It is 3:00 AM. I finished reading Chapter 23 of James Duthie’s book, The Guy On The Left, twenty minutes ago and have been staring at the ceiling thinking about life, how good the leftover rice in the fridge will be tomorrow, and the smell of plastic bags, ever since. Don’t ask.
The light switch by the door is about two steps and an arm’s reach away, but it might as well be in the next town. Finally, I get up.
I take no more than one and half steps and I’m distracted. I’m like a kindergartener in the show Recess, who is running in the Kindergarten Derby and is easily distracted by the candy wrappers on the ground.
Whoever understood that reference is my new favourite person. Let me know who you are.
I’m distracted by my bookshelf and the close to 200 sports-related magazines and books that rest upon it. There are also some memorabilia and photos from when I was younger. Oh, and a French-English dictionary. Ou est la bibliotheque?
An Italian-English dictionary sits on my desk. True story. Prosciutto!
The magazines on my shelf go all the way back to at least 2003, maybe sooner. For the first time in forever, I picked one up and flipped through it. Then I picked up a book I’m pretty sure I got for Christmas about three years ago, but have never opened.
It’s called TSN 25 Years, which looks back on the major sports stories of the past 25 years (as of 2009). There’s no time like the present, especially if the clock reads 3:00 AM. So, I started
reading the book flipping the pages to look at the pictures.
All of a sudden my whole life was flashing before my eyes. One page after another, memory after memory, the images and words in front of my face brought me back to a different time in my life.
Most of the stories in this book helped strengthen my passion for sports at an early age.
Wayne Gretzky’s final game in 1999 was one of the moments mentioned in the book. I was 7 years old at the time. I still remember watching that game, specifically the final minutes and Gretzky skating around the ice, waving at the fans for a final time.
Ever since then, I’ve never been able to listen to the song: “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith, without thinking of Gretzky’s final game. That song is one of the first songs they started playing as a teary-eyed Gretzky made multiple victory laps.
Seven-year-old Paul locked that memory in forever, it seems.
Another story I came across was of Saku Koivu, the long-time Montreal Canadiens captain, who made a remarkable comeback at the end of the 2001-2002 season. He was coming back from cancer.
Even though I’m a Leafs fan, that moment in Montreal between Koivu and the fans is one of my favourite moments in sport.
At this point, I had skimmed through enough of the book to get a bit of the “fresh book” smell out. So I got on my laptop and looked up Koivu’s return and Gretzky’s last game on YouTube, just to relive them one more time.
I started with Koivu and within seconds I had something in my eye. Probably dust.
Then I watched the final moments of Gretzky’s final game. Every image still the same as I always thought it was. Again, I had something in my eye. Definitely dust.
If someone were to ask me why I love sports, these are two great examples for me.
Those are my favourite kind of moments, both in sports and in life. The moments where you can just stand/sit, smile, and soak it in. They do not need an explanation, or anyone to tell you why they are special. You know it, and you feel it.
Those are the kind of moments that made me fall in love with sports in the first place. And they are the moments that happen far less often than they used to.
It’s sad that we live in a world where scandals, controversies, debates, and criticisms get all the attention while feel good stories are swept under the rug as quickly as possible.
None of those things make me say, “I love sports.” They just make me change the channel or continue scrolling.
Of course, I love sports for the competition, drama, rivalries, and story lines. But they are so much more than that.
When an athlete or an organization can go out of their way to put a smile on a kid’s face, I am reminded why I love sports. Kids can’t fake a smile. They don’t know how to, yet.
When John Scott got a standing ovation at the NHL Skills Competition yesterday, I was reminded why I love sports.
When I attended the Blue Jays first playoff game in 22 years last year, and felt like 50,000 people were some of my closest friends, I was reminded why I love sports.
When I saw my favourite player, Ryan Smyth, get traded from the Edmonton Oilers in 2007 and proceed to ugly cry at the airport, I was reminded why I love sports.
When the Boston Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees in a seven game series, I was reminded why I love sports.
When Vince Carter took over the Slam Dunk Contest in 2000, I was reminded why I love sports.
When the fans in attendance at a hockey game in Toronto sang the American national anthem because the microphone didn’t work, I was reminded why I love sports.
When the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001 and Joe Sakic called Raymond Bourque over to be the first one to hoist the Cup, I was reminded why I love sports.
When one of my campers couldn’t stop raving about sports and started listing off an entire roster of players, I was reminded why I love sports.
When I watched hockey games in residence with other Leaf fans and pushed the limits of “quiet hours”, I was reminded why I love sports.
And every time I re-watch Jim Valvano’s speech at the 1993 ESPY awards, I am reminded why I love sports.
These are the beautiful moments in sports that I look for.
I can watch hundreds of games, enjoy them, and then not remember a single detail about them a few days later.
The moments I look for, and truly appreciate, transcend any dialogue a broadcaster could ever put in my ear, on my social media feed, or in my head.
They are the kind of moments that go right to the heart. And anyone, sports fan or not, can feel them.