Category Archives: Stories

Hockey Dad

This isn’t about hockey dads. It’s about my dad….. and hockey. My father passed away 4 years ago today. I write a blog about him on this day every year. They started off really sad. Now it’s just random memories that I don’t want to forget. I know my last post was about my dad too, on what would have been his 80th birthday. Apologies to anyone who reads this blog, but I just haven’t been writing lately. I’m sleepy a lot. I like to doze off on the couch more than I like to write. Sad but true lately. Anyways, this isn’t about hockey dads. It’s about my dad….. and hockey. Oh I said that.

I went to the home opener of the Toronto Maple Leafs last night with my sister. The 100th season of the Toronto Maple Leafs, therefore the 100th home opener. It was a lot of fun. They paid tribute to a lot of the former Leaf greats. Players who had been honoured by the team in the past, but never got their numbers retired actually got their numbers retired, so no Maple Leaf player will ever wear those numbers again. Some great names…. Tim Horton (who coffee enthusiasts will know of), Bill Barilko (who Tragically Hip enthusiasts will know of), Ace Bailey (who I believe is my grandmother’s cousin, or something like that…. I should ask my mom to log onto ancestry.com to verify), Johnny Bower (who became a player scout when he was older, and my dad saw him in a half empty arena once, and sent me up to him to ask for his autograph even though I had no idea who he was at the time), Red Kelly (who served as a member of parliament while playing for the Leafs…Whaaaaa???? Did you know that? I just found out yesterday), Darryl Sittler and Borje Salming (who at the very moment I was old enough to start watching and understanding hockey, were basically the only 2 reasons to bother watching Leaf hockey, and more contemporary heroes like Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Mats Sundin, among others. Such a fun presentation. Was totally worth missing a Toronto Blue Jays playoff game for.

But did I in fact miss a Toronto Blue Jays playoff game??? NO I DIDN’T, thanks to technology. What I’m about to say will not surprise anyone that is even the least bit astute when it comes to cell phones and technology, but I watched the game ON MY PHONE!!!! I never gave a shit about tech, but I just got my first iPhone, and stuff that was blowing you guys away 10 years ago is blowing me away right now. I was walking towards the arena with a crystal clear image of the Jays game ON MY PHONE. Like George fucking Jetson, I have arrived in the future!!!!!

Those seats we sat in were my dad’s seats. He was a season ticket holder for like everything. Leafs, Jays, Argos, The Royal Alexandra Theatre for crying out loud. The man loved his season ticket subscriptions. He didn’t go to all the games, but he knew enough people who would share the games with him, so he’d just go to a few, but he got all the season ticket holder perks. Once he was even the ‘season ticket holder of the game’ which is a nice honour for long time seat holders. They toured him around the building, introduced him to the crowd, and gave him a Leafs jersey with his name on the back. My sister was wearing it yesterday.

In the 80’s when times were good, my dad would get 11 pairs of tickets per season for himself. Always fair and equitable, that meant he would rotate who he took to the game. Between my mom, sister and I, it would be a 4-4-3 split. The person who only got the 3 games would get first choice, and would choose a premium opponent. The dream was to see a young Wayne Gretzky with the Edmonton Oilers, or maybe a game against the Montreal Canadians who were great non-division rivals. I always took 4 tickets. I didn’t care who they played. I was there to see the Leafs. A horrible fucking team for most of the 80’s but I (like my father before me) was a optomist, and always believed that they would win, even though their skill level was at a clear disadvantage pretty much every time they laced up their skates. Sometimes my mom would get lazy and just give me one of her games because she didn’t feel like going downtown, so if I played it right, I might have gone to 5 games a year. In 2016, if you want to know how much those particular seats cost for 11 games….. well you’d be well on your way to paying some kid’s college tuition I would think.

