Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Faith and Hockey

I wasn't into hockey much as a kid. I tried to watch it a few times and didn't get some of the rules. To me, the whistle would blow randomly and everyone would stop. I never had any idea why. Just when I started to think I did, Must be offsides, it would be something else. I started to get a handle on what exactly icing was but got frustrated and gave up. Not my finest moment, but I admit that I gave up on hockey early on at the first sign of adversity.

I was so into basketball at the time that I honestly didn't have much time to follow any other sport. This coincided with the height of success for the NBA. It was a good league, prior to their shortened lock-out season and prior to each and every game being hyped by David Stern as a one-on-one match-up between each team's best player (seriously, Mr. Stern, it's basketball, not boxing) and I spent my time watching the careers of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, to name just a few. Who wouldn't be mesmerized?

However, I am a big fan of my local teams. I'm a homer. I'm the guy that will suddenly show up dressed head to toe in team apparel that I didn't own the day before because I truly believe that my positive energy will somehow translate to wins by my local team. Thus, despite my lacking knowledge of hockey rules and strategy, I kept track each year of how the Blackhawks were doing. I knew if they were going to make the playoffs or not. I knew whether or not they won their playoff games even though I didn't watch any of them.

Then, in the 2010 season, even one as ignorant to the ways of hockey as I could see that the Blackhawks were on the verge of pulling off something special. I started actually watching games and saw what an exciting sport it really was. This past NHL season, thanks to a good friend, I had the opportunity to attend several games. This only served to heighten my interest, and also my woe that I could have been enjoying this sport all along.

Even though I have experienced a personal hockey epiphany, some things about the sport have not changed. I still never see the offsides call coming. I am even surprised most of the time icing is called. Penalties are only called half the time that I think something that constitutes and infraction occurred and half the time they are called, I didn't see anything wrong. This is exactly the aspect of the game that frustrated me so many years ago. I couldn't figure a lot of the rules out and I still can't now.

So what has changed? I have. More specifically, my ability to live with the fact that I do not entirely understand everything that is going on in front of me has changed. I have now developed the ability to thoroughly enjoy something of which certain aspects make absolutely no sense to me. I find this to be an important life skill. It saves me a good deal of stress, knowing that the world contains mysteries that may forever remain obscured to my logic, yet still exist whether I understand them or not. It's about having the perspective that there are things bigger than me and hockey is apparently one of them.

I attribute my newfound ability to the years of being a parent that are now tucked under my belt (maybe it's this tucked experience which has forced me to loosen my belt out to its final notch over the last few years). My sons have come home from school with artwork that looks like nothing I have ever seen before. When they explain to me in detail how what I perceive to be a bunch of random blobs of color is actually a helicopter descending on their school to bring all the children candy, I have to suspend what my eyes are telling my brain and just accept it as what they tell me it is.

Saying, "That's not what it looks like at all. You suck as an artist," really isn;t an option. And, honestly, it's not what I think. Before I ever hear the explanation, I find it beautiful and creative. I see wonder in it that might not make sense to me, but that I can recognize as being present nonetheless.

This is the kind of hockey fan I have become. I may not have any idea why the whistle just blew or why that guy just sent the puck in the opposite direction and I might not have even noticed the whole line change and spend time wondering when my favorite player left the ice, but it's awesome anyway. And sometimes seeing awesomeness in things that you don't understand can be a virtue. There are quite a few things in life that we all would be better off just accepting that we will never completely understand.

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