports....

HBomb said...

Spring 2006 - my mother found out she had early-stage breast cancer. Literally broke the news to me during the 2nd intermission of game six of the Oilers/Wings.

She's fine now, cancer free for 2 and a half years (coming three years on October 27th), but that run was a pretty nice distraction from something that was rather stressful.

hunter1909 said...

Sorry about your old man. God willing, and he gets out of it for a few more innings.

Reading the box score for last night's game reminded me of the 1980's, seeing multiple goals/assists for so many players.

THAT's what made me an Oilers fan. Enjoying a dominant team, doing what it does best...dominating.

Follow loser teams to your hearts content(and I have been a Red Sox fan since the curse of the bambino), but there's simply nothing like seeing your team stomping the opposition's guts out, and even when they lose on occasion, you fucking know THEY WILL BE BACK.


Brad said...

My old man was in the hospital awaiting what would be a quadruple bypass. Since he lives in a small town 2 hours from the hospital where the surgery would be, he had to live there for a couple of weeks.
This was the April 04 playoffs where the Habs were down 3-1 to the Bruins. Dad has been a huge habs fan since he was a kid.
I would truck out to the hospital on game nights and we'd find a TV to watch the game on somewhere.
It was only a couple of hours, but it was his escape, to watch his team, to forget where he was.
Now, my Oilers have thumped the Habs the last few meetings which I get to rub him about. But that year, watching those games not knowing what the other side of that surgery was going to look like, God help me if I didn't route for the Habs to win just one more game every night they played.

Baroque said...

That's exactly what I tell people (and I surprise people who don't think I'm a hockey fan, either) - there is something liberating in being able to care, and care deeply, about something that in the end is just a trivial diversion. Life is too often either boring or extremely stressful, and to cheer like crazy for a team and feel happy when they win is just plain fun. Conversely, to feel crushed when they lose, but to know it is only temporary and next game or next season is a fresh start is also good.

All the best to your father in law.

B.C.B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B.C.B. said...

Wonderful post, best luck to your father-in-law.

I am going to use this whenever some-one is confused about me being a hockey fan. I do not come from an environment that is sports friendly (academic, philosophy, lefty ones) and now I have the perfect words to explain them why I am an Oilers' Fan.

Interesting enough you right why it matters to be a fan, and I wrote how we can be fans, in our blogs in the same week- strange.

mattwatt said...


Last year when I was going through a serious bout of depression. Part of what helped me get through was reading your musings, your thoughts, and the thoughts of others who shared in my fandom. Your thoughts, and that of others (like Lowetide for example) allow me to escape the stress in my life. Which is what sports and reading about sports provide somethings others are unable to see on the surface.

I have never thank you for the effort you have put in the blog over the time I have read it. Well here it is. Thank you. Keep up the great work and I wish you and your family all the best.

Scott said...

Sad news about your father-in-law though it's good to hear that he's doing well. I'm happy to hear that you and your family have the support of so many friends. You deserve it. My prayers will be with you these next few weeks (hey, it can't hurt).

I remember volunteering at a shelter for a time and the busiest days were always the sporting events. Many of the people there were dealing with absolute shit in their life but it was smiles all around on Super Bowl Sunday or HNIC. Sports are definitely powerful.

Swabbubba said...

Sorry to hear of your father In law health issues. Hope for a speedy recovery. My pops has been under care of a doc for years for heart issues. He is a spry 84. It is manageable.
The Oilers are doing what they need to do. Hell they celebrate wins like my daughters soccer team. Does that mean they get in playoffs they get a party at laser quest? Go Oilers

99thoilerfan said...

I too was struggling thru a rough patch, as My Marriage had failed, Lost my job, Declared bankruptcy....

But during the 2006 run, from across the back alley of my apartment, I heard a sax. The Sax was playing the HNIC theme... It seemed to put things right...

Anonymous said...

My grandfather died in April of 06. I took my mom to game six against the Wings and that was just ... I was so grateful to the Oilers for winning that game because my mom jumped up and down and screamed her head off for three hours and that was the first playoff win she'd seen in person.

I hope your father-in-law pulls through okay, best wishes.

Doogie2K said...

I've told my story a couple of times before, but it's that time of year, so I might as well tell it again.

My father was diagnosed with stomach cancer in July '04, but after major surgery, they learned that it was much later-stage than they thought. After a couple of bouts of chemo and a few scares, everything looked like it might be alright come March '06, but shortly after his birthday, everything took a sharp downward turn. Within a month, he was gaunt, jaundiced, and on oxygen. We brought him home and set him up with a bed and a home care nurse, so that Mom could take care of him as much as possible, and so that he could be with family at the end.

I don't remember if we watched the Anaheim game together, the one where Hemsky scored with about 30s left to clinch the playoff spot, but we did watch Round 1 together. For some reason, we had moved him to the couch for Game 6, and after 40 it wasn't looking too good, but I just had a feeling it was going to happen. When Hemsky scored the winner, I was jumping around as much as the boys on the ice were.

That was the last game Dad and I watched together. He died four days later with Mom and I at his side.

The next few days were a blur, and I honestly wasn't sure I was going to continue, but I was told I had to keep watching, because it's what Dad would've wanted. I got down when the series was 2-0 and turned off Game 3 halfway through. Big mistake. I didn't miss a minute for the rest of the playoffs, and it helped stave off a lot of the bad things you feel in the grieving process for a couple of months, so I could be a rock for my mom.

I hope your FIL makes a full recovery.