sports is cruelty

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Björn Borg.

* * * * *

I hadn't watched a hockey game in months. Lately we've seen bits of the playoffs here and there, before my wife turns it over to TVO, and she always asks me questions like, How many rounds are there? How many games are there left? How long does this go on? God, that's a long time. Why does it take so long? But Sunday night, after a full-press visit from her sister's family (in fairness, there was no cooking -- we ordered Thai -- so there wasn't that much work, and my wife did most of it), I started watching Game Six of the Vancouver-Chicago series, towards the middle of the first period, and while I did occasionally flip it over to a show about baroque painting (the strangely coiffed British host kept pronouncing it "ba-rock"), I more or less stayed with it until it the end.

Roberto Luongo was not in goal. This is because, after winning the first three games of the series for Vancouver (it's a best of seven), he proceeded to have a minor psychic collapse (which he's done before), and lose the next two games 7-2 and 5-0. In case you don't know much about hockey, these are not flattering scores. The back-up goalie, Cory Schneider, was acquitting himself nicely until he started to wander around behind the net, trying to handle the puck. Then things went badly for awhile. I went to get a beer. When I came back, the score was tied again, and Luongo was back in goal (I guess Schneider got hurt on a penalty shot). The Chicago crowd was chanting, singing, "Luuuongo, Luuuongo." Still, he didn't see much action, as it was Vancouver who was pressing the play. The game went into overtime.

Vancouver continued to play well. In fact, they were seemingly everywhere -- pressuring, pressuring. And then suddenly it didn't matter, because Chicago finally got a chance to skate down the ice. And score. I immediately turned off the tv, shut off the lights and left the room.

They call it sudden-death overtime for a reason. I cannot imagine the thousand little pieces of egg shell that is Roberto Luongo's brain right now.

Sports is cruel. I remember listening to thousands of Boston voices singing to Patrick Roy with the chillingly derisive/familiar, "Paaaa-trick! Paaaa-trick!" as the Habs went down to defeat. More people might remember that episode of The Simpsons, when Bart and Lisa taunt Darryl Strawberry ("Daaaa-ryl, Daaaa-ryl ...") and a single tear rolls down his cheek. Marge tells them to stop it but the kids are dismissive; Lisa explains that, because he's a pro, the teasing rolls right off his back.

Sometimes. Darryl self-immolated the old-fashioned way, with girls and cocaine, over a long period of time, over and over, always trying for a comeback. But at least he could still perform in October. A long goodbye.

A quicker one: something going *ping* in Bjorn Borg's skull the day when he walked off that court, just twenty-six years old, quitting tennis forever. But at least he had a zillion titles behind him.

Roberto Luongo has a jillion-dollar contract and a thousand-yard stare.

What happens to a player or a team when their blood congeals, and their limbs don't move, and the brain is a dead star?

When the Swedes lost to Belarus at the 2002 Olympics, some of the players wanted different flights home, to avoid the jeers at the airport.

This is why girls do not like sports, with all its shouting and showing of the knives. They prefer the slower tortures, more psychological, more death from a thousand cuts.

And in this way, they might understand Roberto Luongo's head right now better than any of the blue-blazer boys on TSN.

Chicago in seven.


  1. I love baseball..I get a little crazy! And I am all girl!

  2. You lost me when you mentioned hockey

    I am totally jealous of Bjorn's hair though :)


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