Posted by oldancestor on May 18, 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.