People watch sports for various reasons. (Or they don’t watch them for one: “I don’t like sports.” Which would make for a negative, one-sentence entry here, were I not blessed with the alternate perspective. Whew.)
Sports fans enjoy the excitement. The unpredictability of the outcome – sports being the original and still top ranking “Reality Show”. Other enthusiasts come to sports for the betting, though there’s the chance those are less sports fans than gambling addicts. Most of us are enthralled by the opportunity to watch best-in-their-field athletes excelling gloriously at “crunch time.”
For me, you can check off all of those boxes, except for the betting. I once bet ten bucks on a Buffalo Braves basketball game. (You can tell it was awhile ago. The Braves abandoned Buffalo in 1978.) I won, and never bet on anything again, wishing to be one of those rare gamblers who got out batting a thousand. I wonder if I’d have stayed in if I’d have lost. Nah. But I would be grumbling about it forever.
“They told me it was a sure thing!”
Still – after a hundred and seventy-four words, and I apologize for the slow start – I have not mentioned the most important reason I watch sports, which is,
I get a genuine rush out of being a fan.
That explains my diminished enthusiasm for football. (Besides the brain damage.) My (adopted) home city does not have team. (Note However: I was a passionate fan of the Argonauts. Look ‘em up. They play football.)
These thoughts rush to mind because tonight, I will be attending a hockey game at the Staples Center. (which is marketing "Spitting Distance" from Scotch Tape Arena.)
More significantly, the local hockey team, the L.A. Kings, will be taking on…
My beloved and lifetime owners of my heart…
The Toronto Maple Leafs!
Generally, though not every season, the Leafs are scheduled to play the Kings in Los Angeles. And when their do, my good and generous friend Allan always invites me to the game.
I have been following the Leafs since early childhood, first on radio, and later, on TV. (As I have previously mentioned, the CD I wake up to every morning is the original theme song to Hockey Night In Canada. As my friend Paul says, “We love baseball. But hockey is in our blood.”)
When I was a kid – and I first chrnonicled this phenomenon in my Toronto newspaper column back in the 60’s – I noticed that when the Leafs were in the playoffs – which they were all the time but are now hardly ever – during “Sudden Death” overtime – where the next goal wins the game – it seemed like every time I left the room, the Leafs almost immediately scored. Not literally every time. But more often than one might statistically expect.
This anomaly triggered a serious dilemma for me. I could leave the room and they’d win. But I would never be present when they did it. The decision was simple. During virtually every Maple Leaf triumph, I was in the hall, in the kitchen or in the bathroom.
My attachment gets even more visceral than that. (If you can handle it. The following is not for the squeamish.)
As a teenager, my friend Arny and I had procured two coveted tickets to a Wednesday night contest between the Leafs and their perennial rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs won 2-0 that night, and when we left Maple Leaf Gardens heading for the subway, I was so emotionally jacked up by the experience I ducked into an alley and threw up.
That’s me and the Maple Leafs. (Or it could just have been a bad hotdog.)
The Kings currently rank first in their division. The Leafs sit second to last in theirs, so the chances of their winning tonight are unlikely. That’s why I’m writing an “anticipation” story rather than risk an anti-climactic denouement.
Reality can deny me the desired outcome. But happily looking forward to the game –
And with that I say…
Go, Leafs, Go!
And if it means my absenting myself from the arena so that a “Sudden Death” victory can be achieved…
You do not even have to ask.