The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

October 25, 2007



Cool, detached, just report the facts, Ma'am. Don't feel. Just write. Feed the famished fan. Churn out the crap. File to the website. Rehash the same, stupid cliches over and over again to fuel the fire that is professional sports.

Bullshit. Athletes, like a lot of people, will feed you pap and are like that if you let them be like that, and don't show them you care about what they say and who they are and what they feel...what they really feel.

This post is about me making connections with people who make an impression on me as a person privileged enough to meet and talk to individuals who play pro sports for a living and are asked for autographs all the time.

And specifically, this post is about one of the most gentle, kind souls I have ever met, a guy who just makes me smile, who greets me with a smile or even a hug every time I pass him by, just one of those people you can't help but like.

Because of my position as a sportswriter who covers him, which means I don't want somebody to Google his name and potentially find this post, I'm just going to call him Stevie. His pictures are below.

In the group pic, from his college in the U.S., he's the guy on the right.

Up here in Canada, we love football (not as much as hockey, but...). We have the Canadian Football League. It consists of eight teams and is our version of the National Football League.

As with any other comparison between Canada and the U.S., it's the mouse-and-elephant syndrome.

But you know what? Not everyone can be 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds. But neither is everyone who's only 6-1 and 215 a bad football player. So what the NFL rejects, the CFL often gladly accepts.

And that's what our game is about. Americans who couldn't make it in the NFL came up to Canada and became and still always become our star players. Many have returned to the NFL to become big stars.

But for the most part, they don't. At least half the players on the team I cover in Canada are Americans who'll never get a shot at the NFL.

And those are the guys I really appreciate, and that traverses every sport I've ever covered.

It's the guys who aren't the stars -- like Stevie, for example -- or players who compete at the less obvious and media-savvy positions like the offensive line that I've always found the best, most intelligent of athletes.

And the reason, I think, is that they HAVEN'T had the attention and they're a lot more down to earth and thankful for what they have. They're the athletes who've had to fight and scrape for whatever they've achieved.

Unlike a lot of the biggest stars, who've been blessed with so much talent they don't HAVE to think and are coddled from Day 1 by coaches, agents and teams, these athletes get cut from teams or get shuffled to minimal roles.

They develop a sense of gratitude and strength that comes with failure and they have to fight harder to succeed.

And once they do -- once they get to the pro level -- they're well-rounded people who love what they're doing.

Stevie is the most awkward-looking defensive lineman I've ever seen. He's exceptionally pigeon-toed and when I see him run fast, I almost shudder thinking he's going to break his feet running that way.

But it works, for HIM. He overcame something you'd think he should not have been able to overcome.

And while he's not a star on the team I cover, and in fact was cut once, then cut by another team and then returned here, he's a happy-go-lucky player who has a smile for everyone he meets.

I could never say it to him, but he knows I'm rooting for him.

There have been horrible stories about some of the world's most high-profile, elite athletes getting involved in everything from doping and impaired driving to murdering and beating their wives, cheating and dogfighting.

Stevie and most other athletes I've known or covered are not like that.

It's guys like Stevie and the other non-stars that allow me to tolerate all the sound-bytes and cliches thrown out for mass comsumption by the so-called "superstars" who have been thrust into those roles as the sultans of sound-bytes.
As much as I possibly can, I try to avoid those heavy hitters, who actually have the littlest to say of any consequence to anybody. I prefer to seek out the more humble, quiet, feeling and contemplative wherever I go.
Stevie B. is one of those people. And I admire him.

October 18, 2007


I mean dead people who at one point in my life were very alive to me, and who just vanished, expired, went on to the next life...

Wherever they went, in our physical, limited dimension realm, they ceased to exist.

I could not tease them, hug them, admire them, hate them, love them, whatever them any more, in the form in which they had existed. They died. And I continued to live, in this form.

And this has happened to us all.

And a lot of these people almost disappear from our consciousness, save for occupying some tiny space in our tiny brains, rarely remembered but never forgotten.

These names will mean nothing to you, but I'm talking about:

Lee Rowson (childhood buddy struck by lightning, 1975 or so). Workmate Anna Geddes (breast cancer, 2003). Peter Berendse (former girlfriend's brother, motorcycle accident, 1973).

Ron Bonin (brother's best buddy, HIV-AIDS, 1980). Julia Young (beautiful college mate, breast cancer). Firnie Coppens (best friend's dad, heart attack, May 29, 1980). Georgiana Fisette (grandmother, old age).



