Last Saturday, opening the weekend papers for a feast of reading, choosing first the multi-sectioned Toronto Star, I found myself, almost as a reflex action, removing the Sports section, scanning it fleetingly, before tossing it onto a small pile of Friday’s papers waiting for their final journey. It caused me to pause and ponder how my habits have changed. As a kid I was raised in a newspaper house; three morning and two evening. Safe to say, I was weaned on newspapers, at first attracted to the numerous photographs, which I cut out and stored in a piano stool vowing, when I grew up, to become a newspaper photographer. New habits die hard, carried with me across the ocean where, in Toronto, variously, The Toronto Telegram, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and, briefly, the National Post, became required reading. And, of course, their various Sports Sections.
For, as much as I watched Frank Mahovlich skate effortlessly and gracefully down the left-wing before unleashing a goal-claiming slapshot or wrist shot, I automatically read all about it in the various sports sections the next day. As well, Joe Carter’s game-winning three-run homer to win the 1992 World Series for the Blue Jays; Northern Dancer winning the 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and, yes, the Toronto Maple 1960s Leafs Stanley Cup winning streak. Occasionally, I was able to get tickets for a Leafs game, even for the Habs in Montreal. Now, in retirement, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and, on Sundays, the New York Times wait anxiously, before sun-up, on the front door mat.
I’m not sure when my interest in the sports pages began to wane. I think I became aware of it, oh, maybe three or so years ago, maybe longer. What caught my attention was realizing that on Saturdays I was also tossing the Toronto Star automobile section onto the recycling pile. Yes, like most males, I was an automobile fan from when I was a kid, first looking in wonderment at the American automobiles brought into England by GIs and then, staring in astonishment at their size and design when I stepped off the ship in Quebec City in 1955. It was definitely a male thing. In the 1950s, the big event was the Fall launch of the new automobile models, the car companies very secretive about the new designs. Now, it’s ho-hum time, all the new cars, to my eyes, seemingly looking much like each other.
But – I was still reading the automobile and sports sections faithfully. Until I began to pay attention to the money paid to baseball and hockey players, while on the front page of the papers the lead story was of tragedy, or poverty, of reckless waste of some kind. Oh, I know the arguments; when their short careers are over, what skills do they have for employment? ‘They’re paid all that just to chase a puck around the ice (hit a baseball, kick a soccer ball)’ I would think a long term contract of $200/300 million would carry most through life. And, of course, the old argument that if the owners are making that much money off the players’ skills … Suddenly, the various sports seem to have become a variation of Show Biz! But, I do well remember the times the Leafs won their Stanley Cups, and the players on those teams; The Big M, Tim Horton, Carl Brewer, Johnnie Bower. But now? It’s all ho-hum, with so many teams. Too bad we still don’t have the Original Six. Or was it five? Oh, this age thing.
But newspapers are in my DNA. Oh, and yes … I did become a newspaper photographer. Dreams can come true.