I loved EVERY weird part of that experience. From the minute we left the house. Even down to the car we drove. My dad used to work as a Fleet Administrator for a pharmaceutical company, and got a company car as part of the deal. It wasn’t always the same one though. If a different make or model came into the fleet, I suppose it was important for him to ‘test them out’, so you never knew what kind of car he was going to be driving. I loved sitting on the Gardiner in traffic, talking about the Leafs, and getting excited about the game. Parking like a kilometre away from Maple Leaf Gardens to save a couple of bucks, but it allowed for a nice walk in the city, which I otherwise never saw at that age. Walking through Maple Leaf Gardens, and looking at all the black and white photos of all the old Leaf players, and if we had time, stopping to look at each one. He would buy me a program every time, giving me yet another resource to fuel endless amounts of useless hockey information into my brain. We’d go out to our seats, and you could see the haze of cigarette smoke in the upper parts of the facility (I know it sounds disgusting, but I miss that smell). A few times if we got there really early, we might go down to the Gold section and watch the players shoot around. If you were standing in the right spot as they came off and asked the right guy for a hockey puck, you might get one. Now that I think of it, I have no idea how we pulled that off, but my dad was a really likeable guy, and he wasn’t afraid to ask for things. 5 minutes of chatting up an usher could always come in handy. I don’t think that’s why he did it. He just liked talking to people. I think the saying “The world is your oyster” is kind of dumb, but the world absolutely was my dad’s oyster, always. We’d go back up to the Green section to sit in our aisle seats right at center ice. We’d watch the game until the first intermission, and my dad would chat up another usher, always remembering their names and what they had talked about last time. Then if he saw I was getting too bored, he’d try to work me into the conversation. Then we’d watch the 2nd period, and after that was over, we’d go to the concession stand and buy Fruitella candy. So delicious, and I feel like it’s the only place I ever saw it. It might be in every store, but I only ever ate it at a hockey game. By the third period, somehow, the Leafs would always still be in the game. As horrible as this team was, they always played great when we were there. I remember it would drive my dad nuts when people would leave 3 or 4 minutes before the game was over just to beat the rush. We would always stay until the end, and then wait for the 3 stars of the game, and he’d take the heat from my mom if it was a school night. Then the long walk back to the car. At that age it felt cool to be walking around downtown late at night, like I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been. Then the drive home where we’d re-hash the night, or I’d nod off in the car.

It was all fucking perfect somehow. I miss my hockey dad.


A Short Story On (What Would Have Been) My Father’s 80th Birthday

I usually dedicate a post to my dad every year on the anniversary of his death. Usually because I’m sad on that day, and writing something about him seems like good therapy. Today I felt like moving it to his birthday. After all it’s a milestone birthday. This isn’t the best story. It’s not the worst either, it’s just the memory that popped into my head most recently, and I felt like sharing.

I’d tell you the date, but I don’t remember, and can’t find it in my archives, but it was in the last year of my father’s life, and I really want to say that it was in the last few months. Of course, none of us knew at the time, as my father died of a heart attack quite suddenly at the age of 76. 3 days before my son was born (BUT THAT’S ANOTHER CRAZY STORY). This not-so-crazy story involves my father being invited to go skating. It doesn’t sound like a big deal on the surface, but it was to him. Ryerson University in Toronto had invited him and a select group of others, I believe season ticket holders, to be some of the first to skate on their new hockey rink at Maple Leaf Gardens (where for my readers who aren’t from here, is where the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL team had played for decades before they finally moved to their new facility at The Air Canada Centre, leaving Maple Leaf Gardens to be turned into a huge grocery store, but also finally the home of a smaller arena which is where Ryerson plays their hockey games.)

Why was my dad invited to skate on this new rink? Another incredibly long story for another time, but my father was a great hockey player. A goaltender whose teams twice won the provincial championships when he was a kid. He played some junior hockey, and then went to Ryerson where they won the provincial championship. Unfortunately the NHL only had 6 teams at the time, so while he was an elite player, he wasn’t elite enough for that, so he went to England to play professional hockey there, only to have the league fold just as he arrived. That kind of squashed that particular set of dreams, but goalies didn’t wear masks in those days, so no professional hockey meant less pucks to the face and teeth for my dad. There’s always an upside.

Some of his earlier notoriety came with some perks down the road. 50th anniversary celebrations for the championships he won as a kid. Small towns don’t forget that kind of stuff. Ryerson inducted the provincial championship team (who also were undefeated… I left that out) into the Ryerson Sports Hall Of Fame. Then a couple of years later inducted my dad, who the same year actually played soccer for them and also won the championship, and was the Ryerson Athlete of the Year that year. So he was kind of a big deal there. After these HOF honours and being a naturally friendly/chatty guy who probably expressed interest in the new arena etc, he was invited to go for a skate before it opened to the public. He invited my sister and I to skate as well.

