Geoff Pevere: No Cup, No Balls, No Puck, No Kidding!

One of the more outrageously under-appreciated facts of human existence is that some of us guys have no interest in sport. It should be better known, and in a civilized liberal democracy like ours it should also be compensated for. After demonstrating a thorough and sincere disinclination toward sporting events by the time we reach legal age – which is to say to have already endured childhood as an object of ridicule and ostracism – we jock-o-phobes should receive a monthly lifestyle allowance compensating for all the bullshit we’ve had to put up with since somebody first threw a ball our way and we dropped it.

I dropped the ball in another way earlier this week, but in a way I have maybe thousands of times in the past. I was asked by a perfectly friendly, conversation-priming dogwalker which team I was rooting for in the Super Bowl and replied – in a perfectly friendly but inadvertently conversation-killing way – that I didn’t even know which teams were playing. Within mere moments, I was alone in the field. The irony was not lost on me that we and our dogs were taking exercise on a baseball diamond, but I was not struck dead by a lightning bolt.

I can’t tell you how many cab rides have gone suddenly and permanently silent, or how many awkward family-gathering moments have ensued, once I’ve given the wrong answer to the driver (or uncle’s) perfectly friendly, conversation-priming question about “them Leafs.” As in “how about…”

I’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as perfectly benign indifference toward sport if you’re a sports fan. It’s like being told your child is ugly, your religion sham, or your feet smell. Invariably you take it personally, and you conclude that the person who is disinterested must be a dick. This is because sport is something you like, that gives you pleasure and satisfaction, and that everybody must feel the same way about. When somebody tells you that they don’t like something that makes you feel good, you react accordingly. Here’s a test: just for research, try telling someone you’ve never really cared for The Beatles or Star Wars or chocolate ice cream or Christmas lights. Then see how long it is before you’re sitting alone again.

What people who like sport tend to fail to understand about people who don’t is that, for the truly indifferent, there is no animus involved. No hate, no hostility, no resentment or rancour. We just don’t care, and in many ways – considering the depth to which some hundreds of millions do care and care passionately – the very concept of not caring is unthinkable. You can’t not care, so you must be telling me you think I’m an asshole. I’m pretty sure that’s how the logic works.

But the truth is, I really and truly and honestly don’t care and never have. Ever since I was a kid and was compelled to participate in team sports as a kid, I felt like there was something missing in the explanation. Okay, so if we get that ball and put it over there, we get a point and they don’t. And if we get more points we win. And that matters…um…why?

I just never understood what was at stake. Okay, so we win this game. Does that mean that this game will henceforth never be played on the planet again, because we have won it once and for all and victory is ours forever? No. It means we have won this game right here and now and there will be another tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. I just didn’t get it.

Add to that the intense display of emotional investment so often displayed by my peers, an investment that often expressed itself in terms of hammering the be-jesus out of wimps like yours truly, and then add to that the utterly mystifying status afforded to boys who were better at putting balls in certain places than other boys were, and you can begin to understand why I’m lobbying for that subsidy I mentioned at the beginning.

Let me share a story that I hope will make you weep with sympathy at the tragedy I’ve endured. Back in September 1972, it was announced at my high school that we would have the day off for the final game of the Canada-Russia hockey series. I was overjoyed, if only because it meant no school that day and I could sit at home and watch TV and read comics: two activities that never failed to put me closer to God.

But then the city Board of Education re-considered: too many working parents had complained that they’d have to leave their children unsupervised for the day, and what the hell were they paying taxes for anyway?

So the cancelled school day was re-scheduled but with a twist. For many, a cherry twist, but for me the twist of a knife: all classes would be cancelled for the duration of the game, and TV’s would be rolled into all the classrooms so we could watch the big event. My heart utterly sank: suddenly I had to watch an entire hockey game – something I’d never done in my life – and in a closed and supervised classroom in which kids would be screaming and yelling and I’d just be sitting there like some kind of treasonous dolt loser.

