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Athletic Supporter

by Stephen Lautens


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 enough responsibility.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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