He sits alone, quiet and absorbed, transitioning back and forth from cell phone to sampler platter with seasoned-like efficiency.
His thinning hair sprinkled with silver, combed back and neatly behind the ears.
A monocle rests over his left eye.
Yep, a monocle.
With a hoist of his rocks glass he welcomes my wife and I as we belly up to the bar.
What can I getcha? asks the bartender, her foreign accent adding a slight element of mystic to an otherwise girlish charm.
Two Miller Lites please.
Oh, and if it’s not asking too much could you please turn on the St. Louis San Jose game?
I’m sorry, she replies.
The Stanley Cup playoffs.
As we pore over the menu our friend from across the bar kindly informs us that the bone-in rib eye here is to die for, I politely offer my thanks then return my attention to the bill of fare.
Seconds later he quips, so, you’re a hockey fan.
Don’t look at me, my wife mutters under her breath, 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 painfully 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.
It took a few stabs but Mister Peanut has finally managed to get my undivided attention.
Seriously, do you really feel that all athletes today do what they do solely for the money? I ask. Are you implying that every kid who lies awake in bed at night dreaming of someday hoisting the Stanley Cup or hitting one over the outfield wall in a World Series game 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 the bartender, no doubt sensing my bitter disapproval.
Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have been so hard on the guy, but it’s only because this isn’t the first time I’ve had to grapple with this kind of bird brained ignorance. I’ve heard this gibberish countless times before and quite frankly it brings my blood to a boil.
Sure I get it, the big bucks, the celebrity status, it can make one a tad cynical, but to assume that all professional athletes do what they do solely for financial reward is utterly absurd.
Why do I say this?
Because over the years I’ve witnessed (and experienced) it time and time again, The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the human drama of athletic competition, as articulated by the late great Mr. Jim Mckay during the opening moments of ABC’s classic telecast Wide World of Sports.
Yeah that was back in the ‘70’s, but the statement still stands true today.
Again don’t get me wrong, there’s a boatload of money to be made in professional sports these days, but not everyone’s in it for the money
…they’re not I tell ya.
It ain’t about the money you make when the record gets sold, it’s about doin’ it for nothin’ ’cause it lives in your soul…Eric Church
Back in June of ’85 British rockers Dire Straits released their fifth studio album entitled Brothers in Arms, the biggest selling album of 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 chap 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.
Moments later he laments,
I shoulda learned to play the guitar I shoulda learned to play them drums
…and that’s exactly what Mark Knopfler and company had been doing for years up to that point; developing their skills, honing their craft ꟷ learning how to play their respective instruments.
Long before the chart-topping singles and sold-out shows, prior to getting paid the big bucks, these guys were out paying their dues in pint-sized pubs and dingy dive bars, and they did so both doggedly and wholeheartedly.
Suffice to say they’ve sacrificed more than most of us would ever dream of, much less commit to.
Because be it yesterday, today, or tomorrow, that’s what you effing do when you love what you do.
That’s what you do when you want to be the best you can be, and if by virtue of your unwavering dedication to your chosen endeavor you become good enough to make a damn good living then more power to you.
Does the money seem a bit exorbitant at times? Sure it does, nonetheless you can’t fault the individuals/players for that, let alone say it’s the sole reason they do what they do.
At the final buzzer it’s the Blues over the Sharks and with the hard fought win St. Louis secures their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On one end of the ice is joy and jubilation, a frenziedly flurry of high-fives and hell-yeahs, on the other, a somber scene of frustration and heartbreak.
And they say real men don’t cry. Right.
Then comes what I personally view as one the greatest traditions in all of professional sports: the post-game hand shake.
When I sneak a peek at our good friend Mr. Peanut I can’t help notice that he’s re-positioned his portly frame toward the flat screen.
His gaze is solid and steady; his preoccupation with what he’s watching is undeniable.
So, I cheer, You a hockey fan?
He chuckles, and with that it’s, Well hun whadaya say we get on outta here?
After all, tomorrow’s a work day.
Damn, I wistfully think to myself, I shoulda learned to play them drums.
See ya soon, till then, keeep it up.