Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 02/14/08 at 02:48 PM ET
Sometimes a simple email newsletter can trigger a thousand memories. The story of one particular newsletter triggered memory needs to be shared.
Professor David Potter is one of the best educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He teaches a total “jock” class, deals with the athletic department, and drives his students crazy—and they like it. Sports and Culture in Ancient Rome framed a lot of my opinions on the fact that sports are inherently both ridiculously trivial and extremely, extremely important as sporting affiliations are almost inherent to the way many people—including myself—define themselves…
But whether you’re a sports fan or not, we all find parts of popular culture that we use to help define ourselves. Books. TV shows, both fictional, “reality-based,” scientific, politically motivated, and a myriad of other categories. Music. Politics. Religion. Charitable causes. Food. Video games. Stuff that other people deem trivial which are as integral to someone else as breathing.
My only problem with the class? Aside from having to read letters that Roman officials sent to each other, which included three pages of “these are my official titles” before getting to the substance thereof, “Dude, you are so cool,” I had a TA for my discussion section who let the athletes off the hook, and picked on us “normal” people like we were of a lower social caste. We had guys from the hockey team in our class, and, in all honesty, that’s one of the major reasons that I’m not particularly interested in college hockey—aside from the fact that, compared to the NHL, it’s like watching midget hockey because the fit and finish is so rough as opposed to the seamless efficiency with which NHL players make passes, shoot, skate, and anticipate plays—is that the guys sitting in the back of the class acted like they owned the place, including Josh Langfeld, the biggest dork of them all…
Who ended up making the NHL and played for a season with the Red Wings, a team that is a big part of my self-definition.
By the time he became a Red Wing, the journeyman forward spent (and spends) the vast majority of his career in the AHL, and I rooted for him, because I realized that he was a 21-year-old kid, doing what 19-year-olds who enjoy the benefits of their social status do…Be full of themselves.
I was 19, too, and didn’t understand that both Josh and me had a lot to learn about what it means to be an athlete, and in my case, a sports fan. David Potter taught me how to make those kinds of distinctions, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
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