The Beautiful Game


Look down.

You see a growing division in the hockey world today. The gap is widening, and the people clustered along the edge of each side are shouting themselves hoarse. Blood and spittle mix in an ever-increasingly irreconcilable struggle.

Pan out and you realize you’re looking at an arena, the chasm between the two armies a sheet of glossy ice upon which a game is being played. That game is the center (centre?) of it all, though you wouldn’t believe a game could cause such conflict.

After all, you reason, at what point does it stop being a game?

And does it become something more or something less?

Into the eye of the beholder, then.

For some, the game is a puzzle to understand, a network of layer upon layer of complexity woven in, through, and over itself to produce a dizzying tangle of variables that scream for discovery and the triumph of solution. “Find me out!” they cry. “Shine that blazing star of understanding!” The landmines here are of reduction and rash over-simplification. The reward? Satisfying that perplexed desire that yearns both for all things to come clear and the secure stability of the known.

For others, however, the game is an ocean, brimming with waves of entertainment and relaxation, a break from the bewildering circumstances of life. It is a mystery of singular and ancient beauty, a primal spirit that resists sorting out while distracting with dark notes that come thrilling up from the depths of the unknown. These will not shine a light, no! They have come to this place seeking shade from the sun of their everyday lives – to steep in the true beauty of the game, to relish its thrills and turns. “Go away, Sherlock, Fenwick, Corsi,” they mutter, “no one likes you. Just watch the game.”

You pause and again consider the armies as they press themselves against the glass, the game playing itself out unnoticed before them.

But wait!

Not entirely unnoticed.

A horn blares! The home team has scored!

And what magic is this? For one blissful, peaceful moment the chasm disappears, the conflict is forgotten, and the armies dissolve into each other, dancing to a chorus of whoops and cheers. You rub at your eyes, uncertain of what you are seeing.

For only a moment, though.

The puck is dropped at center (centre?) ice and everyone races back to their places, lifting bayonets and muskets once more, sinking again into the comfortable ruts of their long-held positions. You realize then that for each of them, on both sides of the aisle, this strife is about more than hockey, their screeching a protest of monolithic worldviews struggling for legitimacy, for dominance.

You look around at the others on the catwalk. A handful of people stand and watch the game intently, leaning against the bannister. Their silence is an oasis.

“Remind me – what do we call this?” you ask.

And they nod and smile, because they know.


The beautiful game, of course.


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