My dad was stoked about this skate. I wasn’t. I was excited that he was excited, but I was not excited about my old man (literally and figuratively) going skating. My old man didn’t think he was an old man. To be fair, you wouldn’t have thought so either if you knew him. He played about 20 years younger than his actual age. He was well-kept although not fashion forward, so if he ever gave his age away, he did so with his polite, old school country boy charm. He was always ready to have a conversation with a random stranger and was never sloppy. His athletic prowess continued into his golf game where he was killing 280 yard drives up until the day he died. He had no reason not to be excited about going skating.

I fucking dreaded it. I’m not gonna lie. I’d been skating with my wife a few months earlier. We were at some public skate at the arena where the Toronto Maple Leafs have their practices. We had seen this old guy with no helmet and 70’s skates get on the ice, and after a couple of laps he had fallen, and I didn’t see it, but there was blood and he needed to be attended to. I’m sure he was probably fine, but he didn’t look like he should have been out there. That was my instinct. My other instinct is that my father shouldn’t be out there either. I asked my mom one time when the last time she figured he’d actually gone skating. She didn’t think it had been that long ago, but when she described the circumstances under which he’d gone, I dated it back at least 25 years. When asked if she was concerned, she gave me a dirty look and assured me that he was gonna fly around that ice like Brian Orser.

Finally I confronted my dad about it. Subtly, I didn’t want to rain on any parades, I just wanted to let him know that I was concerned. He told me he would be smart about it, and if he thought he needed help, he’d hold the boards. I remember my wife who is the most safety conscious person I know, asking if he would wear a helmet, and urging me to urge him to get one. This man didn’t even wear a helmet when playing hockey at a fairly high level. There’s no way he’s wearing one for a skate.

The day came. My family came downtown and we ate at a pub that was down the street from where I worked. My dad never drank a drop of alcohol in his life practically, but I used to take him to this place before we would go to football games. He liked that they served Bangers n Mash because it reminded him of his time in England, so now we had to go there all the time. He’d gotten his skates sharpened. His 50-year-old goalie skates. Yes, those ones. We laced up and were ready to go. My dad, sister and I got out onto the ice, while my mom looked on. We took some pictures. Mine on my shitty Blackberry camera, so they are awful quality, but it’s better than nothing, although now I’d kill for some great photos of that moment. My dad stood by the boards and smiled and we got our photos done. When it came time to skate, it was kinda funny and sad at the same moment. My dad’s skating skills which had been dormant for decades, did not magically appear, allowing him to zip around the ice like I’m sure he thought he could. He really hung on to those boards and moved really slowly. He put on a brave face, but it was painful little dose of reality for him. He wasn’t often reminded that he was an old man, which I’d say is extremely fortunate, but time caught up with him on this night. My mom too. She really couldn’t believe that he didn’t just start skating like back in the day. The main thing for me is that there were no injuries and we were able to share that memory with him. It meant a lot to him, and none of us had any clue how close to the end it really was.

He and I changed our skates in the men’s change room. Without everyone around, I thought I’d ask him how he thought it went. He told me how he was surprised how wobbly he felt out there. I didn’t want him to feel bad, but I did give him shit. In a funny way though. I had to let him know just how old he was, and that he shouldn’t let the fact that he’s so fucking handsome cloud his judgement when it comes to his personal safety etc. He laughed like he always did when I gave him shit. Like I will when my son gets to the point where he thinks he’s smarter than me. These kids are swimming around in your balls one minute, and the next thing you know they’re trying to tell you what’s what. It’s the circle of life.

What I love about this story is the amount of (occasionally irrational) confidence my parents have always displayed. I don’t often recall either of them communicating any sort of self-doubt to me. They both have always had the built-in belief that they were going to be successful in whatever challenge or endeavour that they took on. That’s one of the best things they ever passed on to my sister and I. Now that my father is no longer with us, I look at that as the last time that he could have chickened out of something, but he didn’t. He was gonna skate around that rink with his old legs, and it wasn’t even gonna be an issue in his mind. I love that that’s how he went out.

