Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Learning that fun exists elsewhere than the couch

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Like most guys of my gender, I'm a real sports nut.

On a typical weekend, I will surround myself with greasy snack-related foods, park my pasty body on the couch in our den and spend countless hours watching professional sports on TV, even if the only thing being broadcast is lawn darts or, worse, curling.

That's just the kind of masculine sports fanatic I am. But this past weekend, in a sincere effort to broaden my horizons, I skipped sports on TV and tried something radically different, by which I mean leaving the house to watch live sporting events in person.

You should never try this on your own, so I was accompanied on these excursions by my buddy, Bob.

The first live sporting activity involved the two of us bravely driving across the city, on Friday night, in the snow, to watch Bob's youngest daughter, Linnea, a Grade 8 student at St. Mary's Academy, compete in a basketball tournament.

En route to the game, I helped Bob engage in some "active parenting," wherein we used our years of sports experience to pass on helpful basketball tips to Linnea, who has always been a fierce competitor, in the sense that, years ago, when her father and I were in a barbecuing contest, she threatened to bite the members of a rival team.

So, as we dished up advice (Me: "You should shoot at the basket." Bob: "Yes, shoot at the hoop."), she was able to give us a look of pity mixed with contempt -- veteran parents will know the look I'm talking about -- and politely explained she did not need guidance from clueless old dweebs who were probably around when James Naismith nailed up the first peach baskets in 1891.

The game itself was incredibly exciting, even though Linnea's plucky team lost to another team whose name I did not catch. The girls threw themselves into the game in the sense that they literally threw themselves into the game.

If, for example, the ball came loose and began rolling along the floor, girls from both sides, with no regard for personal safety, catapulted themselves through the air, then crashed onto the hardwood floor and fought for the ball in a squirming, tangled mass of flailing limbs of the type you normally only see in Saturday-morning cartoons.

Despite the fact they were not being paid millions of dollars and there weren't thousands of shrieking fans in the stands, these girls gave everything they had.

Which brings us to the Jets' NHL season-opening game Saturday afternoon, which was the next live sporting event Bob and I courageously attended.

Although the Jets were spanked 4-1 by Ottawa, I do not wish to say anything overtly negative about their effort, largely because I don't want legions of rabid Jets fans to descend on my house with torches and pitchforks, or, even more likely, those inflatable ThunderStix they whap together to terrify opposing players during games.

Other than the game itself, it was an incredibly thrilling afternoon. If I had to choose one word to describe the experience, that word would be: loud. Between fans hungering for post-lockout hockey and the new state-of-the-art sound system at the MTS Centre, you could not hear yourself think, which made for interesting conversations:

Me: "Nice save, eh?"

Bob: "What?"


Bob: "What?"

In the end, Bob and I were forced to develop a complicated series of primitive hand gestures to communicate whose turn it was to get up out of their seat and go get the next round of beers. It made us feel very alive. We even got cool 3D posters, which seemed more lifelike than some of the players.

But the central point I am trying to make, as a reformed couch potato, is that I now finally realize nothing beats watching sports in person. In fact, I'm hoping Bob and I can go to another game soon. Because those girls really give 110 per cent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2013 A2

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