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Be A Sport

by Stephen Lautens


September 7, 2001

I have a dreadful inadequacy that is particularly embarrassing for males. And before you think I'm about to replace Bob Dole as poster boy for Viagra, let me caution you that it's much more serious than that.

I'm sad to admit that I know nothing about sports.

If only there were serious, white-coated scientists looking for a chemical cure for athletic ignorance. When my manly friends gather around the water cooler and discuss point spreads, shots on goal, and career RBIs, I can only smile and nod, and hope no one notices this gap in my otherwise impeccable manhood.

I'm in real trouble if they me ask if I think Gonzales (or Kowalchuk or Weinstein) has what it takes to "go all the way this year", whatever that means. The best I can do is venture an opinion that whoever it is we're discussing looks good, if his knee holds out. Even if you don't know anything about a particular sport or athlete, it's usually pretty safe talking about someone's knee (hoping of course that whatever the sport is involves the knee ­ if it turns out to be NASCAR racing, you've pretty much blown your cover).

It used to be easier to fake athletic knowledge when each sport had its own season. If it was the middle of winter I could safely assume we were talking about hockey. If it was spring there was a good chance the subject was baseball. But now with exhibition and pre-season play, every sport is played all the time, making it much more difficult to guess what everyone is talking about.

My problem is I just don't get sports, even though in my younger days I once starred in one of those old Participaction commercials. And no, I wasn't featured as the 'before' picture, thanks for asking.

I never saw the appeal of getting out on a cold wet field early in the morning to let larger boys stand on my head. I saw even less point in watching other people do it.

As an adult, big player salaries are as much a mystery to me as the outrageous ticket prices. For the money I spend more time at a hockey game looking at the crowd or trying to locate the hotdog guy than I do watching the actual play.

You'd think I'd have a better appreciation for sports. My grandfather played football for the Hamilton Tiger Cats, and my father won a National Newspaper Award for sportswriting. Professional athletes hung around the house. Before that they hung around my grandparents' house looking for a free meal in the days when 'professional' athletes were paid so little they relied on handouts from sportswriters and fans to survive.

But that was before grown men were paid tens of millions of dollars for chasing various-sized balls around between trips in their private jets.

It's hard to believe that there isn't at least one athletic chromosome floating around in the shallow end of the Lautens gene pool, but if there is it must have gone to my brother. Or maybe it'll skip a generation and any children I have will be spared the humiliation of being jock-talk impaired.

There is hope after all. My wife may not follow league play, but she sure is one enthusiastic fan. Normally soft-spoken and mild mannered, God help any referee or linesman who gets within earshot of her after a bad call. I've seen steelworkers shoot her an appreciative glance after a particularly colourful exchange.

For their own sakes, let's hope any kids take after her.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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