Oh, the Sports You’ll See!

I’ve spent my entire existence wondering what my life would be like if I didn’t like sports. I still don’t have an answer. It’s a great mystery to me. Somebody get Scooby-Doo and the gang on line one.

How would I fill twenty-four hours in a day, if it weren’t for sports? I may never know.

When I was a kid, I’d fall asleep listening to sports talk radio at night, and I’d wake up to read the sports section of The Toronto Star. Sleeping was the unfortunate gap between the two.

My days revolved around me looking forward to 7PM and scheduling everything else around that magical time. Why? Because that’s when games would start.

I’d like to say that’s changed, but it hasn’t.

I remember back in first year university, a few friends were trying to lure me out to a Halloween party at the on-campus bar. Truthfully, I don’t drink, I’m not really a fan of parties, and Halloween doesn’t crack the Top 30 list of my favourite holidays.

But I couldn’t tell that to people I’d known for only two months. So I told them a different truth. It was, the Leafs game was on. Bam. My escape route. Sports. I wanted to watch the Leafs game.

Air Canada Centre

“Paul, the bar has plenty of TVs, you can watch it there.”

“No thanks, it’ll be too noisy.”

And in a nutshell, that’s me. The guy who would rather watch a meaningless hockey game in October, in their residence room by themselves, than go to a sweaty Halloween party at a bar.

The first sporting event I ever went to (at least, it’s the first one I remember) was in the late 90s. It was a baseball game at the SkyDome in Toronto.

I ate my McDonald’s meal. I stood for the national anthems. I got a mental image of the field, which I still have today. And then I fell asleep on my Dad’s lap.

I didn’t even make it to first pitch, which was scheduled for shortly after 7:00PM. They’d have to play the game and keep it down. Paul was sleeping.

Again, that’s me in a nutshell. Give me food, I’ll fall asleep. I don’t know where this “food gives you energy” myth comes from, but I’ve never experienced such a thing.

Maybe I’m just wired differently? Nahhhhh.

Watching a game on television versus being there in person, is two very different experiences.

When I watch on TV, my hand is held the entire time. Not literally, but in the sense that I don’t decide what I see or hear. I am guided through the entire experience.

The camera forces me to stare in a specific direction and the commentators force me to listen to their words. They tell the story. I’m just there to look pretty and eat chips.

When I watch a game in person, I can look anywhere I want. I can eavesdrop on a conversation behind me. I can watch someone walk up the aisle with food. I can use my nose to gage how tasty their food will be.

I can get distracted. I can miss a play. I don’t have the commentators in my head. I don’t have the “media storyline” imposed upon me. I’m told when to cheer. I’m pulled into doing the wave. I’m a far way away from my couch and an impromptu nap.

I’m surrounded by people who don’t wash their hands before exiting a public washroom.

Seriously, don’t touch anything at a sporting event. Just leave your hands in your pockets. Better yet, leave your hands at home. Saw them off at the wrist, leave them in a pickle jar, and put them back on when you get home.

I don’t say this as a germaphobe. I say this as a concerned citizen who has seen too many people pollute their hands and then place them on a railing or door handle.

Anyways, back to sports.

Going to a hockey arena or a baseball stadium was always a big deal to me, growing up.

I remember waking up one day and saying to myself, “Today’s the day. Today’s the big day!” as I put my socks on. I’m pretty sure I stole that line from an episode of Arthur. Nevertheless, I was headed to a sporting event that day and thought the quote was fitting.

I always like arriving early. An empty stadium with only a handful of fans in the stands is one of my favourite things in the world. If I could just bottle that feeling and make it last longer than twenty minutes, I’d be content.

Maybe it’s the anticipation. Maybe it’s the dimmed lights. Maybe it’s the serenity of it all – a great, big building with so much peace. Maybe it’s the appeal of watching a crew prepare the playing surface. I love that sorta thing.

Going to a baseball game and seeing the grounds crew water the dirt around the bases, had a huge affect on me as a kid. I’m serious.

I would play baseball in the backyard with my Dad, and on one occasion before we played, I started watering the grass. My Mom opened the window and asked what I was doing. I thought it was obvious what I was doing, but clearly she didn’t know this is what they did before baseball games.

I was told to turn off the hose.

Many years later I realized they water the dirt in the infield to limit the dust every time a player slides. If there’s another reason why they do it, don’t tell me.

Meanwhile, I was just water grass and making it slippery and uncomfortable for us to run in. Oops.

Every arena feels different. That’s one thing you can’t pick up when watching on TV.

