Scattered Thoughts from a Scattered Mind
By Mike Toth
As a weekly blogger for Sportsnet.ca back in the day, I'd sometimes suffer from a massive case of writer's block.
So what do you do when you've got a deadline to fill and an empty noggin when it comes to fresh ideas?
That's how "Scattered Thoughts from a Scattered Mind" was born - a "little bit of this" and "little bit of that" three-part blog that, when lumped together, fulfilled my deadline responsibilities and (hopefully) provided sports fans with an interesting read.
With my Sportsnet days long behind me, I've been having lots of fun working with my teenage son Max, as we team up to produce blogs and podcasts for "Toth Sports Inc". But with the "Dog Days of August" upon us, the slowest month on the sports calendar, that old "writer's block" malady has paid me a return visit.
So with that in mind, why not bring back the Scattered Mind" shtick to try and bail me out?
Back at the Ballpark
With the Blue Jays finally nesting in Toronto again, Kathy and I took our two lads on a recent return trip to the Rogers Centre. Call it a case of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", as people get used to being around people again after suffering in solitary confinement because of the lousy pandemic.
That's easy. Seeing the excitement on the faces of our two guys as they finally got to see Vladdy, Bo and company live and in living color; although watching the Jays torch the Red Sox for nine runs in a single inning wasn't too bad either.
Remember my comment about people getting used to being around people again?
Fellow fans rubbing up against you as they continuously exit the row in search of their third hotdog and fourth beer; the folks behind you who have absolutely no interest in the game and cram your ears with endless chatter about their moronic boss at work; the guy in front of you who was likely cut from Little League but has no qualms about hurling insults at the Major Leaguers down below.
At one point, the guy behind me actually got into a tug of war over a foul ball with a 12-year old kid. Finally, after some "encouragement" from the crowd, the goofball loosened his grip on the baseball and let the kid take home the souvenir.
"What?," the guy yelled at the people booing him. "Just because he's a kid, I'm supposed to give him the ball?"
Uh, that would be a "yes", my oafish friend.
It was still lots of fun to be back in the ballpark.
But with people's social graces a little dulled after being cooped up by COVID, at times it seemed like we were part of the bar scene from the first "Star Wars" flick.
Journeys with Jamie
If I was going to run into my old broadcast buddy Jamie Campbell, you'd think it would be at a Blue Jays game. Jamie, after all, is the talented host of the Jays telecasts on Rogers Sportsnet. But instead, I recently reunited with Jamie, not at a baseball game, but at a ball hockey tilt. Our sons, you see, play in the Withrow Park Ball Hockey League in Toronto, a great organization that's been up and running for over forty years.
While we watched our lads chase the orange ball around the outdoor rink on a gorgeous summer evening, Jamie reminded me of an old ice hockey story. Back in the early 2000's, Jamie and I broadcast a CHL All-Star game together - although we couldn't remember the city where the game was held. At any rate, Darryl Bootland, who had a cup of coffee with the Detroit Red Wings, was representing the Toronto St. Mike's Majors at the All-Star tilt. Unfortunately, Bootland was injured and couldn't play. But, because he was a colorful character, Jamie thought it would be fun to chat with him up in the stands.
"Where are you going to be sitting?," Jamie asked Bootland before the game.
"Wherever the good looking girls are," Darryl replied with a cheeky smile.
Later that night, as scripted, I tossed it down to Jamie from the play-by-play booth.
"Well, Mike," Jamie reported. "Before the game, Darryl Bootland told me he'd be sitting where all the pretty girls are …...and here he is!"
Sure enough, there was Bootland surrounded by a number of attractive young ladies.
Only one problem.
"You guys got me in big trouble," Bootland told Jamie and I after the game. "My girlfriend was watching the broadcast and she's been calling all night and ripping into me!"
Jamie and I used to take in games together at the tiny old St. Mike's barn in Toronto. And after that All-Star incident, whenever Bootland spotted us he'd look up from the ice and shake his head with a huge grin on his face.
If you follow Jamie on Twitter, you'll know that he's a huge sports memorabilia buff. I've been lucky enough to check out his collection - an impressive array of autographed hockey sticks, vintage jerseys, trading cards, etc.
I can't remember if Jamie has any Tony Esposito items but, like all of us who remember Tony "O", I know he was saddened by the recent death of the Hall-of-Fame goaltender.
I was a big Tony Esposito fan.
Earlier in this blog, I mentioned the wonderful world of ball hockey. Back in my day, however, we referred to it as "road hockey". Far from an organized league, our games featured piles of neighborhood kids chasing an old tennis ball underneath the streetlights.
And if you were really lucky?
One of the goalies would be wearing an official Tony Esposito street hockey mask, manufactured by the MYLEC corporation. I was one of those lucky goalies, and in the not-so-safety conscious 70's, I even wore that flimsy plastic Esposito mask during my regular ice hockey games.
After years of use and abuse, my treasured "Tony O" mask finally disintegrated. But the memories of a unique netminder, with his famous butterfly style and his incredible 15 rookie shutouts in 1969-70, will last forever.
So, there you go.
A modern version of my old "Scattered Mind" blog.
In the end, it helped me cure a case of writer's block.
And if it gave you a few laughs and a few things to think about, I guess we can call it a win-win situation.