Monday, February 28, 2011

Anyone up for a Face Wash?

Those of you who have been sheltered from the evolution of the elementary school playground since having moved on from those days of your youth, might be surprised to hear that snow ball throwing is no longer allowed. Or at least it is rarely allowed anymore.

One recent local experiment allowed snow ball throwing, but only in one direction. Let me make this clear. Everyone had to stand at one end of an area and throw snowballs in a direction where nobody else was standing. I think there may have been a fence you could hit.

If those rules had been in place back in my day then I would have been robbed of one of my favourite anecdotes. Long time readers of this blog will remember that I have an anecdote regarding NHL player Greg Adams who I once struck out in a game of slo-pitch. You can read about that here if you missed it: The striking out of Greg Adams. However, that is not my only story involving a confrontation with an NHL player.

Back in elementary school on a snowy day the staff let us go out to engage in 1970's style playground fun. That's right, we pelted each other with snow balls and face washed each other with no mercy. I beaned soon to be NHLer Russ Courtnall (okay, so it was ten years later that he was in the NHL) in the face with a snow ball (okay, so I kind of packed it down a little too much, but that's what we did in the 70's) and he went down writhing in pain. I realized I had done wrong and went over to the circle of his friends that were gathered around him. As I tried to apologize his friends starting warning me that, "You better get out of here." I felt bad so I stayed.

Russ, no doubt because he had to live up to the expectations of his friends, got up and punched me square in the chin. It stunned me a little, but I didn't go down (I guess that's why Russ went on to be skill player in the NHL and not a goon. But I kid Russ, it did hurt but I was two years older than him at the time). I figured I had it coming so I just said nothing and walked away. That was problem-solving in the 70's.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Little Jackie Favre??

Every time an older athlete mulls over the decision to retire there is a large segment of the public and the sports media that urge the player to quit while they are still at or near the top of their game. People wonder why the Roger Clemens, Brett Favres, and others keep changing their mind and unretiring.

Personally I don't buy into the idea that a player should retire to maintain their image. If they can still contribute to a team then all the more power to them. Why should they give it up if they still want to play and are good enough, even if they aren't as good as they once were. As for unretiring, I completely understand that and I think all those who make fun of those that unretire have never been in those players shoes. Little Jackie Showers has. I may have to pay for my shoes and be in no danger of getting paid to play, but I understand where their hearts are. After all it is the heart and not the mind that brings you back to play again.

I have always loved to play sports and as I age it gets harder to participate. Injuries and aches take some of the fun out of playing, but the longing to play is still there. The boy inside the man doesn't always grow up. If old guys love to play then why should they give it up? Just so other old guys can remember them as they were in their prime? I say not! I've already unretired from slo-pitch once and thanks to a funny thing that happened today, I may unretire from another sport as well.

This morning while out on a walk with the Missus we passed some guys playing a game of pick-up football. My friends and I played Saturday morning pick-up football for over twenty years before finally giving it up. As I watched them playing I said to the Missus that I really, really missed playing. Just a passing thought at the time, with no plan to address it. After that things got freakishly coincidental.

One hour later I drive my son to his high school musical rehearsal (good tickets still available at press time) and as we pull into the parking lot I see some more guys playing football on that field too. And these are old guys! I park the car and realize I even know one of the old guys. I get out and walk over to the fence to check things out and maybe find out if this is a regular game. The first guy who sees me, someone I don't even know, asks if I want to play. Just like that. He lends me his extra cleats and before I can let reason get in the way I'm lacing them up and I'm in the game.

These old guys were anywhere from late 30's to 60 and it turns out they've been playing this Sunday morning game for over twenty years (much like my defunct group). This week for the first time they were playing at my son's school. How's that for a fluke. The day that I'm pining for football, a group that's old enough for me and wants players, falls into my lap. I think I'll be back next week and I don't care what the sportswriters say.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Just Say No to the Breakfast Buffet

A development on the hotel front in recent years has me wondering what we've got ourselves into. Hotels chains are almost all offering a "free" breakfast when you stay with them. At first this seems like a great idea, but I'm not sure. It can work out okay, but it can be annoyingly disappointing too. I just can't help but think that hotels feel the pressure to offer this, but I'd happily get three bucks off my bill and go without.

These breakfast buffets generally involve rather pedestrian options, often with shortages of what you'd like most, as well as line-ups for use of the popular appliances such as the toaster. The level of elbowing is somewhere between what you see in an NHL game and what I remember of Eaton's bargain basement. Seating is at a premium. If you don't mind eating a waffle standing up without syrup because they've run out and using a spoon to eat it since they've run out of forks then you probably won't mind the hotel breakfast buffet. Me, I think I'd rather find a coffee shop or restaurant nearby and have the hotel stick to the business of beds and leave the breakfasts to somebody else.

The problem is that it seems like you've already paid for the hotel breakfast, so going somewhere else seems wasteful. Nevertheless, I think that's going to be my game plan from now on, unless my hotel is in the middle of nowhere with no other dining options nearby. Either that or if I'm in the mood for a so-so cup of coffee and a very plain bagel in an unappealing setting while competing for the toaster with someone who must be related to Gordie Howe.