By Mike Toth
It has been quite a year.
Which is sort of like saying that Donald Trump is quite a character.
Yes, say hello to a massive understatement.
In 2020, COVID-19 has crushed a lot of people and a lot of spirits in a lot of different ways.
The cliched positive spin?
"Boy, it sure puts things into perspective."
But as David St. Hubbins says to Nigel Tufnel in the immortal motion picture "Spinal Tap".....
"Too much @#$& perspective!"
Speaking of perspective, (in a much less profane manner) my dad, who passed away a few years ago, was an old newspaper man who had a knack for writing inspirational end-of-the-year columns during the holiday season - kind of like the Queen's annual Christmas address. Only dad delivered his Yuletide message sitting at an old Underwood typewriter while sucking back a Macdonald's Menthol. Through the smoky haze, however, dad had a special way of summing up the days gone by and planting some hopeful seeds for the year to come.
A hundred crumpled sheets of paper hugging my ankles proves that I didn't inherit my dad's talent for composing thought-provoking Christmas columns.
The only real idea that comes to mind as I look back on our year spent joined at the hip with the Coronavirus?
No matter how much we all might be struggling, there's always someone out there who has it worse.
Lately, I've found myself reflecting on the age-old story of Anne Frank.
Talk about living under a lockdown.
Most people are familiar with Anne's story; a Jewish girl who huddled with her family in a secret hiding place to try and escape the clutches of the Nazis during World War ll. It goes without saying that Anne couldn't hop on her computer for a Zoom chat with her friends or place an order with Amazon to get her hands on the latest French fashions.
It's a bit of an exaggerated example, I know, but you get my point. Yes, the pandemic has been brutal, but there are worse things than being sequestered in your rec room binge watching "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix.
Of course, in the worst case scenario, people have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and there's not a person on the planet who hasn't been impacted in some way by the pandemic.
Like all sports parents, for instance, I miss watching my kids compete on the hockey rink and basketball court. It's tough standing by as they get bored, miss their buddies and deal with athletic skills that are rusting away. (On the other hand, their "Fortnite" skills are through the roof….. something that makes every parent proud.)
But as frustrating as it has been, there are also some plusses that have resulted from a sports-free lifestyle.
For one thing, it's amazing how much money you save and how much better you eat when you're not chowing down on pre-game meals from fast food windows. Sitting down at the dining room table for family meals has been a welcome change and it has been lots of fun to find out what makes young minds tick as you gab between bites.
I also don't miss driving through crazy Toronto traffic desperately trying to get my lads to the arena or gym on time. Too many miles and too much McDonald's later, it takes until the end of the first period before the stress wears off and you can enjoy the game. Perhaps in the great post-pandemic "re-set" that you hear some of the politicians yakking about, kids sports organizers can come up with a system correction.
Do 12-year old hockey players, for example, really need to play 70-80 games a year, and can we play a few more games closer to home?
It has always boggled my mind to see Toronto teams cross the border and head into the U.S. for tournaments. The GTHL is the biggest minor hockey organization in the world, filled with talented players and even some future NHL'ers. You don't need to drive all the way to Detroit or Pittsburgh to find somebody to beat you. Trust me, there are plenty of Toronto teams who will gladly kick your butt if you just give them a chance.
The message is, as tough as this year has been, maybe it has taught us a few lessons about slowing down and making more time for family.
Our old "Spinal Tap" pal David St. Hubbins was right.
"Too much @#$& perspective" can definitely drive you nuts.
But a little bit of perspective is never a bad thing.
Happy holidays and, if the sports gods allow, we'll be back with more blogs and podcasts in the new year.