🙂


Personal (And Not So Personal) Updates For Your Consideration

Says here that my last post here was in January. That makes this by far the longest Thoughts and Rants in Jogging Pants drought ever. Man, I used to do this once a week without fail. While I was looking back to see how long it had been since my last post, I glanced at the stats page. It kind of made me feel nice and I want to pass on thanks, should any of you be responsible for this phenomenon. This isn’t the most prolific and well-known blog out there, but despite the fact that I haven’t posted here in close to 3 months, at least one person has visited this site to read one of my blogs every day in the last month. That’s fuckin cool, I’m sorry to get swearing so quickly, but it just is. Makes me feel warm inside. Every day except March 20th. So uhhhh, where were you guys on the 20th, huh??? Not one of you could click over for 5 minutes??? 😉

There’s one post in particular that shows up in the stats a lot. I have NO idea why. I think it gets googled by total strangers. It’s called “Guys, Your Feet Are Fucking Ugly”, and I wrote it in July of 2014. Usually a post gets its most views the day or week it’s originally posted. To give perspective it got 42 views the day it was posted. It finished the year with 70 views. In 2015 it had 217 views, and mid way through April this year it’s trending way higher than that. I’m curious to know why. It’s sort of funny, but not my best work. If you feel like reading it, here’s the link https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2014/07/02/guys-your-feet-are-fucking-ugly/ According to my stats, someone looks at this almost everyday. So weird. Skip to the 3rd paragraph if you read it.

Also on the bloggy linky topic, I started contributing to another blog site called “Everything MLB Inc”. I blog about the Toronto Blue Jays once a week. I guess that’s why I haven’t been doing this blog. There’s a small part of my that always wanted to be a sports reporter or something like that. So for 2016 I’ll do it. I hope the Jays’ season is as magical as last year. If you follow another team, I can’t really vouch for this blog. I don’t think they have all their writers in place yet. Here are some links to my first few articles for those interested in Jays stuff. Close friends might enjoy how brutally inaccurate some of my predictions have been so far.
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/02/toronto-blue-jays-2016-projected.html
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/02/toronto-blue-jays-2016-bullpen.html
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/03/toronto-blue-jays-2016-lineup-breakdown.html
http://emlbinc.blogspot.ca/2016/04/blue-jays-week-1-update.html

The movie thing…… Some readers of this blog might remember me talking about acting in a movie last year. For those that don’t, here’s that story…..
https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2015/09/06/that-time-i-was-an-actor-in-a-kick-ass-movie/
Anyways, the update is that we recorded some commentary for the special features last weekend, because……. apparently there’s a distribution deal in place that would see this film available for purchase this year at some point (we’re hoping soon). Where will you be able to get it? Can’t say for sure, but pretty sure there will be physical copies (DVD, Blu-Ray) available for online purchase, as well as being available in digital form (iTunes etc). Super duper stoked for this. Will provide details when I have them.

Now for my version of Batman vs. Superman. My 3-year-old son loves Batman. His aunt bought him a set of 3 superhero costumes. This box and it’s contents have been put to way better use than just about anything he’s owned in his young life. I would say about 60% of his days, he wants to dress up in a costume at some point. Not having siblings, and perhaps not wanting to be the only super-hero at home, he tries to get my wife and I to wear the other 2 costumes. He is ALWAYS Batman. My wife who would often be in the room with him playing while I cook dinner gets to be Superman, and I get stuck with Robin. I try not to take it personal, even though it’s ridiculous because I tower over both of them, but I’m a good sport so Robin it is. These are sized for toddlers. If I could box I would do so in the heavyweight category. The little Robin mask is stretched to its absolute potential just to get around my face, and after a minute or two the velcro just gives out and slingshots across the room. So fun. So my wife, who is smarter than me, has stopped dressing up as a superhero, sometimes even saying “no thanks, but why don’t you ask daddy?” I can’t say no. So more days than not, I dress up in a toddler sized superhero costume, although I’ve been upgraded to Superman. Sometimes we play with train engines, and sometimes we fight crime. Then, one day my son finally said to me “Do you want to be Batman????” I jumped at the chance! After all these months of having to play superheroes with lesser cool factors, I have reached the pinnacle of toddler sized superhero outfits. Yessssssssss……………………. Here’s the thing though……………….The Batman outfit’s got some stains on it, from a 3-year-old wearing it more than any other article of clothing. Yeah, they’re messy. Also, I’m back to having to wear a mask again. That mask is just as tight, but it covers more of my face and makes me sweat. That’s when I realized a HUGE and VERY IMPORTANT life lesson, taught to me by my own son…… We can’t all be Batman! Some of us need to be Superman, and others need to be Robin. Ponder that!


