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January 22, 2019
Corporate Sports Still Suck
Mr. Menser Dell, et al.,
I tend to get irritated by people's constant whining about how hockey has been ruined, how Bettman is a tool, etc. It's gone far beyond being redundant, just like people bitching about the gas prices. Even worse is listening to a bunch of whippersnappers longing for "good old days" that they can't even remember.
That being said, it's time I added my own voice to the chorus of whiners.
My grandparents were season ticketholders for the Hartford Whalers back in the early, early eighties, and used to bring me to games all the time when I was about five years old. I remember my grandfather booing the hell out of John Garrett every time he let a soft one in. I attended Junior Whalers conventions and had my picture taken with luminaries like Pierre LaRouche and Ray Neufeld. I was there on Gordie Howe night and remember seeing his number lifted up into the rafters.
Around that time, Gordie was attending Whalers games regularly. Between periods, my grandmother would bring me over to where Gordie was sitting (no private booth, just seated in the crowd), and I'd get to say hello to Gordie. We went to his public appearances. We even ate at his restaurant. The man probably got sick of seeing me, but he was always gracious and kind.
Fast forward to last week. I stumble upon an ad in the paper - Gordie Howe is doing an in-store appearance at some store at the Westfarms Mall that upcoming Saturday. It's an hour away, but if I leave early enough, I should be able to get there and back with plenty of time to get to work later that day.
I was jazzed, to say the least. I'm notoriously sentimental about things from my childhood, and my fond memories of Mr. Hockey's kindness still inspired warm, fuzzy feelings. So that Saturday, my best friend and I set out on our quest to meet him.
We got there, and located the sports memorabilia shop that the appearance would be taking place at. We take our place at the back of a fairly short, albeit slow-moving line. Peering through the window, we spot him, and I'm grinning like a goofy little kid again. It's Gordie!
Ten or fifteen minutes later, we're still waiting in line, which hasn't moved all that much. "Right on," I think to myself, "That means that they're not rushing people out, and that Gordie's taking the time to interact with everyone." My anticipation grows, and I wonder if I'll have time to thank Gordie for his kindness back in the day and explain what he'd done for me.
I'm snapped out of my reverie when my buddy gets a gander at the sign near the entrance to the store, and breaks me the bad news - the starting price is $100, just for an 8x10. If you want him to sign your jersey (sold seperately!) it's $250.
I'm not into this as a hobbyist, nor am I looking to make an investment. I have little doubt that, due to his impact on the sport, and his very status as the personification of the sport of hockey, that his signature would be worth more than I was willing to pay. However, I wasn't interested in acquiring a pricey status-symbol, and I have zero interest as to what Mr. Howe's signature would fetch on eBay. As corny as it sounds, I was just hoping to re-live a little of the magic of my childhood, and I frankly had no business paying that kind of dough for a non-essential.
I figured I'd at least console myself by purchasing some of the awesome Whalers items they had for sale at the shop, as such memorabilia isn't common in my neck of the woods. To add insult to injury, they wouldn't even sell me anything, unless I was willing to pay to have it signed.
At that point, I made a decision. I turned on my heels, and I walked away. Better to have only blown $30 bucks on gas and gotten out of the house than to have paid an extra $100 bucks that I couldn't afford, only to go home with the guilt of having spent too much, on top of the hollow feeling that ruined the whole experience for me to begin with. The memories of the time he took with me 26 years ago meant far more to me than a pricey souvenir, and I was forced to console myself with that.
I know that the spiritual rape of major league sports has been old news for some time, but I hadn't expected it to have even spread into the obscure Whalermania fringe. My whining about this is probably as redundant bitching about gas prices, but since I am not an avid collector of high-end memorabilia, it took something like this to open my eyes.
Hoo boy, did it ever. In the days of my childhood, the business end of things was limited to the arena and concession stands. Thanks to these bloodsuckers that promote these meet-and-greets, the warmth of the interaction between fan and athlete has been replaced by the cold indifference of a paid public appearance.
Guess it's time to get over it and find something else to be sentimental about.
Anyway, I figured you guys could at least appreciate this story, as I had no idea where else to vent about this experience. I thank you for taking the time to indulge me.