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Thread: Zen + Sports = ????

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Zen + Sports = ????

    I am a big Chicago Cubs fan. There is no better training in suffering than that :roll: . To be a Cubs fan is, truly, dukkha: expectations bumping into reality and being dissatisfied with the result. To that end, being a Cubs fan provides lots of opportunities for letting go of greed, anger and delusion. Some might say that to be an optimistic Cubs fan (deep down, we all are) is to be delusional in both a Buddhist and a psychological sense.

    All the above being said as intro, I often find my biggest challenge in living an equanimous zen life is when watching sports, all sports, but especially my beloved, but always failing, Cubs. I know others have their own sports examples. I guess my point, if I have one, is that I am trying to learn how to approach sports fan(aticism) from a zen perspective. When cheering, cheer? When booing, boo? What about right speech to that umpire than just missed a call that cost us a game? What about right thought to that million dollar player that just went 0 for the series?

    To me, this feels like zen's last frontier.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hey Alan,

    As a Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan my entire life I can definitely relate to this and was actually already thinking about the themes you wrote on the other night as the Sox went up 2-0 on the Angels.

    First of all, as Yogi famously said, "It ain't over 'til it's over" and the 2004 ALCS certainly proved that.

    Second and more importantly, after having now won two titles in 3 years and looking good this year I have found that many have become smug about the team. For me, it made me realize how much I used their lack of success in the postseason as a crutch for all that seemed to go badly in my life. There is a separation between that and when things truly went bad in my life...it was more the mundane things that never seemed to go my way. But, when they won it occured to me that while I still had a certain level of intensity it wasn't quite the same.

    Actually, the Patriots are a much better example. For my entire youth they were absolutely terrible. 1-15 nearly every season but still I cheered. And just a couple weeks ago as they were getting beat badly by the Dolphins the fans actually booed them! I was beside myself with how ungrateful they seemed and whether your team is good or just good at being bad, we can get lost in our fandom. The point? Each is suffering and when we choose to let go it begins to fall away.

    Now, that's easy for me to say perhaps since I'm not a Cubs fan, but the attachment to sports can be a very trying thing. I actually used to wince before every pitch in the postseason and now I just watch and see what happens. So, I'm fairly certain that actually winning taught me the lessons I mentioned above and as a result wouldn't dream of telling you how you should look at it. I just know I probably would have be a lot better off if I'd just let that tension go a long time in the past.

    Anyway, good luck and I still hope to see you guys in the World Series.

    Gassho,
    Scott

  3. #3
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Thanks Scott. I used to have great empathy for Red Sox fans, but now they inhabit a world I have little knowledge of and can only imagine; they have become foreigners.

    I don't want this to be about the Cubs. Rather, they are a perfect analogy/metaphor regarding attachment, and irrational attachment at that, to suffering, among other things. But it seems in the world of sports we often allow ourselves this irrationality. The gentlest among us go crazy at their son's soccer game. The meekest and quietest get drunk and belligerent at the football game. Soccer hooligans that are otherwise fine upstanding citizens. Etc. And we as a society tend to understand and somehow allow it at some level, even encourage it on many levels. I struggle with this. It is as if I put my Buddhism aside when the Cubs playoff game comes on, and then I pick it back up after the game. I am not some hooligan, but the precepts go out the window when my sports teams are on or I am there in person watching them. (Actually, my Buddhism helps, and I am much better than I used to be). Buddhism and sports fandom seem like two separate worlds in many ways, yet I know this can't be true. It's like to be a Buddhist sports fan is oxymoronic, or maybe it's just a koan.

    I am wondering how other Buddhist sports fans handle this, because at some level sports aren't as fun if I lose that passion, or learn how to just let go of that passion after the moment. It makes it almost impossible to talk to fellow sports fans that are not Buddhist, so I hold onto it for social reasons.

    It is all complicated and multi-layered, hence this thread.

  4. #4

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    This is a tough one. I used to be a big fan of the wallabies in my teens (australia's rugby union team). As a Wallabies fans it is routine, even an item of faith to some extent to hate the all blacks (the new zealand team). Now in terms of hate i mean a friendly rivalry but one where each country claims they are better than the other country, like Canada Vs USA in ice hockey.

    So I used to really passionate around game time, I could not stand losing to the All Blacks or England. After a few years of practice, I am still passionate but not to the degree i was before, because you realise it's just a game.

    I'm also a fan of Arsenal and to a lesser extent Nottingham Forest. Being an arsenal fan, it is very much a matter of faith to hate man utd and their fans (some of whom are good friends of mine).

