Home

Am I A (Gentle)Man?

4 Comments

LAR GORD HOCKEY TIFF (1).jpeg

I grew up on sports.

Yup, that’s me above dropping the puck for my brother on the backyard rink our Mom built us over many late and frigid nights.

When I was a kid, I played hockey and football and baseball. I golfed and skied and tennis’ed. I swam. I biked. I ran. I even bowled.

Lots of team sports. It was camaraderie in a peck of pals.

I hugged and patted the butts of many a young boy in my childhood which seems a bit creepy now that I think about it!

Before and after school, anytime I wasn’t delivering newspapers or sleeping, I was across the street in the park with a glove, a ball, a stick, a club, or a bat in my hand.

Like every day. Rain and snow… yes, even mud… just added to the “fun”.

Before and after family meals there was a steady stream of friends calling at the door… can Larry play street hockey? football? baseball?

I loved sports. I loved my buddies.

I’m thinking about sports this week because of flamboyant Canadian jock-jerk Don Cherry who poisons the well of understanding and compassion by calling out others who don’t look or act like him… in this week’s case… immigrants.

Previously, over many years, he’s attacked: French-Canadians, Europeans, people of colour, and women, with Trumpian insults.

Don cherry

He’s opinionated, aggressive and boorish. Yet, many adore him.

Not me.

I spent a lot of time in dressing rooms and locker rooms as a youngster. Comfortable and at home until … I reached the teen years and … things changed.

Listening to Mr. Cherry reminds me of this uncomfortable transition period in my life.

At 13 or 14 years old, when the brawny hormones and cultural conditioning kicked in, many of the nice, kind boys I hung out with for years put on unusual costumes that I didn’t recognize.

Their bodies were changing and they became young men.

The tone of team sports changed too, into a more macho’ized form of activity. The games we played grew more aggressive and angry.

Team sports felt less like games and more like an outlet for anger and short fuses.

Sure, sportsmanship continued to exist, but was harder to find in this virile forest.

Slower than most, I too became a man, but I think in a slightly different way than many of the guys surrounding me.

Months and years passed and I grew more and more uncomfortable with the “toxic masculinity” that necessitated frequent swearing, heavy drinking, misogynistic joking.

Toxic.jpg

It was growing harder to be a “gentle man” and still remain a part of the core of the team, regardless of talent and skill.

For me, the fun in participating in team sports sadly faded.

I participate in lots of physical pursuits today, but team ones? well… infrequently. My last organized hockey game was more than 10 years ago now.

Like everyone, I have my contradictions.

I still enjoy watching most team sports… I’ve been an avid booster of the Hamilton Tiger Cat football team for decades… OSKEE WEE WEE (don’t even ask!).

Hockey (minus the fighting) is physical and fast and can be as exciting as ever.

Soccer mastery amazes me.

I idolize the dedication, passion, and skill exhibited by athletes. Sport at its best is a beauty and an inspiration to our world. The Olympics give me goosebumps.

When I see examples of observable good sportsmanship, I shiver inside. One small example:

In a cross-country running event in 2012, Spanish runner Ivan Fernandez Anaya had an opportunity to win the race after Kenya’s Olympic bronze medalist Abel Mutai slowed near the finish line thinking that he had won.

Instead of overtaking Mutai at the last second and claiming glory, Anaya urged his opponent over the line and settled for second place.

Anaya later told the media that he didn’t deserve to win and Mutai had created a gap that he could not close if he hadn’t made the mistake.

sportsmanship

That, my friends, is a gentleman, and likely a better man than I.

Our “civilized” world today is dealing with anger and aggression in far too many places. Many leaders and people of influence (like Don Cherry) are directing us towards our inner darkness.

We need more and more examples of positive leadership and good sportsmanship to encourage, inspire and lead us to become our “better angels”.

We’ve come a long way Baby towards sculpting the clay of more gentlemen into “gentle men”. Still, the journey isn’t near over yet.

But the departure of Don Cherry is one more positive step along that road.

gentlman boy

 

 

 

The Gold and the Guns…

Leave a comment

Bugs bunny.png

Sing it Bugs … 

Overture, curtain, lights,
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every card by heart …

HEADLINE: Pyeongchang, Korea vs. Parkland, Florida

How do we hit the heights and the depths all in one moment; the heavenliness of the Olympics running into a brutal head-on collision with bloody savage gunfire hell?

