Armchair sports in Kawartha Lakes

By Roderick Benns

Columnist Jamie Morris staying safe while reading a sports classic.

With round-the -clock coverage of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and a recent visit from the Stanley Cup (courtesy of the Kawartha Museum and Art Gallery) sports are on our minds.

So, what do our libraries have to offer for the aspiring or armchair athlete?

Lots, it turns out. What follows is a small sampling– a memoir, a Canadian kids’ magazine issue, a kids’ book for nostalgic seniors,  a jaw-dropping  documentary, and an unclassifiable personal favourite.

Leading off is a memoir by the Canadian flag bearer at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the only Canadian ever to earn medals in both Winter and Summer Olympics: Open Heart, Open Mind, by Clara Hughes. There are fascinating insights into what it’s like to train and compete at the highest level.

What will stick with you, though, might be her courage in battling challenges away from the rink and road–in particular depression– and the way she is leveraging her athletic success to help others. In the last part of the book we hear about her contributions to the “Right to Play, Right to Live” program and her efforts to battle the stigma of mental illness as national spokesman for Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk campaign. Altogether a moving and inspirational story.

Next up is the sports-themed December  issue of Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids. Kayak is just one of many online magazines available, all of which can be downloaded from the library website’s  online resources page.

As  Lindsay native editor Nancy Payne explains in her intro, “the issue is all about Canada’s favourite sports and the people who play them” and the hope is it will inspire youngsters to get active. The short pieces on the origins of some Canadian sports and great moments in Canadian sports history, profiles of all-time greats, trivia, a comic and puzzles make this a  lively and engaging compendium.

Not to be missed is Roch Carrier’s classic The Hockey Sweater, available as book or ebook.  It’s a tale of childhood, maybe best appreciated by those who grew up in the 1940s or 1950s, but well worth sharing with hockey-mad grandchildren.

The author writes of growing up in a small Quebec village worshipping the Habs  and their number 9, Rocket Richard:  “We all wore the same uniform as Maurice Richard, the red, white and blue of the Montreal Canadiens, the best hockey team in the world. We all combed our hair like Maurice Richard, and to keep it in place we used a kind of glue–a great deal of glue. We laced our skates like Maurice Richard, we taped our sticks like Maurice Richard. We cut his pictures out of all the newspapers . . . On the ice, when the referee blew his whistle . .. we were five Maurice Richards against five other Maurice Richards, throwing ourselves on the puck.”

When the author outgrows his Montreal jersey, his mother orders another jersey from “Monsieur Eaton.” What arrives is not a Canadiens jersey.  And what ensues is tragedy (for the boy) and comedy (for the reader).

If you want to see what Olympic skiers and snowboarders do in their, uh, down time check out one of the films by Warren Miller, the pioneering action filmmaker who died just last month.  Children of Winter (2008) is just one of the documentaries that can be downloaded free through the library’s Hoopla service (accessible from the library website). Shot in locations ranging from Utah and B.C. to Iceland and Japan, it can be enjoyed for the scenery alone. But it’s the  joy the athletes take in careening down almost vertical pitches and plowing through deep powder that makes the film.

Best of Plimpton is a personal favourite.  George Plimpton was a Yankee blueblood and  brilliant writer, but only very average weekend athlete. Commissioned by Sports Illustrated he embarked on a series of what he termed “participations,” some of which became full-length books.

What we armchair athletes fantasize about doing, Plimpton actual did. For minutes that must have seemed like hours, Plimpton–who could barely skate– played  goal for the Don Cherry-coached Bruins.

He also  quarterbacked  the Detroit Lions for a few sequences and boxed three rounds with middleweight great Archie Moore. A short passage from the hockey piece, just before the puck is to be dropped, to give you the flavour: “The Bruins began skating by, cuffing at my pads with their sticks as they passed . . .a simple gesture of encouragement.  I wobbled slightly in the crease from the impact of the stronger blows from my Bruin teammates as they skated by.”

As with any theme, you’ll find your own favourites. Don’t forget  that there’s way more than meets the eye when you go to your library branch — anything from anywhere in our system can be brought to you and with a computer, tablet, or phone the digital borrowings are almost limitless.

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