I remember going to Maple Leaf Gardens before it closed. It was the only time I’d ever been there. It wasn’t even for a game. It was an open house. I ended up in the dressing room and still have photos of me in a Leafs jacket, standing in front of the stalls.

The place just felt special. It had an aura to it.

A few years ago, I went to an OHL game in the Niagara region, at the old Jack Gatecliff Arena. It was built in 1938.

In hockey, you’ll hear people refer to an arena as a “barn” or an “old barn”. I never fully understood what that meant until I walked into this arena. The smell met me at the door like a hug.

It smelled like an old barn. I finally got it. A mixture of popcorn, other food, and a warm blanket. That’s what it smelled like. I loved it. Three thousand people packed in there and watched a game.

Yours truly bought three 50/50 tickets at that game. They each had about an 8 or 9 digit number on them. The tickets weren’t in sequential order.

Why am I telling you this? Because one of my tickets came one number away from winning. ONE NUMBER.

Example:
The winning ticket number was something like 24567383
My ticket number was…………………………………..24567384

The last number was one away. Again, you can’t get that kind of excitement, or disappointment, while watching at home.

Over the last few years, I’ve ventured on road trips to stadiums in different cities.

In 2014, I attended the Winter Classic at The Big House in Michigan.

That last sentence meant nothing to 97% of you, so I’ll explain.

The 2014 Winter Classic.

On January 1, 2014, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs played a hockey game outside, in front of 105,491 people, at a football stadium.

I couldn’t feel my feet for five hours and I loved every second of it.

I don’t think I’ll ever go to a better sporting event, and yet, I was there when the Blue Jays won the division series against Texas in 2016. It was bananas. B A N A N A S. I don’t think I’d ever hugged more random drunk strangers in my life.

Two. I hugged two random drunk strangers.

That outdoor game in Michigan was unbelievable. Half the stadium was red, the other half was blue, and yet we all came together to sing Don’t Stop Believing.

The Leafs won the game in a shootout. I can’t tell you that I saw the puck go in the net, even though I was sitting at that end of the ice.

I saw Tyler Bozak come in on net. I saw him shoot. There was a half second delay…and then the crowd roared. That’s how I knew the puck went in. That’s how most of the crowd knew it went in.

It was the best experience imaginable. I walked out of there feeling like we had just won the last game of the season. No game after that could possibly be as important.

I don’t know how that game came across on TV, though I hear it made for great theatre. I’ve never gone back and watched it, outside of a few YouTube clips. I don’t want to ruin my memory of it.

Sports bring people together. You really feel that when you travel to a different city to watch your home team play.

In Cleveland, there was a sea of blue to watch the Blue Jays. I was apart of that.

Progressive Field in Cleveland

In Ottawa, there was a sea of blue to watch the Maple Leafs play. I was apart of that.

Ottawa

In Detroit, same thing.

You don’t need to ask someone their name. You don’t need to know what their life story is. You just need to see them wearing the same jersey or colours as you, and a bond is automatically there.

That is permission to give a high-five. That is permission to spark up a conversation during the game. That is permission to yell wildly, while in their presence. That is permission to jump around with them when you win a playoff series.

That is sport at its purest.

You know, I started this post by telling you that I don’t know what my life would be like without sports. And I don’t. I’m firmly in this bubble.

But when I look outside of this happy sports bubble, the world isn’t as happy. People aren’t as unified as two strangers at a sporting event who have to share a single arm rest for three hours.

There’s an unwritten rule when it comes to the arm rest. One person gets the front, the other gets the back. And if you take the whole thing, it’s only for a few minutes before giving it up.

I’ve become pretty familiar with the nuances of sporting events. Like the t-shirt toss. The whole thing is a farce, really. The entire point of it is to keep fans entertained and distracted, while the television networks have gone to a commercial break.

That’s it. They want to keep the energy in the building up and fill you with happy emotions that you’ll remember later. Unless you are a child, you’re not getting a t-shirt thrown to you.

It’s an elaborate ruse. Even if you’re an adult and catch a t-shirt, you’ll be shamed into giving it away to the closest kid.

Anyways, back to the “outside the sports bubble” thing.

Sports thrive off rivalries. We are told that it’s okay to hate other teams and their fans. So we do. But I feel like we do it in a civil way. It’s like a separate world with different boundaries.

If a player on an opposing team gets injured, the opposing fans will clap when they get up and head off. The rivalry is put on hold and respect shines through.

Sometimes I wish we could just grab that mentality, throw it outside the sports bubble, and hope it sticks. Alas, no. Debating is so much more fun, apparently.