Easy… the starter’s gun fires springing the loaded athlete from the gate at the top of the mountain… while… simultaneously a loaded AR-15 weapon of mass mayhem fires, unleashing spurting pools of blood and panic in children’s classrooms.

Or, as a fellow named Dickens antithetically noted,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

comedy tragedy masks

Spring of hope, winter of despair

There are physics’ rules that explain it I suppose.

After all, Einstein himself said, “energy is neither created nor destroyed“….

… Potential energy in athletes created = Potential energy in murdered children expended.

I live in Canada, but I can’t coldly turn aside and avoid the pain that crosses an invisible geographic and linguistic border when children are senselessly annihilated.

There is beauty and heartbreak in sport… is anything more lovely than a young man or woman flying into momentary orbit, spinning on their own axis 3 or 4 times, then returning to icy terra firma in delicate and graceful balletic form?

As the climax of their performance nears, a bright smile of joy alights and beams for the adoring crowd… or… tears of anguish swell when an unsuccessful program marks the end of the journey.

There is beauty and heartbreak in gun ownership… there must be some beauty, although I struggle to find it … a plethora of TV shows and movies are released each week glutted with exquisitely choreographed scenes of gunfire and bloodshed. Forgive my confusion when the censors tut-tut naked bodies and lovemaking, and yet merrily abide mass murder vistas that any adult or child can absorb daily.

Contradiction, we all eventually discover, is a part of humanity.

We have friction and conflict… a conflict of belief systems.

Curiously, I shake my head and gaze on as the “pros” and “cons” of gun control tread ground on opposite sides of a mirror that they believe is a window… they can never quite see each other’s image.

I watch those talking heads on CNN debate gun issues ferociously. It’s fascinating to see mouths moving where no ears are listening.

It’s as if one side speaks Latin and the other side Swahili.

You say tow-may-tow, I say tow-maah-tow… where you see biosolids, I only smell shit.

So how do we move forward?

ESL flags.jpg

OMG, I hope you weren’t expecting me to have the answer. Sorry. I don’t.

I can only view it all through my own lens and seek out some sort of truth that makes sense in my own mind.

Value for me has been teaching ESL and literacy-challenged adults to learn something that seems so easy. Language. Simple, basic language.

I’m forced to break down the elements of what most of us consider too rudimentary to need explaining.

I’m compelled to immerse myself in a world of explaining what I don’t truly understand at the fundamental level.

Oh sure, I know a noun from a verb from an adjective, but I get all muddley-fuddley when we start slipping in terms like diphthong and dangling modifier and reflexive pronoun.

These are experiences that help me step back and look and listen to see what I’m missing. To learn. To understand.

These are experiences that remind me that my culture and environment are not the same as the person sitting opposite me. To learn. To understand.

The gun culture is Swahili to my Latin.

I look around my gun-lite Canadian world and worry that there are too many young boys brought up to traipse the backwoods with a weapon and bring down a living creature … and then… rah rah… call it… sport.

The Oxford English Dictionary says sport is : An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

The use of guns and hunting as sustenance is one thing… but calling it sport makes me vomit.

How do I find a way to learn and understand this “sport”? Killing as entertainment?

In my world, sport is something that pushes the human body to achieve and improve… to aim for higher, faster, stronger… the Olympics at least attempts to solve that equation. A gun may fill your tummy, but will never be about achievement or improvement.

I know our world is driving the long and winding road to more civility, more kindness and understanding. The historic fog is lifting. There’s an inevitability to it that, like the tsunami of technology that floods our world, is unstoppable.

It’s just that, like so many things in my life, I feel an urgent impatience for the next steps to occur along that highway. Hurry up. Learn. Understand. Please…

The internet has proven its worth as a change agent for women and #MeToo… I’ve seen a recent Facebook post that encourages American school students to go on “strike” until gun laws are changed.

These front line soldiers in this battle will be the children of change…

Meanwhile, I’ll dab away my gun-weary tears and watch those athletes that have put in their 10,000 hours of dedicated training, the medallists and the others who have reached golden heights without a medal to hang around their necks.

… Overture, curtain, lights
This is it, we’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it…

cross-country athletes.jpg