October 26, 2001
When I was in China this spring, one
of the best things I brought back was a coat. I'm sorry - it's
not a coat, it's a 'personal weather management system'. You
know, one of those jackets with zippers all over the place and
converts into a tent or rowboat in an emergency.
The jacket was made by some enterprising
local entrepreneurs in Beijing to sell as souvenirs to the people
who were on the Canadian Government's 2001 "Team Canada"
trade mission to China. My company was part of it, so - been
there, done that, got the jacket.
Over here jackets like that are a couple
hundred dollars, but in China (where everything in the world
seems to be made anyways) it was mine for a mere fifty bucks,
and you can bet they were still making a profit. Best of all,
the Workers' Paradise doesn't charge tax. All you had to do was
lug it home.
Of course, the jacket doesn't have a
real designer label that would add an extra digit to the price
over here. Although it looks like the trendy "North Face"
outerwear, if you read it carefully the label actually says "Sport
Space". It's like the "Rolecks" watches and "Versachi"
ties I saw for sale on the street corners in Beijing. At two
dollars, I'm pretty sure my "Versachi" tie is counterfeit.
Especially since its flammable and the colour tends to come off
on your hands. I think they all come out of the same "Glorious
People's Knock-Off Factory No. 6".
What my red and white jacket does have
is an enormous "Team Canada" patch on the back.. And
that's the problem. Every time I wear it, people come up to me
and ask me what sport I was in at the Olympics.
It would be pretty sad if our Olympic
team looked anything like me.
Maybe that's why Canada never seems to
get more than a handful of bronze medals at the Olympics.
You can see the confusion as people try
to figure out what my event might have been. Someone asked me
in a restaurant if I was on the equestrian team. I guess they
figure I look like I might be in good enough shape to sit on
a horse while it does most of the work. Now that baseball is
an Olympic sport I suppose I could be mistaken for one of those
flabby pitchers who needs to scarf down an order of fries between
each pitch to maintain their body weight.
I'm unused to all this attention caused
by my misleading outerwear. I've never had a team jacket before
for the simple reason that I've never been on a team. As a teen
I was of a decidedly delicate constitution, and had a vivid imagination
when it came to how I'd do at the receiving end of a tackle or
body check. So no sports, no jacket.
Now there's something vaguely sad about
seeing middle-aged, pot-bellied guys out on weekends pushing
a lawn mower wearing their 1977 Division Champion football jackets
like racehorses out to pasture. But at least they were sports
heroes once upon a time, which is more than I can say for myself.
During gym class you could usually find me hiding under the bleachers
or chatting up the girls' volleyball team. Given a second chance,
I might have volunteered to give the motivational half-time pep
talk. But for God's sake, don't give me the ball.
I'm finding the jacket alone is a heavy