I get it. I live in Canada. Where Hockey is a religion. If you live in Vancouver your fellowship is the Our Lady of the Canucks. A loyal following of acolytes, disciples, and apostles, a full congregation on dirty knees singing psalms and hymns with organs blaring and eyes agog and palms out awaiting the deliverance, the benediction, their saviour, the second-coming of Goal, screaming and babbling in tongues for the branded ‘C’ on the chest and the halo of helmet and the blue-green blood-stained robe. The best minds of my generation destroyed by Hockey, starving hysterical naked. You can find evidence of this ritual at any location where they serve their other deity, Lord Liquor.
I choose not to worship the Almighty Canucks and therein lies my sin. I belong to a different church, the Church of the Roundball. It’s a religion full of miraculous feats, instant gratifications, with the second and third-coming of Basket, coming and coming again. It’s a religion rooted in results, none of this nonsense of running around in ovals. Amen.
As I enter into their dim-lit grottoes, making sure to wipe my feet, you can hear the miracle happening, the collective shouts of “he scores!” heralding the arrival of Goal, the source of their zealous lust, more precious than blood. A collected hush.
“Halt! Who goes there?”
“Outsider, why are you not wearing the proper ceremonial garb?”
“I was just wondering if you could put the basketball game on one of the TVs at the back?”
“How dare you interrupt our sacred rite, the only thing that has any meaning in our lives?”
“Look, there’s a million TVs in here, couldn’t you just put it on one of them for me?”
“What’s your problem man?”
“We cast thee out! The power of the Canucks compels you!”
Dumbfounded, I exit the church only to find the same hostility at every turn. From the shadow of the mountains the babble from the rabble rises up enormous, the horde leaving a mucus trail like a slug, from ocean to ocean, skyscraper to skyscraper, devising a line of best-fit, dividing the ‘B’ from B.C. because there is no room for Basketball when there is only the all-encompassing branded ‘C’ of the Canucks. This is the cold reality of being a basketball fan in this city. It’s a holy war of durka durka mohammed jihads and I’m vastly outnumbered.
It’s like the city has some sort of vendetta against basketball. If you open the sports section of the local newspapers, you’ll find hockey followed by more hockey, then junior hockey, then high school hockey, then some form of hockey like street hockey, field hockey, table hockey, tongue hockey, hockey hockey hockey, then some golf, football, hockey, tennis, lacrosse, hockey, soccer, then followed by some local high school sports roundup, then maybe some random amateur bullshit like handball, volleyball, skiing, gymnastics, even poker, and then on the last page, at the very bottom sandwiched between some more hockey, in the tiniest font allowed in print, you’ll finally find some evidence of this fine sport called basketball. Hallelujah!
What’s puzzling is, among the four major North American sports, basketball is the only one that’s cast out like a leper. There’s a rabid following of football and even a cursory interest in baseball, but when it comes to basketball, especially the NBA, they treat it as the antichrist of sports – the polar opposite of hockey. And why is that?
I was once a believer too. I was yelling my fool face off like everyone else when Crosby scored that golden goal. But that was kind of a big deal and a once-in-a-lifetime event. And that’s my problem with these zealots – they treat every Canucks game with the same magnitude as that once-in-a-lifetime event. Guess what? It’s not once-in-a-lifetime, it’s not even once-in-a-week, there’s a fucking game tomorrow you morons! Gain some perspective! And it’s because of this absurd loyalty to everything hockey that I’ve now come to resent the sport. After playing hockey my whole life I’ve even stopped playing it. The only sport I play nowadays is – you guessed it – basketball.
I’m not exactly sure when my love for hockey turned, but I know it was after I moved to Vancouver. I’ve lived in all the Canadian cities worth living in (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto) and I have to say, and I know I’m gonna get flamed for this, there’s a certain smugness associated with Canucks fans that even Leafs fans don’t have. And before you turn this into a Canucks vs Leafs debate (again with the hockey!) let me remind you we’re still talking about hockey vs basketball. Anyway, this smugness could explain the apparent superiority complex Canucks fans, and as a direct by-product hockey fans, have over other sports, specifically basketball. It’s this sick obsession, this I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-anything-right-now-because-the-Canucks-are-playing syndrome, the reason I can’t have a quiet dinner at a restaurant because hockey is blaring from the TVs, the ceaseless hockey talk shows – That’s Hockey, Hockey Central, Hardcore Hockey Talk, all this has turned me away from a sport I once loved. And that makes me sad. At least it used to. Now I’m just angry. It’s the hate that hate made.
The tragic thing is, some ten long years ago, our two religions co-existed in harmony, sharing the same church, the same commandments, the same congregation. But like all holy wars, the truce didn’t last and basketball was driven out, and our religion has limped on ever since. It’s time to strike back. I want you! Join me in my crusade to bring basketball back to relevance in this city. I’m not asking for much here. Some basketball coverage on the second page of the paper perhaps? Some basketball talk shows? There’s gotta be more of us out there who belong to the Church of the Roundball? Look, I realize the Canucks are the only professional team in town and have to take precedence. But can we tone it down a little? Take it down a notch? Take it ease eh? Can you put the basketball game on one of the TVs at the back of the bar? God bless…
– Tom Day