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He sits alone bouncing between cell phone and sampler platter with seasoned accuracy.
His hair is peppered with silver, combed back neatly behind the ears.
A chrome rimmed monocle adorns his left eye.
(Yep. A monocle).
And with a hoist of his rocks glass he welcomes us as we belly up to the bar.
What can I getcha? Asks the daintily framed bartender, her foreign accent adding an element of mystique to an otherwise girlish charm.
Two Miller Lites please.
And a pair of dinner menus.
Oh, and if it’s not asking too much could you put on the Montreal Tampa Bay game?
I’m sorry, she replies.
I try again.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Mulling over the bill of fare our newfound friend informs us that the bone-in rib eye here is to die for.
I thank him with a matter-of-fact grin and nod then return to my studies.
Seconds later he quips, So, you’re a hockey fan.
My focus meanders across the menu toward my wife who by the look on her face seems to be getting quite a kick outta all this.
Don’t look at me, she mutters, you’re the one who wanted to come here.
That’s one sport I never could get into, he continues.
Then again, I can’t honestly say I get into any sports these days.
Oh really. And why’s that? I agonizingly reply.
It’s not like it used to be, he says.
These days everyone’s in it for the money.
Excuse me! I bark back.
(After numerous attempts the old fart’s finally got my attention)
Did I just hear you say that all athletes today do what they do solely for the money?
Are you implying that every kid whose dosing off to sleep right about now and dreaming of someday lifting the Stanley Cup or of hitting one over the outfield wall in the World Series has a parade of dollar signs dancing around in their head?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but are you telling me…
SO, what’ll it be folks? Blurts our bartender, no doubt a strategic attempt on her part to curtail the escalating tension.
Could it be she senses my disapproval?
And for good reason.
Y’see this isn’t the first time I’ve grappled with this kind of bird brained ignorance.
I’ve heard this gibberish numerous times before, and quite frankly it brings my blood to a boil.
Sure I get it; the big bucks, the superstar status, the celebrity lifestyle, and yes, it can make one a tad cynical.
Nonetheless, it’s nonsense.
And I for one refuse to believe it.
Because I’ve witnessed it too many times over the years.
“The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.”
“The human drama of athletic competition.”
Now, is that to say there’s not a bundle of money to be made in professional sports?
As we all know athletes (particularly nowadays) garner a handsome sum for what they do.
But it’s not why they do it.
It’s not I tell ya.
In June of 1985 British rockers Dire Straits released their fifth studio album entitled Brothers in Arms, which subsequently went on to become the biggest selling album in the bands stellar career.
The breakout single from that album was Money for Nothing, an eight minute ditty written from the point of view of a working-class guy watching music videos and commenting on what he sees:
Look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
That ain’t workin that’s the way you do it
And so on and so forth.
Then, moments later, that same sofa spud laments,
I shoulda learned to play the guitar
I shoulda learned to play them drums
Which, to the overwhelming delight of their ever-growing fan base, is precisely what singer songwriter/guitar extraordinaire Mark Knopfler and company did.
They learned to play their respective instruments.
And they did so long before any chart-topping bank-breaking singles.
Because that’s what you do when you enjoy what you do.
That’s what you do when you wanna be the best you can be.
That’s what you do when you can’t begin to imagine ever doing anything else.
And, if by some fat chance…
Oops, hold on, let me rephrase that.
If by virtue of years of dedication and commitment to your chosen interest you become one of the deserving few good enough to make a five-star living at it, then I say the more power to ya.
Hell! You’ve earned it.
Again, does the money seem a bit excessive at times?
In regard to pro sports one only needs to look back at the recent Maywheather Pacquiao fight.
Now that was crazy.
Still, you can’t single out the athletes.
If anything, it’s the nature of the beast―a sign of the times.
And the times, for better or worse, are and will forever be a changin.
Case in point: As a kid I remember watching my motocross heroes show up to the track with their dirt bikes stuffed into the back of old pickup trucks and painted-over U-Haul vans.
Heck, they’d even be driving the darn things themselves.
And those were the top dogs of the day.
Today even the middle of the pack guys are being chauffeured around in forty foot mega coaches.
Speaking of dirt bikes, last week the latest issue of Dirt Rider magazine showed up at my door.
In it was a touching story about Danny Hamel, a talented young rider from Boulder City, Nevada, who twenty years ago at the age of twenty-three lost his life while competing in the Baja 500.
Mitch Payton, a former top-notch desert racer himself who broke his back at seventeen in a crash and has been paralyzed ever since had this to say.
To see excellence, to watch it happen, it’s really stunning.
And to watch Danny ride an off-road bike was absolutely stunning.
A year and a half ago the desert racing community lost yet another dear friend and dirt bike extraordinaire, three time AMA champion Kurt Caselli.
In a previous interview when asked why he did what he did he plainly replied,
I do it because I love it.
I love to go fast.
At the final buzzer it’s the Lightning over the Canadians, and with the win Tampa Bay secures their spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
On one side of the ice is joy and celebration, a frenzied flurry of high fives and hell yeahs.
On the other, heartbreak and frustration, along with a steady trickle of somber tears.
Then comes what I personally regard as one the greatest traditions in all of sports: the post-game hand shake.
When I sneak a peek at our friend Mr. Peanut I’m tickled to see that he’s angled himself toward the TV monitor.
His gaze is solid and steady.
His preoccupation resolute.
So, I cheer, You a hockey fan?
I then turn to my wife and say, well hun, whadaya say we head on outta here?
After all, tomorrow is a work day.
Damn, I think to myself, I shoulda learned to play them drums.
See ya August 1st. Till then, keeep it up.