Sports are their own story. And when the images are put with music to create a video montage, I’m all in. I could watch those on YouTube all night, and I have.

To me, it’s more than a game. It’s more than a simple competition between competitors. It’s not just about trades, or statistics, or rosters.

It’s about how it makes me feel. I wish more people could understand that feeling.

Sport is my compass. It is my alarm clock. It is my 7PM date. It is my bedtime story.

The frustration will take years off my life. The passion will give them all back. And the love will bring me back for both.

That’s me, in a nutshell.

What are you passionate about? What fills your 24-hour day?

About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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42 Responses to Oh, the Sports You’ll See!

  1. Angela says:

    I’m not a huge sport fan but I do enjoy watching some sports, I say some because golf and snooker are the most boring things I’ve ever watched in my life, what I love about watching sports is how passionate people are, I mean my aunt is the quietest most, calm person in the world but you should see her when Andy Murray is playing, she is like a crazy woman possessed, its quite frightening but entertaining at the same time! Kevin is huge into motorsport and I love watching him on race day before and after the race, its like extreme emotional rollercoaster, for a guy who doesn’t generally show his emotions. I can’t really relate to the passion it but I love seeing it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      I’m with you on golf, except in small doses I can tolerate it. I was once at a restaurant that had a million TVs. They were all showing golf. I was in hell.
      I can relate fully to your Aunt and Kevin. Sports just bring something out of us calm, quiet people. Can’t explain it. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Little Rants says:

    Completely irrelevant but my idea of sports happens to be manoeuvring my way to the fridge – dodging several bits of clothing and pizza boxes lying on the floor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Truthfully, I don’t drink, I’m not really a fan of parties, and Halloween doesn’t crack the Top 30 list of my favourite holidays.”, and “And in a nutshell, that’s me. The guy who would rather watch a meaningless hockey game in October, in their residence room by themselves, than go to a sweaty Halloween party at a bar” – switch the genders out and add in the extra bit that I never actually lived in a dorm and this could perfectly describe me haha

    I don’t really watch sports very much. I’m starting to get into soccer just because my kidlets are all in it so I need to know if I need to cheer in a happy tone or an angry one. Best way: stand beside the wife of the coach, follow her tone. But I LOVE being in an arena for a hockey game. There is nothing quite like it. I get bored and distracted if I watch at home.

    Also, loving that you used “the day was bananas B A N A N A S” because I used the exact same line on the post I just published lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Haha high five for staying home instead of going to a Halloween party!

      I’ve tried hard to like soccer in the past, then I realized I was just lying to myself and can’t really stand it. I like your strategy though. Always watch what the coach’s wife does!

      LOL I’ll have to read your post! That Bananas thing was completely spontaneous. All of a sudden it was on my screen and I didn’t know how.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol I’m not really getting into soccer but I will always cheer when one of kids has the ball or if some other 12 year old girl knocks them down for no reason!! *grrr angry nanny*

        And yes totally read it!! I use “bananas” all the time. So much so that on a first date once I got bananas instead of flowers lol. It was kind of adorable.

        *high fives right back*

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Ariel Lynn says:

    I love your imagery on the Jack Gatecliff Arena. I have to say, as someone who has worked in many, many barns, what you said is beautiful – yet barns have one other scent you failed to mention. Hopefully, the “old barn” didn’t have that smell! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. blog city bish says:

    Go Leafs Go!! 😉💕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Paul, your post here is so pure, it truly is from the heart, and I can relate to every word. Sporting events, whether on radio, television or in person really can be magical—night games when played outdoors particularly so. I think the winter classic would be a hoot to see in person.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Thanks, Paul! Listening to a game on the radio is truly underrated. The game takes place in our mind and we create it based on the commentary. Incredible. Oh yes, whenever I see someone on TV saying the outdoor games are getting old, that may be the case for people watching at home, but for the people who attend it’s the greatest thing ever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That it is, and I totally agree with you about radio broadcasts. I remember listening to Warrior basketball games at night when I was a kid, and my mind would picture the crowds and the teams in the arena. Your imagination just runs wild. Great post! :O)

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Becky Turner says:

    It’s like you were inside my head with this post. I’m such a die hard sports fan, and I don’t understand what people who don’t like sports do with their time. At any given time, I have a game on and I’m yelling about something. I’m a Boston Red Sox, New York Giants, and University of Alabama football fan, so I’ve been through plenty of ups and downs. (My main struggle is living in Connecticut as a Red Sox/Giants fan and absolutely hating the Yankees and Patriots.) The funny thing is that my dad is a Detriot Tigers and Minnesota Vikings fan, so we can’t watch sports together.

