Friday, February 02, 2007

All I Want

[On a personal note...]

This blog is 3 months old today. Not a significant time-marker, really, although if this blog were an infant born in certain villages in Central Asia, people would be starting to think that it had a good chance of survival and might be worth naming. But whether or not it has anything to do with this particular occasion, the Theory has been on my mind a lot lately.

I do my best thinking while moving. Because of this, I walk everywhere. Whatever the weather, at any time of the day or night, I walk, sometimes just in big circles around the neighborhood. I used to live in a place where it was necessary to walk everywhere- there were simply no other feasible transportation options- and I think that it changed me, because now, even though there are buses and trains and taxis, I’d always rather walk. So I’m walking home, and I’m thinking.

Lately the issue that’s been troubling me is how to think about this writing this blog. I actually didn’t start this as an end in itself. I had writer’s block, I needed to do something to get myself past it, and coincidentally I had just fallen in love with hockey, so I decided to write about hockey. But it sort of started to take over- I’d be sitting in a café trying to plow through Esfahan Nesf-e-Jahan and find my margins filled with scribbled speculations on the aesthetics of penalty-killing and the spiritual appeal of enforcers. At first I was embarrassed. This is not worth my time, is it? This is not my real life, is it? This is not paid, this is not meaningful, this is not a contribution to society. It’s blogging, for Christ’s sake. But, for some mysterious reason, it turns out I enjoy writing about hockey, and thinking about it, and talking about it, and this little side project has become unexpectedly fulfilling.

And, more unexpectedly, semi-successful. Yes, this is still the fringes of hockey blogistan. Maybe not Siberia, but not far off- the Mongolian steppe or the Gobi desert. But in the past couple of weeks it’s grown a bit. Some people link to me, which is flattering, and I’ve gotten some really generous recognition from a few other writers, which is even more so. I’ve got some regular readers, which is something I never really thought I’d have.

Along with this, though, has come the realization that I am not entirely a small island unto myself. There’s an Audience out there, an Audience with particular expectations. I wonder what those expectations are. I find myself looking at other people’s writing and wondering if I am expected to write more like that.

Sometimes someone says something about you that, while intended to be kind, sets off a highly unpleasant bout of introspection. I accidentally did this to Tapeleg when I referred to him in a comment as a ‘patron saint of aspiring hockey bloggers’, and in karmic retribution Tom Benjamin did it to me by commenting that I was ‘unsullied by any understanding of the business or politics of the sport’. I know it was meant nicely, but it made me wonder if I am really so naïve, and why that is. The more hockey blogs, or hockey writing generally, that I read, the more I realize that I do not talk about the same things as most people who write about hockey. One by one various ‘hot’ issues have passed like waves through the internet, and I have more or less ignored them all- the Vote for Rory Campaign, the schedule, the All-Star Game, the trade deadline. And I wonder, why don’t I talk about these things? It’s not as though I have no opinions about them, they are interesting and worthy topics, and I’ve often enjoyed reading others’ thoughts on them. I just can’t seem to get motivated to jump into these discussions. The more I read about hockey, the more I realize how abnormal that is. These are the sort of things that are, apparently, supposed to ignite the passions of hockey fans. While it’s easy to say ‘write for yourself, write what you want’, it can be difficult to do that over time- there’s a need to fit in that comes with the realization that one is not alone. So I’d been thinking a lot about adapting or modifying the overall thrust and tone of the blog.

The most important question is what one wants- not the writing itself, but the desire that drives it. And that’s what I’m thinking about, this particular day, walking home. What do people want, that makes them do this thing?

All over hockey blogistan, people are wanting things. Wanting to be GMs and coaches and journalists and commissioners and commentators. Wanting to make trades and negotiate salaries, to change line combinations and develop prospects. Wanting to break stories, find new information, get press access, interview players. Wanting to spread, analyze, and debate rumors. Wanting to create new rules and abrogate others, to market the sport, to improve attendance. Wanting to entertain, to joke, to make friends and influence people. Wanting to crunch numbers and find out, once and for all, who is really the best player. Wanting, like an NHL messiah, to Save Hockey. Even though it is only blogging, people seem to have a sense of mission- they want to persuade or advocate or illuminate or inform each other about various features of the sport. People have desires.

My problem, however, is that I don’t know what I want, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be what I should want. I do not want power over the team or the League. I am not adept at journalistic writing and honestly don’t know what I would do with that sort of access. And, really, I suck at making friends and influencing people. Even when I try, I can’t seem to talk about the schedule, or the trade deadline, or the NHL’s television contracts, or attendance data, or which players might be fun to hang out with. Hockey just doesn’t come to me in that way.

I must want something from hockey. This blog, and the fanaticism which attends it, are taking up too much of my time and my thoughts not to be motivated by some sort of desire. So why is it that I think I can see other peoples’ wanting so clearly, but not my own?

It’s a bright, frigid day, the air smells clean the way only really, really cold air can. My walk takes me through the park, and I pause for a moment, like I always do, at the top of the rise to look down at the outdoor rink, and the 9 very determined people swirling around on it.

