Transmissions from the alternate universe

Goodbye, Derek

Posted by oldancestor on May 18, 2011

Editorial note: Despite our best efforts over the past year to depict our former head writer, Eric J Baker, as a parody of a serious news journalist, he insists on being a real human being who sometimes writes things that aren’t funny. This story is one of those things. – Old Ancestor, Editor-in-chief
Derek Boogaard 1982 – 2011

By Eric J Baker


Anyone who has read this blog regularly over the past year knows I have a rather surreal take on our strange world and its colorful, wonderful inhabitants. And never do I feel more surreal and less human than when I first awaken.

My clock radio is set to conservative morning talk, not because I enjoy it but because I despise it so much I can’t wait to turn it off.  It’s the only thing powerful enough to make me get out of bed. Forget the annoying beep. I’ll just dream I’m trying to smash an indestructible beeping box with a hammer.

Upon hearing that commentator’s voice leap from the crackling speaker every morning at 6:30, my brain, fresh from slumber, struggles to make sense of the world. We have a president? What? Why? Traffic report? We dart around in metal-and-plastic, mechanized carts, filling them full of explosive liquid and sometimes crashing them into each other, on our way to a big box with windows, push numbers and words around for 9 hours, then go home?


If I wake up to the sports recap, I’m in full surreal mode. A bunch of large, muscular men (or women) running around a field smacking a ball around. Random restrictions on where and when you are allowed to smack. People who don’t know the players stand off to the side, watching, feeling their joy surge and their despair swell in turn, depending on who smacked a ball where.

Ball smackers get paid.

Wait, that’s a little too surreal. Start over:

These are real human athletes doing these things, but if I only hear about it and don’t see it, it’s a bit of an abstraction, right?

Ice hockey is a sport I enjoy above others, but even that is bizarre to my awakening mind. Especially the fights. The prevalence of fighting in hockey is grossly exaggerated by self-amused non-fans, but it is true that every team has an enforcer. Or a “goon” if he plays for the rival team. This is the guy who drops the gloves from time to time for a bare-knuckle brawl with his counterpart in the other uniform. He spends most of the season with broken cheekbones, shattered blood vessels under the skin, and cut-up hands.

During the misty morning sports report, I often think how weird it must be for the enforcer to go home to his wife. Does it hurt her to see her husband’s face beat to a pulp all year? Hockey enforcers get paid a lot better than I do, but they’re still usually the lowest paid guys on the team. An enforcer in the minor leagues takes this abuse for a lot less compensation… The adulation of a few thousand small-town fans, pretty much, and free ice bags.

I believe in personal choice and think boxers should be allowed to box, base jumpers should be allowed to jump, and hockey players should be allowed to fight. If you die doing it, you took the chance.

Which is a nice abstraction in my conscious alert mind, but when New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard, by all accounts a great guy off the ice, dropped dead in his apartment a few days ago, my morning mind came to the fore. People die and don’t ever get to come back. How incredibly odd. What if they aren’t done?

Boogaard, a strapping, tremendously fit man who stood 6’7” tall and weighed 270 pounds, was only 28 years old. He missed most of this season with a brain injury suffered in a fight.

Authorities don’t expect to know for weeks why he died. Maybe it had nothing to do with his job. Even if it did, I still think hockey players should be allowed to fight, and I still say Derek Boogaard knew the risks. But it fills me with sadness that he only got to experience our strange world and its colorful, wonderful inhabitants for such a short time. I hope he remembered to take a moment and notice how surreal it all is.


25 Responses to “Goodbye, Derek”

  1. “Ball smackers get paid”??? What are the requirements….

    Hat’s off, OA!

  2. I can’t believe it’s the Anvil. I think it is the New Yorker.

  3. Woman said

    I 150% agree with you when you say that it is a hockey player choice to play, and if they choose to fight so be it. I think many people forget this little fact in life!!!!

    Hummm…. this kind of seemed like a melancholy post here…. are you well?

    • I’ve been feeling stifled by the format and wanted to branch out a bit. Hopefully, if I do a serious one here and there, you’ll appreciate the funny stuff all the more.

  4. footballnutz17 said

    Yea man, nice post, i agree with you, hockey players should be allowed to fight. Such a sad story…… I never watched the Rangers but I still feel the pain and the sadness.

    Speaking of Boogaard, I actually wrote a post on him a couple days ago, care to check it out? Here is the link:

    • I read your post. Nice job, and tastefully done without all the rampant speculation that I see. Despite living in Rangers/Devils country, I’m not a fan of either team. But these moments transcend team affiliations or even one’s interests. Life is short.

  5. nrhatch said

    We never know how much time we have left . . . so it pays to make the most of it!

    As well written as this is . . .

    My clock radio is set to conservative morning talk, not because I enjoy it but because I despise it so much I can’t wait to turn it off. It’s the only thing powerful enough to make me get out of bed. Forget the annoying beep. I’ll just dream I’m trying to smash an indestructible beeping box with a hammer.