    I’ve had people ask me why I love sports so much, and it’s hard to put it into words. I’ve never been an athlete myself, and I’ve followed baseball in some form since I was little. (I remember having one of those easy to read books about Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and Ken Griffey, Jr.). I picked up football to have something to watch in the off season; I started with pro football first, swore I’d never get into college ball, and low and behold became a Crimson Tide fan.

    At some point in my life, I would love to work in sports, just because I love it so much. My only sports are baseball and football, and I’ve tried to get into hockey, but haven’t found my groove yet. Maybe in time. But sorry for the rambling. Sports are such a big part of my life, and I only have a few people in my life that are just as passionate as I am.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      We speak the same language, Becky! As a Blue Jays fan, I can assure you we’ll be chirping each other when the season comes around. That being said, I really liked the Red Sox around 2004 when they were making their playoff runs with Manny and co. I still remember watching their playoff games against the Yankees and coming back from 3-0 to win the series. I love the underdog and they filled that bill for me. (There may be a Red Sox shirt in my closet but I’d never admit it).

      How did you end up a Giants fan and not a Patriots fan? Haha. I’m a Patriots fan….(can we still be friends?) because one of my earliest memories of watching the NFL was the Super Bowl when Brady let his team down field in the final minute to set up the winning field goal. Again, they were in the underdog situation and I was drawn to them. Now, I don’t really follow the team closely and mainly just follow the NFL playoffs. I think it’s because I’m in Canada and although the NFL is big here and everyone has a team, we don’t always get consistent teams on TV every week outside of Buffalo. They rest is whichever matchups are good/whatever CBS, FOX, or ABC shows, so it’s hard to track the Patriots.

      I should mention that growing up I thought I was a Bills fan because that’s the game I’d watch every week, then I realized I didn’t like them at all and became a Jets fan during the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez/2 AFC Championship appearances era. And then they fell apart and found my way back to the Patriots.

      “I picked up football to have something to watch in the off season” hahaha I related to that so much! People ask me what my favourite sport is and I tell them it depends on the season. Whichever sport is in season, is my favourite sport.

      If you were to become a hockey fan, which team would be closer to you..Boston or New York? Or would you maybe pick a different team entirely? Someone once told me they’re a hockey fan but only when they go to a game in person since it’s more fun.

      I have a degree in sport management and always dreamed of working in sports. I interned with our rugby national team a few years ago, but since then…nothing. It’s almost like I don’t want to ruin my fandom by working for a team and turning it into a job. It sounds weird I know, maybe it’s just a hurdle I have to get over.

      Anyways, thanks for the comment! I loved reading it. Let’s talk more sports in the future!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Becky Turner says:

        I didn’t start following the Red Sox until 2007 so I missed the 2004 World Series… shhh. But I do know the whole story and all that stuff.

        I became a Giants fan because I hate the Pats. I’ve lived in New England my whole life so all I know is annoying Pats fans, and I can’t stand Brady/Belichick. So I became a Giants fan. And it was right before their first Super Bowl win against the Pats, which was so satisfying to watch. And then the other one a few years later.

        God the Bills suck. I mean, they had their one playoff appearance this season, but they’re the laughing stock of the NFL. And the Bills mafia.

        As for hockey, I’d probably become a Bruins fan. I practically live in Massachusetts (I’m right on the CT/MA line) so I’m closer to Boston. Like I’ve watched games and know the basic rules but for some reason can’t follow it. I have heard it’s better in person, too.

        I feel the same way you do about working in sports. I think it would be fun, but it would have to be for a team I support. But I’ve got a bunch of time to figure all that out.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Paul says:

        As someone who likes the underdog, I wasn’t completely upset that the Giants beats the Patriots that year and gave them their first loss. They earned it. I was mad when the Giants benched Eli for that 1 game this year. You don’t do that to him.

        Ugh, unfortunately I know too many Bills fans. They’re the closest NFL team to me geographically. I don’t understand the appeal. They’ve been so bad for so long, I just want to know what drew people in to be a fan of theirs.

        On a random note: Have you heard of a documentary series called Last Chance U on Netflix? It follows around the football team at East Mississippi Community College and tells the story of their season behind the scenes. Feel like you’d like it!