I'm also, though, talking about people who didn't die physically, but who disappeared from our lives, never to be seen again, but still worth remembering...or impossible to forget.

People who still resonate with us...the first girlfriend/boyfriend, the teacher of terror, the marvellous mentor.

The girl you connected with on your big trip and never saw again, the guy you met in a bar and never heard from again.

People you find yourself, for no reason or for every reason, asking: "I wonder what ever happened to them?"

People who touched you, who had some impact, good or bad, who faded away...but not completely.

People like:

Sylvie Cowlie (high school hottie). Joanne Van der Graf (first "encounter"). Paulette Hauser (best high school female friend). Pat Keelan (Nerdy college guy). Gerry Bolin (high school teacher).


There's no real point to this, except to say that I think about all these people and many more from time to time, and I assume others think of people they crossed paths with, in a big or small way.

And I like that I do.

Life isn't all about looking forward and where you're going, I believe.

It's about also looking back, and still having a sense of wonder about what went before and knowing what happened then set the direction for the path you're on now.

And part of that wonder has to be about the people that have come before...and sometimes are now gone. But not forgotten.

October 6, 2007

The Abominable Snowman

I have photographic evidence.
He visited my place last Thursday night, emerging from the shadows to show himself, as ugly and incredibly verbose as he is.
And he had a couple of drinks while he terrorized my sanity and my apartment. Go figure.
At first, he hid in the shadows.

Eventually, however, he showed himself and consumed smoked oysters, pickled peppers, pickles, crackers, pickled onions and a partridge in a pear tree. And he bored me beyond belief.
He tried to frighten me, to no avail.

Nothing he does surprises me or frightens me any more. I just put it down to his unique existence as some lost link between history and the future, between morals and moribundity, between culture and craziness.

Eventually, once he realized he could not confound me with his ridiculous rhetoric and his idiotic ideals and his brilliant bravado, he calmed down and we were able to converse in our eerily strange Winnipeg dialect.

I know he was effusive before, and he's elusive now.

His name is Homo Escapeons, just Donn with a ridiculous two "n's" to me. I believe he will be back to blog so he can spur on his species and make other ridiculous claims.

But keep in mind he is a wild and often incredibly stupid hominid, by most standards, despite his alluring ardour and outrageous outrageousness.

He doesn't clean up after himself and leaves stains all over my sink.

But he DOES exist. For now, that's all you need to know.

October 1, 2007

High School and stuff


He wanted to take pictures of one of his female friends -- one of his best bud's girlfriends -- playing soccer, or as the other-worlders call it in the great beyond, football.

Of course I said yes.

But as the pictures he and his friends took below suggest, and this is absolutely no surprise to me, 15-year-old boys may think they're turning into men but they're still boys, no matter how you look at it.

If they ever become men, it probably won't be until they're 30, if they're lucky.

Sure, he hooked up with his first "high-school" girlfriend in the first week.

She was a cute little thing, but I think far more than his tiny male brain, which probably contains about eight cells, could handle, control or otherwise with all those hormones hogging the spotlight.

They split after two days, I think, a record even in my books and estimation, because she was kind of playing him against one of his best friends, it appears. His head, as is often the case, exploded.

Friend or girl? Friend or girl?

I'm glad and proud of him that he chose friend. He has school to adjust to, and that's one thing. A girl that's going to drive him crazy? Uh-uh.

When he first told me about her, it was like, "Dad, I've never felt this way before about a girl. She's beautiful."

"Slow down," I told him before I drove them to their first movie together. "Things may not be what they seem to be."

Two days later, I would find out after the fact, they were history. He's single again, at least last time I heard.

Anyway, he seems fine now, back with his buds, and isn't that right for the Hill of Hormones that he is? So he took my camera. And this is what he and some of his friends saw and captured.

It doesn't surprise me one bit that the guys ended up on the swings and monkey bars and all that while the game wore on...

One final note to his first couple of weeks of high school.
The school is just a 5-minute walk from my apartment.
Well guess who hasn't been showing up here and eating me out of house and home while I'm at work and he's on a spare. And with at least one of his friends in tow.
They eat and eat and eat. Then they eat some more.
I've been filling up on goopy microwave fast food thingies like pizza and pasta, you know, those pre-packaged things that cost about $3 or $4 each.
Two apiece, they've been having. That's $12-$14 a day. And they've been eating my cold-cuts and anything else that's edible, if they can figure out how to cook it or slice it and dice it.
I love that he's coming here, despite the mess he leaves.
But I think I'M the one who's cooked.