Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Hockey Fans

Posted on | April 29, 2014 | No Comments

The sandwich had fried chicken and onions. The side order was fries. There was some type of mayo based spicy sauce.  I may or may not go back. I was not strongly affected one way or the other.

What I might remember, if only because I’m currently writing it down, was the face of the counter man as he watched the hockey game. It was as if he was suddenly not at work at all.

I wondered where he was. Should I ask him? Would that be considered intrusive? Should I just overthink it? Yeah. That’s exactly what I should do.

Was he standing on the ice, pretending he was one of those highly paid players? I didn’t think so.

What I saw in his face wasn’t fantasy but the reality of being a fan.  There is something both nostalgic and child like pure in that face, something much more than fantasy fulfillment.  Maybe he was in the stands yelling like crazy when a goal happened at the last minute, his voice one in twenty thousand shouting the same thing, heart beating like crazy in happiness that what he wanted actually happened. Maybe he can feel his pulse on the sticks as they slap into the puck and races past the goalie glove. Maybe he was exactly where he stood but with all of the other people watching the same thing from different places.

It’s been a long time since I was a sports fan.

I remember hockey wars against the neighbours on Beech Street back in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There was no clock counting down from one period to the next. The games were to ten and you had to stop when a car came racing down the street. Grabbing the net in your hands and bringing it back when they turned a corner and left you to play for another few minutes. We didn’t have a referee because none of the kids wanted to sit out a whole game. We usually played at least three games because we didn’t have anything else to do and what could be better than playing hockey? Rivalries were fierce but rarely become fist fights. We resolved our tension by expressing a few words we had recently learned.

I remember when those games ended and we’d won that I felt like an Olympian. With no one to tell besides your parents. With no one to know what miracles you had accomplished by pushing one leg in front of the other and somehow managing to avoid a tennis ball to your testicles. Fantasyizing about the top right corner of the net and your razor like precision that ended the game and the curse words you shouted into the summer sky because you were untouchable. You could say whatever you wanted. Because you were good and you didn’t need anyone else to tell you.

Maybe he is thinking of when his dad used to take him to local hockey games and that strange feeling that he had been accepted into the adult company of heroes. Finding their seats. That sense of disbelief that you were actually here. That strange surety as you looked at the bench that one day you’d sit there. And you’d race onto the ice when the coach gave you the signal.

I collected the cards. I watched Sports Desk at eight in the morning. I was part of hockey pools and I may have even won one. At some point I stopped caring about hockey and sports in general. I still went to the games. Because they were something I did with my father and my childhood best friend Jordi. Jordi and I played hockey in all those heroic games on Beech. We knew what it was like to be champions together.  I remember in Grade 7 yammering on about a girl I liked. Jordi nodding his head as I high speed rambled, trying to make as many jokes as possible because I liked the sound of his laugh. He told me I didn’t have to make him laugh to be his friend. This was a profound moment for me.

Eventually I stopped watching the game.  I would plot what I would eat during the intermissions between periods. Work on the plot of a new book I was thinking about. Drinking in the energy of the crowd. And then there would be that moment. When the game was close and the Halifax Citadels were on a power play and you could feel everyone’s breath stuck in their throats. Like maybe it would be our time. Maybe we’d actually win one. If we missed the adults would swear like children. If we scored we’d scream like we’d just walked into our own surprise party. People would hug in the stands. Either way hypothetically rational people would paint their faces and chests to sport our colors.

It was the insanity we shared.  That yearning to be a part of Halifax. To hug a stranger. To ride the energy of 20,000 people all hoping for the best. To be part of something.

Like how I was part of Beech Street and my friends were from around the corner. Like I was part of Grade 4 at Sir Charles Tupper when we would play tag football and Willie Fyles would throw it into the end zone and I would catch it and celebrate for much longer than would be considered polite. I remember when my fascination with hockey became about NHL 94. When we had our own league in first year university and I was the master of left rights. When I would battle Matt Stasyna for Super Nintendo supremacy and he became my best friend in best of seven series I would rarely win.

There is this inherent desire to come together and be a part of the place you live. This happens more sporadically as you get older. People, like myself, jump on the bandwagon when the Stanley Cup is in sight for a Canadian team. We come together when tragedy hits our city and we can’t bear to be alone. We spend a lot of time pretending we are nowhere on Subways leading us away from work back to our small enclave of friends. Where we work and we drink and we talk about TV shows. The world gets smaller as you get older. Doors open and we figure out how to close them. We aren’t as brave as adults as we were as children. We stop seeing the people on our block as extended family. We stop talking to strangers.

There is something about a sports fan that feels different from any other type of fan. They want their team to do well, they pray for it, they live a part of every day for it. When a TV show sucks we stop watching it. When the Toronto Maple Leafs suck they hope they’ll do better. We curse the screens and luck and life and we watch the next game with our hearts in our throats like children.

Who remember what it was like to play on the street and grab the net when the cars were coming . To scream in stadiums with adults and children celebrating something as meaningful and meaningless as a goal for the home team.

So I wait for my unmemorable chicken sandwich, while reading my copy of the Master and the Margarita. I fold over a page where they talk about love jumping out at a couple like a murderer with a knife and remind myself to read it to my girlfriend over the phone. To pass the time I talk about sports with the counter man. About that feeling that lets him leave work. And I feel like I’m a part of something. As small as waiting for a sandwich and large as being in Toronto.

Just talking to a stranger. Like I used to do obsessively as a child. Like an explorer. Finding all friendship that could be had on the horizon.

I don’t need to be funny or make the counter man laugh.

I only need to remember I’m a part of something.

 

 

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    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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