The day came, and it may be the only time I mourned for that fact that Geography was cancelled. I’d have gladly taken my chances with the topography of the Canadian Shield under the circumstances. But it was not to be. I remember our class being marched down the hall – force marched, if you’d asked me – to one of the rooms where the TV’s had been installed, and I spent the longest afternoon of my brief existence watching the only hockey game I’ve ever watched from beginning to end in my life. But I’ve got to admit I did cheer when Henderson – that was his name, wasn’t it? — scored that game-winning goal. Not because I was proud of my country or caught up in the moment, but because it finally meant we could go home.

And whatever you do, don’t get me started on sports analogies.

— 30 —

Geoff Pevere‘s column appears every Friday.

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Geoff Pevere has been writing, broadcasting and teaching about movies, media and popular culture for over thirty years. He can’t help himself. His column appears every Friday.

7 Responses to “Geoff Pevere: No Cup, No Balls, No Puck, No Kidding!”

  1. Mark John Vukovich Says:

    A sports fanatic, officinado, historian or any other myriad of terms that can be ascribed to that personal trait..I am 100% supportive of your right to not be involved in sport. For me is much deeper than the game or games them selves…for me its the drama, the will and determination of the human spirit to achieve. Its the discipline and stamina required. Its because the mountain is there and somebody is going to climb it..why not me…its that huge marlin that almost knocks you out of your fighting chair, its the roar of the multitudes when a goal is struck or a fighter gets knocked out. Its the sacrifices made and the team work required to compete not so much the winning but the competition and the physical exhilaration one gets while simply training to compete. Its a rush in and of itself and personally I feel sorry for those that don’t get it…but thats the way this green sphere rotates…you gets yours wherever you can and I will be out there, fishing, playing golf, watching baseball, football, hockey, MMA, riding my bike and wondering how they do that for hundreds of miles, driving my Chevy and hoping that Chevy beats Ford at Daytona…its a hard world and I will escape the trails and tribulations where I can. I even play a little air guitar oncentanawhile…! Peace Out Vuke is in Lodi and Lovin’ Life

    • I know what you mean about the determination of the spirit to achieve. I saw it at a bull fight in Madrid. Despite being sorely wounded and without hope of staying alive, the bull kept rising from the sand in a vain attempt to kill its tormentor. I have always retained great admiration for the spirit of that bull against insurmountable odds.

  2. Jim Slotek Says:

    Geez, Geoff. You mean that time we were in an Orlando hotel bar (we were covering Universal’s The Flintstones Movie) watching the Leafs beat the Sharks in the playoffs, you weren’t even paying attention? 😉

  3. Greg Simpson Says:

    I used to be a hockey fan…even ran a hockey pool at my radio station for a number of years…now I pay very little attention. It happened the year the Americans who run the game shut the players out over contract negotiations, and I finally got it. It wasn`t about the competition, it was about the money. Never returned when the players did. I have to confess, though, that I often get up earlier on a Saturday than I do Monday through Friday, as I`ve become somewhat addicted to Premier League soccer. I also watch wrestling but that`s not a sport, and NASCAR which my friend Segarini says is not a sport at all. Then again, as Bob does not possess the sports gene, how would he knowÉ

  4. Geoff, I’m missing the sports gene as well. Actually, I used to possess a small sickly facsimile of it. When I was a kid my father was a Maple Leafs fan so by default I was too. A few years later, I became a staunch Montreal Canadiens supporter because … father was a leafs fan. Even today I experience an infinitesimal thrill when the Leafs experience a losing streak. That’s it, nothing more. There have been many years when the Superbowl has been finished for weeks before I realize it has even been played.
    Question, how do you objectively review a book or movie where sport is the central theme? Where a basic knowledge of the game is assumed and it is tacitly agreed that you share the same passion. How do you endure the seemingly endless parade of Hollywood flicks with the game as a metaphor for life etc.
    Just wondering. Hugh Little

    ps. I must admit golf is a great game to fall asleep on the couch too.

  5. While the high school jocks were beating the hell out of each other in some homoerotic neolithic war re-enactment based on moving a piece of brown leather across fake grass, I was busy playing guitar…and getting laid.

  6. TeerCephus Says:

    I have to agree with Bullseyecanada!

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