The Fan…

Yesterday I switched on the television and there was a hockey game on. I assumed it was an old taped game but nope… It was current. The Flames made the playoffs. I don’t watch a lot of sports so I wasn’t really aware that things were going on as usual. Who knew? Well my husband would have known. I would have picked up on it eventually with him glued to the TV. Mind you it could have been his obsession with American politics that held his interest. You never knew.

I married a sports fan. I was surprised how much time could be devoted to watching sporting events. He would watch anything. As he would say, if two people are competing, he will watch. Over the years I have seen some funny stuff. One day I paused by the “Dads room”, his private sanctuary complete with lazyboy and autographed sports paraphernalia. He was watching a darts tournament. Darts. Yeah. Right? These guys looked like they just stepped out of a British pub. They were really good at darts obviously but I didn’t see the thrill.

Rene’ loved hockey more than any sport. He learned to play as an adult and it was his life. Our lives revolved around his hockey schedule. Weekends at the cabin. Holidays. All were coordinated so he missed a minimum amount of hockey games. When I asked him if he had to chose only one sport for the rest of his life he of course chose hockey. Through his job he was often invited to various events which he accepted with pleasure. Hockey tickets though weren’t often accepted. He loved being invited to the luxury boxes mainly because he got free parking and when the game was over he would visit for an hour as the crowds dissipated. He hated the crowds. Regular seats, no matter how good they were, actually caused him more stress. Our daughter Drew would ask why he didn’t take the tickets and give them to her. She loved going to the games. To which he would reply “They didn’t invite you.” He said if she wanted to be invited she should go to university, get a job, work her way up and one day people would invite her to hockey games as well. Years ago, when the Calgary Flames were in the playoffs, tickets were coveted by all. A young gal I worked with had her first experience going to a play off game but her boyfriend stayed home. She told me he sat in his lazy boy chair in shorts and his team jersey. Snacks and drinks around him, he watched the game alone. She loved the excitement and atmosphere at the live event although she wasn’t really a hockey fan. I explained to her that my hubby was the same. These guys want to watch the game. At home the snacks are close, there are no line ups at the bathrooms, there are no parking issues and you don’t miss any part of the game because people are late to their seats and walk in front of you. There are no drunks or giggly young selfy takers. Plus there are replays and you can shout at the tv to your hearts content. When the game is over you can watch the post game banter and head straight to bed while others fight their way out of a congested parking area.

His obsession with hockey was never interrupted. Even when there was a strike in the NHL, we watched the U of A play U of C. Our rivalling alma maters. Anyone who complained about the strike and the lack of hockey was quickly reminded by Rene’ that they could walk into any arena in Calgary and there was hockey being played. In fact ice time is so elusive that teams rent ice times from small towns around the city. Every year our hometown of Calgary hosts a tournament for kids aged 15 to 17. It starts on December 26 and the final Gold medal game is played on New Years day. Teams come from all over Europe and North America to play. The main event Venue is within walking distance of our house and over the years it was a family event to go and watch young athletes play. Our kids ran around with their friends who were sure to be there and you always saw people you knew. A good way to spend the Christmas holiday.

One time I walked into his man cave. He was watching a game and as I looked closer I realized the players were small children. They were two teams from Calgary minor hockey aged ten and my hubby was glued to the screen. He didn’t know any of the kids, he just stumbled across the game on a local channel and watched it. Get this, it wasn’t even a live game. It was a year old. My super fan was watching a rerun of small children playing hockey. I left the room. That was too bizarre for words.

Football was an earlier love. In his youth he spent every lunch hour at school playing flag football, Even in the winter. I used to watch him play on Sundays with our young daughter at our old high school. Every Thanksgiving was the Turkey Bowl held at a neighbours farm where through the years we all gathered to watch the high school friends play surrounded by their wives and kids. A few months before Rene’ died we were at an Anniversary party for my girlfriend. Her brother Brad was there with his family and his oldest son had his own four kids in attendance. It brought me back 35 years as I remembered this boy playing with my daughter at a turkey bowl game. In 1988 the guys rented McMahon stadium to play their 25th Turkey bowl. There was only one touchdown as the old guys had trouble running the length of a full size field. The results of these games were always posted in the local paper and we still have some of those clippings. As a young man he shared seasons tickets with a friend for the local Canadian football team, the Calgary Stampeders. Later we had seasons tickets ourselves. It was many years before I realized his first favourite team was the neighbouring rivals the Edmonton Eskimos. How could he? He went to University in Edmonton and that influenced him. Plus his aunt was an avid fan and sparked his initial interest. I have a friend who is nut nut about Canadian football and never misses a Grey Cup week regardless where the game is being played. We were married thirty years before I knew she was an Edmonton fan. Of course my husband knew. It was what they talked about. I never noticed.