My Son’s First F-Bomb

It was going to happen sooner or later. I think I’ve taken to the parenting thing a lot better than I originally expected I would. I change diapers like an absolute champion. I cook more, and better. Most importantly, I’ve never absent mindedly left my kid anywhere which I think was a concern among immediate family for various reasons. The one thing that was never going to go well was the swearing thing. I swear. A lot. The more comfortable I am, the more I do it. If I’m around you and it seems like I’m swearing a lot, take it as a compliment. It means I’m being myself. As it pertains to pro-creation, it makes sense that I’m ultimately responsible for a lot of things surrounding my kid’s development, and speech is definitely included. The thing is, I’m pretty comfortable around my kid, so you see the problem. The odds are stacked heavily in favour of him eventually being exposed to a healthy dose of colourful language. What kid isn’t, right? Yeah, most kids aren’t…. not like this….. and don’t leave comments saying that you swear a lot too. Thanks, but you don’t. Not like me. I’m not proud of this, but I’m not really as ashamed as I should be either. Lets just say that if my son ends up being half the potty mouth that I am, I just hope I’m not the reason. But I will be.

I’ve slipped up around him. Quite a bit. I slip up around everyone. That’s just me. I almost can’t even keep swearing out of my blog. Think about that. Even if I swear impulsively in my blog, I could always delete and re-word. I don’t even do that. I’m only slightly embarrassed that my mom and her friends read this, but not enough. So with that in mind my son is being set up to fail (or succeed as an awesome swearer). He’s 3 years old and change. I’m honestly surprised that it took this long for as many times as I’ve used foul language in front of him, but F-bombs are not for everyone, and perhaps it took him time to gravitate towards the sheer power of its emotional expression, and how a well placed one can just free your soul for a split second (OK I’m over selling it, I’ll just get to the story).

I’m into Balsamic Vinegar big time. There’s a great place that sells all these different flavours of it as well as Olive Oil. It’s fresh, and they let you sample them out of the (casks??? I don’t know what the container is called) dispensers. I could spend all day in there until my insides cried for mercy. They pour it, and cork it. I spent more money on it that day than a human at my income level should, but I knew my next salad was going to be like a leafy chompy heaven, and was looking quite forward to this. Had to get a traditional Balsamic, as well as a flavoured one. I chose Espresso flavour. It tastes like Balsamic Vinegar, but the aftertaste is like you just ate a Coffee Crisp.

When it’s finally time to prepare this salad, I’m only too excited to pour this liquid euphoria onto my salad. As I try to take the cork out (it’s a cork with a plastic lid on top, so you can open it with your hands as opposed to cork that would be in a wine bottle that you would use a corkscrew for…… just in case you had trouble picturing it……because if you can’t picture it, it fucks up the story……. oh there I go again), and the plastic top breaks off, leaving me with no easy way to open the bottle. Also leaving me with an unusable lid for my bottle. Now that really sucked, and I was frustrated, but I had another bottle, so I figured, let’s try that one? This is still good. Then I tried to open that one, and the exact same thing happened to the other cork, and that left me with no re-course but to have an immature temper tantrum in the kitchen, during which, I exclaimed loudly/angrily “YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!” That, my friends, is par for the course, but what happened after isn’t. My son who was playing with toy trains in his bedroom with my wife, stood up and looked her in the eye, balled up an angry little fist, and screamed as clear as day “YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!”

So it starts.


David Bowie Sadness

I found out this morning that David Bowie passed away. It’s been bothering me all day. I’m not even sure why. Celebrities die all the time, and I should be used to it by now. In a workplace full of people half my age, nobody seemed particularly devastated. A couple of people seemed suitably bummed, but not to the level I was looking for. So I did what anybody would do in this situation and logged into Twitter. This was better. People falling all over themselves to pay respects to David Bowie. One tribute more eloquent than the next. Re-tweets of celebrities and die-hard fans pouring out their hearts. I’m neither, but I felt like I would like to be one of the people who said something beautiful about David Bowie. It would probably get read by 3 or 4 people, and get heaped onto the magical invisible ‘I don’t give a shit’ pile in their minds, only to be soon erased. So I came home and went through my typical evening routine, cooking some dinner, and getting the boy to bed before probably falling asleep on the couch. Maybe I drink one of those kick ass Belgium beers in the fridge. The last of an epic sampler pack, but can I stay awake to drink it? Then I remember that I have a David Bowie concert DVD. I don’t even think I’ve ever watched it before. When it comes to music, sometimes I just buy stuff just to have it. The price was probably right, and I’d heard he was a hell of a live performer. Tonight would be the perfect night for a cold beer, warm sweater, and some David Bowie sadness.