        Like

  8. Ely says:

    “I’m just there to look pretty and eat chips” 😂😂😂🤦🏻‍♀️🙄 this is why you’re my BBFF. “Blog-BFF” lmfao! I can totally sense your passion. It’s genuine. I can feel it through your writing, so you’ve succeeded. I’ve been to baseball games- it’s my sport of choice but it’s been yearssss. I’ve always wanted to watch a real hockey game. When my daughter was ice skating competitively, there were teenagers practicing on the ice for a game and MAN WAS THAT INTENSE!!! I really enjoyed watching them and though Jesus I can’t imagine how real pros play this game!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Myka says:

    One: I was told to turn off the hose. HAHAHAHA
    Two: “The frustration will take years off my life. The passion will give them all back.” This was so well said I could cry!
    Three: I loved this. I loved the photo of you at the outdoor event, that is SUCH a cool memory. I love that even though you don’t like the germs, and the strangers, and the event of watching a game together on TV, you love the arena. or the stadium. or the field.
    This kind of gave me wanderlust. I’m going to a LA Lakers game (in Sacramento) soon, and I am now more excited than before. Though, idk about sharing my armrest. 😛 HAH! .xo.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      1. Hahaha
      2. Thank you!
      3. Have fun! Just take it all in. I find that sporting events go so quickly when I’m there in person. And then before I know it I’m on my way home. Maybe that’s why I like going early and sitting in an empty arena. Hmm…
      Lol you’re an armrest hog eh?

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Barb Knowles says:

    As you can imagine….I LOVE this post! Sports does not define me, as it does you and many others that I know. Maybe that’s a poor choice of words, but you know what I mean. But I grew up with a father and 2 brothers who loved football (American) and golf. So I know more than the average person about both. My parents watched some tennis (boring), I watched gymnastics and the Olympics, crying during the commercials. My children aren’t interested in sports. 2 grandsons are, but to play. I don’t think they’ve watched a game of any sort on tv. That’s sad to me.
    But perhaps they write about their inability to get their grandmother to play Xbox.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I also find tennis boring, and golf. I’ll only tune in if something big is happening, otherwise it’s just too much green landscape. I also don’t like how the announcers whisper. Like what’s the big secret, are they broadcasting illegally?
      I love the Olympics and am a big fan of gymnastics. Why did you cry during commercials though haha. Oh Xbox is the devil. Stay away from it! See, aren’t you glad you have 2 blog sons who like sports!?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Very glad! I left out bowling….I love bowling and watching bowling. The Olympics has such tear-jerker commercials. As to golf, I think the announcers are right there not meaning correct, meaning on the course. They whisper so it’s not a distraction, like yelling YO would be.
        I also love that the Olympics has some unusual sports. It has never occurred to me to say ok, I’m off to ski and then shoot something and then do something else. Which I’m sure is based on the days when people had to snow shoe or ski to find food and then shoot it or get it with a bow and arrow. And when did bows and arrows look like techno-killer-machines?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        I love bowling too, playing more than watching. I thought the golf announcers were up in a tower above the golf course, which is why I thought it was weird that the whisper. Especially if there’s no one around them.
        Ohhh I thought you were crying during the commercials because you were sad they were taking a break from the action for 3 minutes and you missed it ahahaha sorry! Oh yeah, that skiing and shooting sport confusing me too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I still think they are on the course, not like 20 feet up in the air. Maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe they think the play-by-play is a secret. Shhhhh……..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        It’s all a mystery! They’re probably at home doing commentary by their couch and the whispering is a red herring.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Whenever you’re up for reading them, I have a couple of new posts up 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I will look later 🙂 More health stuff going on.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Dutch Lion says:

    As always, great post Paul. You and I are very similar people. Dude, great writing. I love getting to the park/stadium early. My wife doesn’t seem to understand. Luckily, my son enjoys it and I try to get there for batting practice so we can catch home runs. Plus, why not spend as much time in the stadium as possible when you’re shelling out big money? I was at a White Sox game that lasted about 1 hour and 39 minutes once (Mark Buehrle was pitching) and so we had to leave when it probably, normally would’ve been about the 5th inning. I felt jipped. Baseball games are supposed to last 3 hours so I felt like we should get 50% refunds.

    Anyway, excellent writing. I too, live for the games. Reid (Dutch Lion)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      That’s apart of my reason for going early…might as well get my money’s worth. I’ve gone with some friends who insist on walking around the concourse until 10 minutes before the game starts, and I’m just itching to go sit in my seat. They don’t see the point.

      Ahhh a Mark Buehrle special. We had the same problem in Toronto with him. I remember specifically not going to games if he was pitching. I didn’t want to see a 2 hour game. I’d feel ripped off too.

      Liked by 1 person

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