I Just Want to … Watch a Hockey Game!!!

With no cable TV and being a playoffs-only fan and my hockey team – the Vancouver Canucks – in the 2009-10 season playoffs, I’ve had to find ways to watch. There’s a pub nearby with several flatscreen TV’s each on a different channel. I knew that because I’d gone there to hear one of the musicians who helps lead worship at our church do a “gig” there.
So two Saturday’s ago I head off to the pub to watch the game. I arrive at about 6pm, and I’m the only customer. I order my beer and settle in. The waitress stops to chat and warns me I will need to “clear out” as soon as the game is over. It’s “ladies night” and there are male dancers coming in, and it would be “dangerous” for me to stay because, she said, the behaviour of the women is “embarassing to womenkind.” She then proceeded to tell me how she believes men are more respectful of female dancers… and although I found that an interesting social commentary, I was thinking “Too much information! I just want to watch a hockey game!” So, when the game was over, and women were beginning to arrive, myself and the other male customer who had come in left pronto.
The next Friday evening there was another game. Despite the odd experience the last time, I went to watch a game again. It was a game in which the team could be eliminated if they lost. Foolish me. There was one other customer when I arrived. He was watching the wrong game,  but it was almost over, but then it got tied and went to overtime. I was afraid I’d miss my game. But the waitress switched the main TV’s to the game of local interest. She informed us that we might not get to hear the whole game, as the live band was arriving at 7:30. Eventually there were 6 of us watching the game, sitting in a loose cluster. One guy, a bit of an interesting gregarious chatterbox went around and introduced himself to everyone and learned our names. He bought me a beer, and it was clear he was trying to buy conversation as well, because I saw him do the same with two others later. It would have been OK, but he was not there for the game on the screen, so some of his conversation was “untimely.” Fortunately he spent a lot of time flitting about the room, and going out to “smoke” so I got breaks where I could enjoy the game. But he kept coming back to me. In one of the conversations he asked if I was local, told me his story (he was a geologist who’s girlfriend was out of town so he thought he’d find some company), and then asked what I did – if I didn’t mind saying.
And so I learned the effect of revealing you are a camp caretaker/chaplain in a bar when you just want to watch a game. I thought I had de-emphasized the chaplain part “well, I’m the caretaker at a camp near here and in the summer I’m the chaplain.”
First I got the “I have my beliefs” and “everyone is entitled to their beliefs” response. Then, “in everything I do I leave open the possibility there is a God” then, “I’ve read enough books on orthodox Hinduism to cover the pool table” and “I was with the Krishnas in California for many years. I’m still vegetarian.” Since I was kinda curious, and if there had not been a game on would have engaged him more, I remained polite, but with my body language made clear I was very interested in the game on the screen. Under my breath I’m saying to God “I’m off duty! I just want to watch the game!”

By now the Canucks were losing and something in me believed it was because I was not paying close enough attention. But this fellow was becoming sort of intriguing to me.
The live band – near 60 year olds with great instrumental skills, began playing with the hope they could become their idols by reincarnating them. The game TV was muted, but left on our channel.
My new buddy had told the band he knew how to play harmonica and had it with him, so for the third song he was invited to join them. It was great Blues number by I think TJ Hooker. They all did well. He was pretty amazing at harmonica, though by now I was pretty sure he was also some combination of high and not sober.
He sits back down during the applause. I compliment his talent and politely thank him for entertaining us.
Suddenly — as cheers come from the assembled because the Canucks look like they are about to score in the last bit of the game to turn it around — he moves his chair closer and conspiratorially leans over to me and over the rock sound of “Taking care of Business” by the “Guess Who wannabes” says something like “you are the most spiritually powerful person in this room, you should use that power. You are subtle and strong and you should bring out that strength”

I was astonished. Not knowing what spirit was speaking through him and wanting to dismiss it, I still responded seriously. “Too many of my tribe have come into places like this being too loud and powerful in a way that caused hearers to miss the message completely, so I prefer subtle.”

It seemed his turn to be taken aback, and he leaned back to ponder it for a moment before coming again with “you have something powerful in you that you need to share.”

By now the game was over, the Canucks having been on the losing end the last two periods. My buddy bought someone else a beer and purchased a conversation. I stayed for a few more songs, drained my dregs, and left, saying to God, “I just wanted to take a break and go watch a game! Why did you come along?”

Craig Van Gelder, my Domestic missiology prof at CTS, hearing this, would be saying. “Start a bible study in that pub.” I know that because he said something similar when I told him about an experience I had with 8 vagrant men on the porch of a boarded up house while in Grand Rapids. Maybe God is saying it too. I’m now thinking of inviting the men’s bible study group to come and watch a game there. We’ll call it the second service (t.i.c).


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