Just as I start to relax a bit, I find myself totally captivated by this concert. I LOVE music, but I only LIKE David Bowie. I want to say I love David Bowie because he’s super cool to me, and he aged so incredibly well, and he’s such an innovative ground breaking artist, and I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about him. If I said I loved David Bowie, then you would demand to know how many of his albums I have, and I’d have to answer none. Just the 2 disc greatest hits collection, and a 45 single of ‘Modern Love’ on vinyl from back in the day. That’s better than nothing, but it’s not love. He was good. I’ve talked to very knowledgeable music people who say he’s the best ever. At some point in the future I would probably go through a David Bowie phase and listen or purchase all of his music, but I haven’t yet. My connection with David Bowie doesn’t have to do with me being his biggest fan, but more to do with him being my first!

When I was 7 years old I found my way into current pop music. Before that what do we listen to? Whatever our parents have around the house? Kid music? Who knows? None of that matters. What matters is that when I became first aware, and then quickly lifelong obsessed with music, David Bowie had a song (and an album) called ‘Let’s Dance’. You only had to see this dude in his white outfit playing a guitar in a Mexican restaurant to know he was the guy. Or just to look at him on the album cover, shirtless with his 1920’s boxing gloves on. He was my first favourite singer. I wanted his album. Birthday present? Christmas? I think my parents probably shied away from that, possibly because they were aware of such freaky things as Ziggy Stardust, and I wasn’t. Yet they were totally cool with Boy George which was odd to me. David Bowie in 1982 was as clean-cut as they came, and I thought that would be totally suitable for a kid to own that album. They must have relented in time for me to get the ‘Modern Love’ single.

That was kind of it for David Bowie for me for a while. I didn’t know at the time that there was a lot more substance to David Bowie’s music that would allow me to partially rediscover it as I got older. As I sit here and watch his concert DVD, it almost feels like I’ve come full circle. Am I sad because a legend has passed away? Yes, but he did leave us with 25 albums, and I’m sure I’ll spend the next several years discovering a lot of his music for the first time. Am I sad because I’m closer to the age in which he passed away (69) than I am to the age in which I discovered David Bowie for the first time? Certainly. I will say this though. While watching the concert I felt like there were times where his music was reaching into my body and touching my soul. Not all musicians have that power, but I’m grateful that David Bowie did, because it’s one of my favourite parts of the human experience.

Thus concludes my odd little story about David Bowie sadness. Turn and face the strange!


Talk About The Death Star Not Being Fully Operational

I watched Star Wars the other night. You know, the first one. No, not Episode 1. The first one which was Episode 4. The one from 1977 that got this whole thing started. It was called ‘A New Hope’, which I swear I only found out recently. We always just called it Star Wars. My wife bought be the DVDs for my birthday because it’s been a lot of years since I’ve seen those ones, and with the new one coming out now, I want to have the plot lines fresh in my mind when I check it out. I figure I’ve got a couple of months still because I don’t have the patience for crowds. I’m sure the movie won’t spoil in the meantime. I can ignore civilization until then.

I have a connection to that movie in that if I’m not mistaken, it was the first movie I ever saw in the movie theater. It’s also the only movie I ever went to see with just my dad. Meaning there might have been some family outings when I was young, but the two of us only went to the movies once. That sounds sad as I’m typing it, but it’s not. We did lots of things together, just not the movie theater. Sporting events was our thing. We watched a lot of movies together at home. RENTING movies……I know what we have now is way better, but can I just say I miss renting movies???? So my dad and I watched the first Star Wars movie, then known as ‘Star Wars’, now known as ‘A New Hope’. Why? I think we were in Niagara Falls or Buffalo, and I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t want us in her shit while she was at the shopping mall, so she must have given the orders for him to take me to a movie. Or maybe it was his idea, but she definitely gave the orders for him to take me away from her shopping situation. I’m guessing the movie had been out for a long time, or possibly re-released by the time I saw it because in 1977 I would have been too young to remember it. Whenever it was, it was really one of my earliest memories.

I had a few thoughts when I was watching ‘A New Hope’. Overall, I have to say that I still enjoyed it. I’ve never been too picky with special effects, so it didn’t bother me that those particular ones are outdated. I know they were really something at the time. A couple of things bothered me…..