He loved the Seattle Seahawks. Their first season was when I was in grade nine. 1976. My hubby was already in University in Edmonton becoming fully indoctrinated in the CFL Eskimoes fan club. Seattle’s geographical location was probably the biggest factor in Rene’s choice to “fan up” so to speak. They were the only NFL team that had games televised up here in the early years. Rene’ bought a jersey with Jim Zorn’s number on the back. That was 45 years ago. Through never ending losing seasons my hubby stayed true to his beloved sea chickens as he called them. February of 2014 we were in Phoenix with some friends and a group of us Canadians congregated at the home of a long ago acquaintance. He went to our high school, we lived in the same community as adults and our children knew each other. My husband was the only Seattle fan. My girlfriend commented that so many people had jumped on the Seahawk bandwagon after their great season. But that wasn’t my Rene’. He was finally going to be the winning fan. He put in the time. My daughter Britt bought him a new jersey in the late 1990’s when she stole the Zorn one. So the new one in well over twenty years old. My daughter Drew is a Seahawk fan and now proudly wears Zorn’s jersey when watching with her own family. She took custody when her father died. Two legacies live on. Jim Zorn and Rene’.

Golf was the one game we played together and tried to encourage our kids. Its a life time sport and one Rene’ loved. However, it also made him crazy. But that is golf. One day you can do no wrong and every shot is brilliant. It is surreal. You drive home in a daze. Wow. I am getting really good. The next game it appears that you are a newcomer. Like you’ve never picked up a club. And so it goes. The humbling side of golf. In our travels we played some beautiful courses and of course paid the price. It wasn’t cheap. But many weekends saw Rene’ watching the pro’s on TV. It bugged him when the American TV shows only showed the leaders and of course Tiger. Regardless where he placed. We have a signed picture of Mike Weir with his green jacket after his big win almost twenty years ago. A Canadian golf sweetheart and he was Rene’s hero.

Rene’s beloved Bluejay’s also caused a great deal of TV watching. We took a few trips to Seattle over the years to watch the Jays play. Its closer than Toronto and of course a great number of Canadians cross the border when the Jays are out west. It is like a home game. One year as we were leaving the stadium I chatted with a security guard about the loudness and he made a disparaging remark about all of the Canadians in attendance. I laughed and told him we were Canadian. He replied… “of course you are.” There is nothing finer than spending a day watching baseball and eating. Double headers are the best. I know all the words to the American National Anthem and I realize it is because I hear it so often. And I sing along even though I have never understood the reason to sing country anthems before sporting events.

So when I stumbled upon the hockey game the other night I sat and watched. I was wearing a bathing suit under my robe as I had been headed out to the hot tub. I sat like that for two hours. It was exciting. I kind of got into it and excited like the old days when he was here. When it ended I changed to pajama’s. It was a little late and I was tired. But it was nice. Doing the familiar brought back a lot of memories. I decided that maybe a trip to Seattle would be nice. Yep, I think when I am able I will head down to watch the Jays play.

We watched Grandkids play a lot of different sports over the years and I still do. Last week I went to watch my three year old grandsons play soccer. It was a free for all. Kids and parents everywhere and a young girl coach trying her best. As Rene’ would say it was like trying to herd cats. It was mayhem and chaos and he would have loved it so much. What I learned through the years is this. He was a fan because sports brought him joy. Watching the grandkids filled his heart with pride. But the most important thing you can do for a child is show up and watch them. Do anything. That is what Rene did for all the grandkids. He made them feel special just by being there. I remember one day we went to watch our granddaughter G play basketball. She was on the junior high team. We walked past her in the foyer as we headed for the gym. She was standing with the team and they were all chatting excitedly as teens do. She caught our eye as we said hello but didn’t respond. We laughed as we walked away. We had graduated from embarrassing kids to embarrassing grandkids. But the game ended and the teams dispersed and G ran over and hugged and kissed us. She was so happy we were there to watch her.

I can’t say I will watch more hockey. Or anything else. But I can carry on the one thing my fan did well. I can go and spend a few hours watching a grandkid do something. There are a lot of grandkids so that is a lot of something. But there is also a lot of coffee and visiting as well. In fact I don’t think the kids even care if you watch. But they do know you are there. And that is what matters. I can’t be the fan my husband was. The man who watched anything competitive. I watched him for years. I watched my kids. And I will watch the grandkids. For him. For them. And for me. I will be their biggest fan.

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