I say it out loud before I think about it. It’s so obvious it doesn’t even require thought, it’s been sitting right on my front page all week. Ask the internet a question, even unconsciously, and eventually it will give you an answer. Everybody wants to…

My brain laughs at me. No, it says, you are perhaps a scholar, perhaps a writer. You are for archives and lecture halls. You are for impenetrable articles in obscure journals and photographs of ruined buildings in distant cities. You are for translating crumbling manuscripts in dust-choked libraries, hands streaked with red rot. It is a good enough life. It has been good enough for you.

I say it again.

No, says my Very Rational Brain, that’s crazy. You are too small, too clumsy, too fragile. You are too old, too female, too American. You would suck. You would break yourself. You wouldn’t even know where to begin.

I say it again, my breath making tiny clouds in the air.

I want to play.



Sherry said...

You offer very eloquent thoughts E, keep up the good work.

I don't care to be a commissioner, or an insider or a broadcaster although I joke about it. I want to be around the industry, I want to a part of it and in it because I have a love and passion for it. I simply want to be surrounded by it.

It's hard to quantify but since we're incapable of being players the blog is how we somehow insinuate ourselves into that world.

Julian said...

E, the reason you have an audience is because you provide something unique in your writing. There are plenty of blogs that talk about the All Star Game, Rory, the schedule, etc etc. If people want to read about that, they can go elsewhere, there's really only so many views you can take in before it gets pointless. I mean, not that you couldn't write about that stuff, but I'd hope you'd see it through your own lense.

As for skating and playing... if you think there are spiritual aspects to hockey right now, wait till you actually play. Skating is spiritual.

I miss playing hockey more than anything that isn't a family or frind. And even then...

Desdemona said...

I find myself looking at other people’s writing and wondering if I am expected to write more like that.

I hope that you don't. There are several blogs that I have in my hockey favourites, some for humour, some for statistics, some for news as it happens... I could go on but you get the idea. Yours is now on that list because I enjoy reading about hockey from a point of view that I doubt that I ever would have thought of... or perhaps forgot.

The theory in progress is a list of things that I think I take for granted. When I talk/think about fighting in the game, the pain that players play through, the "unwritten, unspoken" code, others know what I mean, right? Well, of course not, and for you to explore those points from every angle is refreshing to me. A re-introduction to hockey. Stuff that I always knew I knew, but never really knew, ya know?

Oh, and as a fellow old (but only in the "I'm starting a new sport" sorta way) clumsy, small female, if you can find a way to play, then you absolutely must. Drink some milk for the fragility, buy some pads and just go out and have some fun.

Jordi said...

Too female? Canada did win the gold in female ice hockey last year so it's definitely got a life of its own.

And as a person who lives far far away from the action, I envy a lot of people.

Simonus said...

hockey needs more poetry. Keep up the great work.

Julian said...

You know, as a female just starting out (thinking about it anyway) there are probably alot more options open to you than for guys just starting out. There are alot of "women only" hockey introduction classes either in the community or through universities. I mean, I don't know what it's like in Montreal or at your university, but in my area there were certainly lots of options for women who wanted to get into the game.

Mogen_david said...

Your blog is great. If your blog was like the ones you mentioned I wouldn't read it. Your writing is often better. Your skill is capturing the joy of watching hockey and being a fan. Everyone else is trying to contribute by being an expert or reporting on their team. I have a limited number of Blogs I read. Some analyze the game through numbers, others as scouts, some critique the coaches well, and some provide insight into the business and politics of hockey.

Only you provide a well written analysis of what it means to be a fan of hockey not just about your team but about being a fan of hockey. There are other fan bloggers but they write long winded cheers. You write about being a fan

Matthew Macaskill said...

I want to play, too.

I also want my name to be remembered for as long as mankind continues, to be mentioned when the world finishes it's final day-to-night cycle. But that's a whole other conversation all together.

Just though I'd share. :D

Tapeleg said...

Listen very closely...

You are over-thinking this one.

There are times when you will feel like you have to adapt to something else. Where you feel you have to write for your audience, and you have to fulfill the needs of that audience. The hard part is realizing that you already do.

Your audience is behind you because you offer a different perspective on something very hard to understand, even though so many people love it. They are behind you because you write with passion and intelligence. Changing to satisfy an audience would take away from your writing.

If you aren't the typical hockey fan, or the typical hockey blogger, good for you. Why do it if you are? I walk to work every morning thinking about what I want to write on my blog, sometimes what I else I want to do with JAHL. It's only the rest of life that gets in the way. So, nevermind the rest of it, just keep on keeping on.

Now, go get a pair of skates, and remember to bend those knees.

Mathieu said...

If I could write a blog, this is the blog I'd write. And since I have a dissertation to write, I'm glad you're doing it instead. Far, far better than I could. Or anyone I know. Or anyone else I read, for that matter.

The fact that you're new to hockey is actually an advantage-- you're seeing it from the outside, and noticing things that those of us who grew up around the game take for granted. And some of what you're written has made me look at hockey-- a game I've loved since I learnt to speak-- in a whole new way.

So don't start caring about Rorygate, or the scedule, or contracts. Just keep being a fan. And do try to learn to play-- I just started again after 7 years away from it, and I haven't felt this happy in, well, 7 years. It is indeed religious.

Keep up the great blogging

ninja said...

Don't change a damn thing. Go with it. Have fun. Don't worry about us. We'll come back if we want, we won't if we don't. That shouldn't matter either way when it comes to what you post. And you not worrying about this before now is a big factor in why we all keep coming back.