– Why were Luke and Leia so pissy and bitchy with Han Solo?? Yeah, he was meant to be seen as a selfish character, but neither of them knew the guy for 5 minutes before they started in with their odd little snarky judgemental comments. I’d have been tempted to slap the both of them. Especially Luke. So whiny. That didn’t bother me when I was 5 years old, but it does now. It didn’t take Luke long after looking at his aunt and uncle’s charred bodies to just fly off with Obi-Wan Kenobi who he’d only met that afternoon. Spent the whole movie crying about “I wish Ben was here”. What about Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru???? They fuckin raised you!! Burnt to a crisp, and you act like you don’t give a shit? Then you have the nerve to get on Han Solo’s case because you think he’s selfish??? Where do you get off? (OK, this went off the rails…. calm down Ryan)

– I know there was some talk about the Death Star not being fully operational, but what’s with all the hallways that end in drops into the infinite abyss?? And the control panels with maybe a one foot platform to stand on around them. What electrician is going to be able to do work on these control panels?? It’s totally unsafe. Sure, we’re so concerned about the main characters who are trying to escape the Death Star, but what about its thousands of employees? It’s the employer’s responsibility to create a safe working environment for its employees. Humans, Droids, or otherwise. With the technology they have available, there’s got to be a better way to build this thing. I guess they all got blown up anyways. Nobody cares about that. So sad about Alderaan, but what about the innocent lives that were lost when the Death Star blew up? Not everyone in there was evil. Most of them were just like you and me. Working for some evil organization, trying to put food on the table. It’s a shame about the Death Star. Should’ve been better built though.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 5

The Summer I Met Two Legendary Soon To Be Ex-Jays

I know I promised 10 of these. 6-10 are coming next year during baseball season. This blog is shutting down all baseball operations for 2015. Before that I will tell you a story from my childhood chock-full of encounters with famous people, and baseball nerdery. To be honest, I can’t remember for sure which summer this was, but according to my research, it was probably 1989. Before this I don’t recall ever meeting a major league baseball player, and if I had, I will hopefully remember that by the time I’m finished writing this post, and then I’ll just scroll up and delete this sentence. So if you just read that last sentence, that means I didn’t delete it, which means these were in fact the first 2 Blue Jays I ever met.

I collected baseball cards from the time I was a small boy until it got to be a crappy hobby thanks to unruly collectors, and market saturation. I used to memorize baseball statistics on the back of the cards as a kid. I have knowledge of baseball history that can only be described as unnecessary. I kept the cards organized by teams, then by year, then by batting average and so on and so on. You couldn’t buy me toys as a kid, but if you bought me records or cards, I was good to go (records is what we used to call music….for the young readers). My cards started out in piles with rubber bands around them. Then one day it occurred to me that these cards were actually worth money. Everyone always told the story of what a Mickey Mantle card would go for, and a generation of baseball nerds figured if we took care of our cards, that someday they might be worth something. If they weren’t in mint condition, they weren’t worth anything, so I started putting my good cards in the sleeves of binders and protective cases where they sit to this day. I had sad moments realizing that my Cal Ripken Jr rookie card and other notable gems had devalued while being shuffled around through different filing systems.

Everything I learned about collecting came from frequent visits to a local sports card store that had opened up around this time. Family owned by people who seemed to be the inspiration for every comic book store owning cliché I’ve ever seen on TV or in film. They had a tough time hiding just how annoying it was dealing with 12 year olds all day, but when they were in the mood for it, we got along great. After all, we were regular customers and spent big money (only by our meager standards of course) in there. We were there constantly. It was a bike ride away. I loved picking up the monthly price guides and finding out how certain cards in my collection had increased or decreased in value over the last month, and trying to predict those trends. It led me to have a pretty vast collection. It was through the employees of this store that I became aware that Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff would be signing autographs at a Honda dealership one summer morning.