    And as much as I understand the sentiment behind it . . .

    I have to say that that is a mighty STUPID way to start your day. 😀

    • If I leave a music station on, I’ll fall back asleep listening to it. As far as the beep goes, I wasn’t joking when I said I dream that I am beating the crap out of a beeping box that won’t turn off. I’ll have that dream every time if I set the clock that way.

      That’s leaves whatshisname and his grating know-it-all voice. I’m out of bed like superman out of a phone booth to turn that sucker off.

    • And thanks for saying it was well written. It was a one-take deal written during my lunch break. Looking at it now, there are probably bits I’d change and expound upon, but I suppose there’s something honest about first drafts.

      If I want to post more regularly, that’s the only way I can do it. Please let me know if the quality suffers.

    • nrhatch said

      My worst nightmare would be waking up to the sound of Sarah Palin trilling in my ear. 😀

  6. footballnutz17 said

    haha @Nrhatch, i guess its not the most common way to start your day, but I guess if it works for him, its all good

  7. Dear me! You start writing like this, just as I make a deal with myself to back off blogging/comenting for a bit. Now I’m rethinking my decision. Second guessing is one of my best talents, though. I shouldn’t be surpried. I also get all my best exercise jumping to conclusions.

    OA, this is excellent work. First drafts to me are almost always the way to go when writing for the blogging platform. When we have specific things to say, and have identifiable feelings, the way they come freshly out of our minds and through our fingers to the screen are the most authentic and the most deeply felt, and therefore are transmitted in a more honest fashion.

    Hockey? Never been my thing. I think my ambivalent feelings about it started when I was in college. At the time UConn had only an outdoor rink, and the way it was situated and constructed, it created an almost perfect wind tunnel. It was the coldest place on the face of the earth, and if hell were ever going to freeze over, that’s where it would do it – quickly and easily, and at the crack of a stick on the puck. Being cold while watching a game is one thing, freezing your ass off, losing the skin on your face, and having to have fingers and toes removed because of frost bite is just a bit much for me – I don’t care what I’m watching. (My eyeballs are frozen anyway, so I’m not really watching anything.)

    I guess fighting, for better or worse, will always be a part of hockey, but there is fighting and there is fighting. To me, viciousness has no place in any sport, and I do think that “sport fighting” i.e., following certain prescribed rules of “fair fighting” – whatever they may be – is probably what most hockey players “sign up for” when they play. I have too often, however, seen some really incredibly vicious and juvenile fighting that bears no relation to the sport, but only to the infantile behavior of obnoxious bullies. I believe other hockey players ought to be able to play their sport without being subjected to the dangers of playing with such imbeciles. Actually, such imbeciles shouldn’t be allowed to play, but they are, so – is it fair to all?

    I’m certainly not someone who should be expounding on the subject of hockey, but lack of knowledge or expertise has never shut me up before, so why stop now?

    I do, however, consider myself somewhat of an “expert” on good writing. I might not be able to do it, but I know it when i read it. The quality of the writing in The Anvil is equally good as Eric Baker’s, and I for one, will always be delighted to read whatever either one of you writes, regardless of style or genre. In other words, don’t hesitate to write whatever strikes your fancy!

    And if, some morning the radio has to wake you up, and conservative radio is what it takes to get you out of bed to turn it off, throw an extra shoe at whatever loud-mouth idiot is talking for me, will ya?

    These days, I wish I needed an alarm clock. It would be nice to have to be coaxed awake. I remember there was a time in my distant past when I could actually oversleep. . .WOW! I am glad to learn that Rush Limbaugh and the like actually do serve some purpose on the planet – they wake you up so you can write, and entertain and enlighten your reading public.

    It is now 2:23 a.m. EDT. I’m supposed to be asleep. why do you write so well and force me to stay up and comment so incoherently?

    Thanks OA! And, did I tell you? It was a great post. . .more than enough. . .

    • Thanks for the kind words, Paula. I’m an obsessive re-writer, but time does not allow anymore. Maybe it’s for the better?

      Re: Hockey. I’ve been to maybe 30 or 40 NHL games over 20 years… not a lot by some standards. But I only recall seeing maybe 4 or 5 fights. It’s really overblown.

      I have the opposite problem from waking, which is not being able to fall asleep. Some nights I wake up 3 or 4 times. Bleah. I’d probably have a different personality if I got 8 hours a night.

  8. Greg Camp said

    In days gone by, we honored blood sports as a legitimate part of human nature. Now, we’re squeamish. I’m in favor of allowing honest and chosen violence. You pay your toll and ride the ride–and some will want to pay to watch.

    • You’d have made a good ancient Roman.

      Perhaps it’s squeamishness, but the lawyers probably have something to do with it too. I find those “futuristic” movies warning of increasingly violence in sports (Rollerball, Running Man, Death Race 2000) a bit silly, since it’s clearly going the other direction.

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