Let’s hear how you discovered hockey. Were you born on the ice? Did you go to a game as a kid, or as an adult, and fall in love with the game? For me it was illness and espn. I got pnemonia when I was in my early teens. It was back when espn had bird-calling and lumberjack competitions. I don’t know, maybe they even had bircalling-lumberjack competitions. It was pretty uninspiring. I don’t know if they were even allowed to mention the NFL on espn in those days. Berman was there, though.
Anyway, I grew up loving NFL football. My dad was into it. He said that back when he was a kid the NFL was kinda bush-league. “The players had jobs in the offseason,” he told me. He grew up in Brooklyn (born ’38) though, so he loved the Dodgers as a kid. He never liked them in LA, I guess it was a real let down for him. He said they used to sneak into Ebbett’s Field (or that they’d be allowed in) in like the 7th inning or so. Anyway, he liked Baseball, Boxing, Horseracing, and Football. I don’t remember wether it was just from watching with him, or an attempt to impress him, but I became a student of the game real early. We’d go to the Rams games at the Colliseum and the names Youngblood, McCutcheon, Capalletti, Haden, and Cromwell were like incantations to me. I loved the game and always played smear-the-queer with anyone. I’m just average size, but I refused to go down. And, I loved to measure my abilities against others even at that time. So, I played the obligatory soccer and even got really into it for a while (I’d rediscover what I never even really knew years later), but my sports center in my brain always thought about football. I played with friends all the time in elementary school. Third, fourth, fifth, sixth…then Conejo Cowboys.
I have to say here that I grew up in the Conejo Valley. You probably don’t know of it, but the Dallas Cowboys used to come to the local Lutheran University for training-camp. The problem was that I hated the Cowboys. They always beat the Rams, no matter how good the Rams were. It’s probably not entirely true. I’m sure the Rams won sometimes. But it seemed that when it really mattered the Cowboys were always just a little better. Anyway, players like Staubach, Dorsett, Billy Joe Dupree (i had an autographed photo) and Robert Newhouse, Ed “Too-Tall” Jones. I even carried Dorsett’s helmet for him once and the whole time I was wondering, “what the hell am I doing?” Today, I put it down to peer pressure. All the kids were fawning over them and I kinda felt like a freak just standing there and staring. Well, I went to one of those dinners where the parents buy a plate for the family and everyone eats with the players. Now, I hated the Cowboys, but I always respected Staubach. He was just too good to hate. Plus, he was CLASS. But the guy wasn’t able to eat. He was horded with autograph seekers the whole dinner. Its funny to think of now, but these were literally picnic tables with paper plates and shit. I couldn’t imagine todays professional athletes doing that nowadays, but I could be wrong. Let’s hope so. So I didn’t bother the guy. I felt for him. Plus my dad always kinda looked down on hero-worship, so maybe that had something to do with it. Regardless of all this, and I know I tend to wander mentally, it seems I’ve always been fated to wear the wrong uniform. Its scary to think about. But fucking hell. Why did it have to be the Conejo Cowboys? The Rams played 25 miles away, not the Cowboys. I wanted to wear the Rams uni.
By the way, this will all eventually wrap around and get to my discovery of hockey…