My buddy and I got dropped off at the dealership. We weren’t even old enough to drive yet. I’m sure Honda was hoping that some of the Jay fans that would descend on their dealership that morning were at least potential car buyers. There was a rule about just how many autographs you could hit Mr. McGriff up for. I’m gonna say 1 or 2 items were the max. While in line I saw that greedy bugger from the card store. His eyes were popping out of his head, and when he saw us in line, he giddily informed us that Fred signed EVERYTHING. They had brought like 12 items. All of these items would now be for sale at his store for double the original value. I wondered if Fred knew or cared. Maybe this guy just pretended to be a huge fan so Fred wouldn’t know the difference. I think we had brought an extra baseball card over the limit just in case, but we certainly didn’t have 12 items. When I got to the front of the line I was pleased to find out that Fred McGriff was a super nice guy that was very generous with his time. He engaged in small talk while signing my cards, and gave me the confidence to say what I really wanted to say to him. As casually as I could, I asked him to hit a home run for me that night. I don’t know why. It’s not like he was signing my cast in a hospital or something. Sounds dumb to me now, but if I could somehow gather a list of everything I ever said as a kid or a teenager, I’m confident that 80% of it would absolutely sound dumb to me now, and such is life. He grinned at me and said…. something, I don’t remember what he said, but he basically agreed to hit a home run that night. Now I don’t think I was ever naive enough to think that he didn’t try to hit a home run every single time he went to the plate, and if anyone was prodigiously powerful enough to be able to confidently call a shot, it was him. You know I can’t end the story with a hitless night at the plate. Of course he homered in his first plate appearance that night. I called everyone I knew and took full credit for it. After all it was my suggestion.

Later that summer, I was playing tennis with the same friend. This is in Mississauga, which is where I grew up, and just outside of Toronto for my readers that aren’t from around here. Man, I wish I still played Tennis. Those were fun times. It was in the evening during baseball season which seems impossible now that I think about it. For a lot of reasons it seems impossible, but this was the 80s man, and ANYTHING was possible back then. My buddy and I just playing tennis, and I look over to the other court, and there was only one other court. I see a guy that looks so much like then Blue Jay shortstop Tony Fernandez, that I had to call my buddy up to the net for a little chat. I explained my suspicion, and without drawing too much attention to ourselves, we needed to be sure that this was in fact Tony Fernandez. We started rallying again, hitting the ball just slow enough so we weren’t even playing tennis, but watching Tony Fernandez play tennis. This was dumb, so we approached the net again. Do we make a break for it with our bikes, and try to get our Tony Fernandez cards, and a pen, and come back before he’s done playing? I used the word impossible before. In this day and age, a guy like him would be getting paid $15 million dollars a year, and would have an entourage, and wouldn’t come out to the suburbs to play tennis on an outdoor public court. It was summer too. They have games like every day. Are you telling me that this rich Dominican ballplayer was in town, and spent an off-day in Mississauga, and played tennis in the evening? Maybe. I mean definitely, it happened, but I still can’t believe it. Maybe he had a buddy that lived in the neighborhood. Who knows? So my buddy and I are caught between the prospects of awkwardly watching Tony Fernandez playing tennis, or stopping their game to try to talk to him, or more interestingly risking the whole encounter by leaving to try to get something to autograph, and trying to rush back before he leaves. I should mention that both of us lived about a 3-5 minute bike ride from the court. So we risked it. Even crazier is that there was nobody waiting for our court either. We used to have to wait for that court all the time, and the night Tony Fernandez is there, there’s nobody around? Crazy! We drove our bikes home like we were shot out of a cannon, grabbed whatever Tony Fernandez baseball cards we had available, and were back in 6 minutes tops. Then we had to hurry up and wait. We asked if we could get an autograph, and his buddy who was speaking on his behalf said that if we waited until their game was over, he would sign our autographs. Fair enough. We stayed behind the fence and watched Tony Fernandez play tennis for a bit on the same tennis court that we played all of our tennis on. Eventually he came off and signed our cards one at a time. During casual chat time, I tried to bait him into talking about the Jesse Barfield for Al Leiter trade which pissed me off so much at the time, although historically, it turned out ok. He just said that Jesse was a good guy, but was fairly diplomatic otherwise. Once we had our autographs, we left them alone, and probably went home to brag to our other friends who weren’t there. It was a nice surprise.

Blue Jay fans know too well what ties these 2 players together in team history more than any other detail. Unfortunately it’s not what they did for us on the field, because they were both exceptional baseball players, and their names are up there with other choice few names as the best players in Blue Jay history. Soon after these chance encounters, they were both traded to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, and it seems ridiculous to say that the trade was lopsided from a talent perspective, but Carter and Alomar were the 2 key pieces that lead the Blue Jays to back to back World Series champions in 1992 and 1993. Does that mean they couldn’t have won with McGriff and Fernandez? Nobody will ever know. All I know is meeting me seemed to be their bad luck charm that summer, but it’s a fun Blue Jays memory for me nevertheless.