Sports to a grumpy old man is only second to fishing for a favourite pastime. It doesn’t matter what sport or whether we play or not. It is our escape. It probably started way back in the Stone Age when two grumpy old cave men wanted to see who could throw the mammoth or the Neanderthal farthest, which may explain why neither are around anymore. We all have our favourites and the only thing that differs amongst us is our level of dedication. Some of us participate and the rest of us fancy ourselves as coaches, whether those participating want our advice or can even hear us. I like playoff hockey in the NHL but I doubt those guys can hear me or would want to. For my sake it’s probably a good thing as those guys are bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than I am or ever was.
When I was younger I loved playing baseball and got out to that field every chance I had. I could hit a decent ball and pitch one across that plate no problem. All that ended in and around the fifth or sixth grade when the ball I pitched came back to me at warp speed and smacked me right between the eyes. Talk about a major owie. I went from vertical to horizontal in a split second and ended up with two black eyes for a month. I avoided baseballs for years after. I thought I had grown out of the fear a few years back when I played in a slow-pitch league. I mean you throw the ball slower so it comes back slower ... right? Wrong. It came back at warp speed again and this time it got me where it counts. I’m sure I screamed like a four-year-old girl and sounded like one for an hour or two after that. If I was gun shy before I was absolutely useless after that incident. I even avoid PlayStation baseball but still enjoy watching it once in awhile.
Football is another great love for grumpy old men. There’s something about a whole bunch of 300-plus pound guys running into each other that makes us sit up and take notice. Maybe it’s the fact that they get up right after that and do it all over again. Also we love to see that little speed ball running back get laid out by those same 300-pound monsters, except if he was on our team, of course. We tend to respect quarterbacks and what they do. I mean who wouldn’t appreciate a guy who keeps his cool when 2 tons of heavily padded opposition players want to crush you. Put me in his place and the first thing I would do is throw that ball in any direction as fast as I could followed by me running in the other direction, through the exit, into the parking lot, into my car and driving like the devil himself was after me. Those guys are worth their wages, not like those overpaid baseball players.
Now I couldn’t talk sports or call myself Canadian without mentioning hockey. We take this sport very seriously and claim it is ours. If anyone dares argue the point then our usual calm Canadian demeanour is cast aside and war is declared. Actually war is declared after someone cheers for the wrong team. Put a Leafs fan in with a bunch of Jets fans and look out. Almost every Canadian kid, girl or boy, plays hockey or wants to. The downside to hockey, and yes there is a downside, is that it is very expensive to outfit a kid. The cost for equipment can bankrupt a family especially if they have talent. We are talking about thousands of dollars over a few years because the cost doesn’t go down as the kid grows bigger. The end result may be worth it though. Someday your child or grandchild may make it into the NHL or play for Canada during the Olympics or both and if that day comes, for once in a very long time you will cease being a grumpy old man.
Well-known raconteur Len Podbisky is a former Thompson Citizen and Nickel Belt News reporter and former news director of Arctic Radio CHTM-610 AM who now lives in The Pas