“If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same”
– if, by Rudyard Kipling.
That quote is above the final doorway as tennis players make their way onto centre court at the All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, better known as Wimbledon.
I’ve always loved it as a quote, since I discovered in it my misspent youth as a tennis writer. It is so fucking true. Let me be the one to tell you, humble readers, that, in life, you’re going to win big, and you’re going to lose horribly. Triumph. Disaster. They’re waiting for us all but I’m with Kipling: see them both for what they are: temporary. For better or worse.
A heavy start to a blog? Nah. All is good. Happily, we’re only talking hockey – even if the first thing I saw as I arrived at the Icehouse last night was a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance. Turns out it was a general skating disaster, so nobody I knew, but it had me wondering; especially because this was Week 10. Scrimmage week. Which meant everybody would be going their hardest.
Every other term this year, in this week, I’d been nervous, excited, fearful I was going to be found out for my lack of skills (justified), worried for my shoulder (End of Intro, second time around – fully justified), hoping I might even briefly feel like I knew what I was doing (end of Intermediate – occasionally justified) … feeling all kinds of emotions.
Last night, not least because I’d stood out of formal classes for the term, I found myself sitting in a three-hour Board meeting for my kids’ film festival while my hockey rookie buddies met their moment of game-play reality on the ice.
By the time I got to the Icehouse, and dodged the ambos, most were through it and full of their various tales of triumph or disaster; everyone eating Aimee Hough’s magnificent puck-shaped chocolate cake and with many wearing the Icehouse Rookie jerseys organised by Chris and designed by my boy, Kittens, who hilariously had “K.Place” printed on the back of his. What started as a Facebook bet is turning into something bigger; I’ll have to remember to show him that old classic film, Cat People.
Anyway, I digress.
I heroically ate some cake, having not skated, felt my belt buckle strain, and wandered over to watch the Dev League end-of-term clash. Lots of my old classmates are now in Dev League so there were many big hellos, as Damon Runyon‘s Broadway narrator liked to say. After a huge day of what I understand to have been boat-based Christmas activities, possibly involving alcohol, a member of my original Intro crew, Ray, gave me a bone-crunching hug and thankfully announced he wasn’t going to skate, which definitely saved another ambulance call. Ray lurched to behind the goals where he grinned happily and supportively at the goalkeeper, whether a goal had gotten through, or a mighty save had been achieved. Ray was loving everything and everyone.
On the ice, Kittens and the rest were hard at it for an hour. I believe the score was 6-1 to the reds, over the blacks, but whatever. I sat in the stands with Renee, who’d skated the Intermediate game, and started to get excited for 2012.
I realised that in my self-imposed exile to learn to skate, I’d built up in my head how far ahead everybody else must be getting. Had this idea that those doing Intermediate second time around, as well as Dev League, must be sub-NHL standard by now, – all budding Pavel Datsyuks – while I’m still wobbling around, battling to hockey stop.
Without taking anything away from those on the ice last night in the Dev League game, it was a relief to see falls, to see skates slip, to see passes miss or occasionally shoddy stick-work. Skaters wobbled.
Not that I wished anybody a lack of success; just that I was able to breathe out and think, ok, I’m not on another hockey planet from these guys after all.
Of course, some were flying. But that’s always been the case in every class.
And I definitely noticed that most could chase a puck, hockey stop hard when they got to it, and be ready to use it. I’m not sure where I’d be at with that.
But it was what I needed to see. I know I’m not a natural skater, not a genius, however I don’t feel like a total rookie any more. I’m definitely signing back up for Intermediate next term. I need to get back into class, skating skill or not.
And you know what? Fuck it. I think I’m up for Dev League too.
It will be a triumph or a disaster but I’m fine with that.
Or die trying, right?
Keep that ambo in the precinct. Classes start February.