:: Three Oh ::
Growing up a Vancouver Canucks fan, I cheered for no one player harder than I cheered for Trevor Linden. It's why it meant so much to me, as a fan, to have had the opportunity to be in the arena the day the team raised his #16 to the rafters. (Part II here)
And while I'm not alone in my Trevor Linden fandom – in Vancouver, in fact, saying Linden is your favourite player has become more or less cliche, met by onlookers with sort of a resigned sigh. Of course he's your favourite, they say. Of course he is.
But though the memory of my own childhood is far from crystal clear, I think I first began to cheer for Trevor Linden because one day I noticed that his birthday, April 11, was just one day after mine. I probably read it on the back of a hockey card.
And for an eight-year-old kid looking for a hero to cheer for, well, that was more than enough.
So for the next 20 years I cheered for Trevor Linden.
It's funny, too, the way those small, otherwise insignificant details – like a hockey player's birthday – stick with you through the years, because even today, my frame of reference for time – for age - is Trevor Linden. It's just always been this way for me.
I'm turning 15? Well, that means tomorrow Trevor's turning 26. My 22nd birthday? I'm sure at some point, it occurred to me that Trevor Linden was 33 the following morning. In fact, I know it did.
Sure, it's a little strange, but like I said, some times these things stay with you. (Just like, when I was a teenager, I'd see a street sign and compulsively count, in my head, how many colours were on that sign. Why did I do that? Once, when I was on an elementary school field trip, some kids on the bus made a game of it – who could get the colours right, the quickest. It stuck with me for years, and I couldn't shake it even though it drove me crazy.)
Funny thing about about age, about growing up, is that it gets everybody. Nobody's immune, and there's no stopping time, although people do their best – botox, plastic surgery, midlife crises – to slow it down.
"Nobody gets out alive," Jim Morrison once sang, and he's right. Time waits for no one, and is sometimes slows only slightly.
And the thing about growing up, is that the older you get, the more you are who you are. Esquire writer and blogger Chris Jones – one of the most talented writers on the planet (seriously, If you haven’t read The Things That Carried Him, you oughta do it quick. It didn’t win a National Magazine Award for nothing) – recently wrote about this exact thing. His point – and mine – is simply this: Doors close as you get older. Sure, great stuff happens too – lots of it. But when you are 13 years old, there’s so much open to you: You can dream and legitimately say, “I’m going to play pro hockey” or “I’m going to write a book” or “I’m going to be an astronaut” or that you’re going to move to Australia, or breed bulldogs, or whatever. Sure, you might not do any of those things. But the opportunity is still there.
But am I, at this stage in my life, ever going to play professional hockey? No. Could I move to Australia? Well, sure I could, but that astronaut thing is probably out of the question (And one bulldog is enough for me, thanks).
I never really bothered thinking of these things until recently, which I suppose isn’t that out of the ordinary. I mean, who really thinks about aging if you don’t have a birthday approaching, or perhaps one just disappearing in your rear-view? Really, though, it should have been clear to me for some time, considering my barometer for such things – Trevor Linden – has been too old to play professional hockey for three years.
We both started out so young, him 18, me 7. And as April 10th turned to the 11th, year in, year out, my hockey hero changed like I changed. I went from being a shy seven year old who ate only peanut-butter sandwiches, was afraid of girls and refused to wear anything but sweatpants, to a shy teenager who was slightly less passive, still afraid of girls, but was now OK with wearing jeans, to an adult who was less shy, still awkward and probably could’ve saved himself some mental anguish had he just stayed afraid of girls entirely.
Meanwhile, Trevor Linden went through his own changes, right in front of us all: from a baby-faced, relatively high-scoring hockey star, to the face of a franchise, to a pariah blamed for the team’s woes, to an Olympian, to an Islander, and back, eventually to a city icon. He probably wasn’t afraid of girls, either.
Then suddenly, the hero got old. Suddenly, he was a fourth-line part-timer with graying temples and a face that suggested he’d seen a few things.
Then he was gone.
Well, not gone gone, of course. He's still very much alive, and still very much in the public eye, with his new fitness business, his real estate projects and his many public appearances. But while he'll always be an icon in this city, he was no longer the larger-than-life superstar he had previously been. That part of him was lost, his skills having left him just like they leave every athlete as they age, no matter how they try to stop it, or for how long they deny that it's happening.
But watching him retire was definitely strange for me. There I was, a 27-year-old who had always charted birthdays by a hockey player I’d never personally known, who was born 10 years and 364 days before I was. Suddenly, this image of my childhood was 38 years old and retiring.
That was three years ago.
Today, I turn 30 years old. Trevor Linden turns 41 tomorrow.
And while I'm not afraid of turning 30 – If I really am what I am at this point, I’m more than OK with that - I guess it just makes me a little sad to think that if Trevor Linden is getting old, then I must be getting old, too.
Friday, April 08, 2011
:: On our way ::
Tonight after work, we're heading to Bellingham for the night, and tomorrow morning, we head to Las Vegas. On Sunday, while likely nursing a hangover, I will turn 30 years old.
Should be awesome. And a friendly reminder to any of my friends who are coming with us – counting cards is not illegal. It's only frowned upon. Like masturbating on an airplane.
See you guys next week.