    I think unless you are a football hooligan or one of those crazy parents at their childs weekend sports games, then it is not too bad. It is alarming to see your reactions come game time, but mine have mellowed somewhat, so I don't see any harm in it. I'm now more keen that my team plays well as opposed to being passionate of about how they fare.

  5. #5
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Yes, "hate" is a word we careless throw around in sports. It's rooted in our passions for our teams. To lose that seems Buddhist, somehow, but it is that passion that makes us enjoy sports in the first place. In terms of the Heart Sutra, sports are so meaningless (empty) yet we attach such great meaning and emotion (form) to them.

    The Cubs lost in the playoffs again, and I am sick and heartbroken. Yet I knew this was coming, saw it clearly, and I can't wait for next year in case maybe it will be better. Isn't there a definition of insanity in here somewhere :? .

  6. #6
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    My football (soccer, to those in the US) team is Norwich City, who managed to snatch another defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday. No "Canaries" fan ever needs to be reminded that life entails suffering.

    And yet, when we watch our team play, and become so absorbed in the moment that there's no separate us, just the crowd, the goal being scored and the elation in that moment, is that not a kind of samadhi too?

    When the opposition score the winning goal in the last minute because our goalkeeper and last defender collide for no reason that, of course, is not samadhi, that's just ****.

    Gassho

    Martin

  7. #7

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hockey is Holy
    is a folder on my computer for all things hockey I want to refer to quickly--Anaheim Ducks, and Calgary Flames for example.

    I came to the world of sports (which exclusively includes hockey, hockey and hockey), at age 47.
    Prior to that, sports==(all of them--including hockey) did not exist for me.
    I knew that other people liked them, but, for the life of me, couldn't see why.

    I'm sorry I am not able to post the response I would like to at this point, (I just got home and Ducks and Canucks are tied at 1 apiece and they are 4 minutes into the second period--it's 'only' an exhibition game, but it is still hockey...) so I will just say for now:

    Hello to all sports fans posting here.

  8. #8

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    I've been playing the goaltender position in ice hockey for about 11 years now (got a late start as an adult). I can honestly say it's one of the most "samsara is nirvana / nirvana is samsara" experiences I've had relating to sport.

    As Hall of Famer goalie Jacques Plante said:

    "How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18000 people boo?"
    To get enjoyment out of such a proposition you have to be the sort of sportsperson (or human) who enjoys the logic of the unwinnable game, the sort of temperment that enjoys the nuances of failure and can look at every moment of a game with the expectation of immanent threat. When I look down the ice at play in the opposite zone I often think of the idea that all the world is a burning house.

    Laugh if you will but there it is. I'd say golf is a close runner for sports pursuits that approach well with the Sukkha of Dukkha

    Nags

  9. #9

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hello Nags!

    A shirt I once saw: Front: "Behind every great goalie there is....."

    back: ...nothing."


    Proves it--hockey is as buddhist as a sport can get!


    (tied at 3, end of the 2nd period--trying to download a media player so I can listen to it live....not working...oh well...)

  10. #10
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Nags said:
    I've been playing the goaltender position in ice hockey for about 11 years now
    I think playing a sport is different that being a spectator. Having played a sport also, I think, makes you a different kind of spectator, even more involved and attached, or so has been my observation. Having not played much sports, I am not very familiar with the experience personally.

    Martin said:
    And yet, when we watch our team play, and become so absorbed in the moment that there's no separate us, just the crowd, the goal being scored and the elation in that moment, is that not a kind of samadhi too?

    When the opposition score the winning goal in the last minute because our goalkeeper and last defender collide for no reason that, of course, is not samadhi, that's just ****.
    I want to agree with you, Martin, but isn’t zen about being open to the good and the “****” as you so eloquently put it. And herein lies the problem: we attach to the samadhi (winning) and are averse to the **** (losing). I think it is entirely fitting to be a sports fan as a Buddhist, but to be a team fan seems problematic, because to be a fan of a team means to be attached to the good and averse to the bad. But to be just a sports fan is to just be open to the beauty of the game (process) regardless of any outcome. Yes, even the beauty of hockey (huh?).

    Does being a Buddhist (your team here) fan mean to accept the sadness and the anger when they lose? Seems like yes, but does that also mean to accept the losing? By definition, you can’t be a fan and accept losing, or at least not a good fan.

    Being a fan of a team is entirely empty, purely the product of environment and thoughts, upbringing, etc. OK, that’s easy enough to understand, but to just drop that fan-ness like any other thought is hard to do, and any “true” fan doesn’t want to. Why is it easier to drop the idea of a self than it is to drop the idea of a (your team here) self? That’s the question I am asking myself.

    One last thought: Sports seems the ultimate dualism; us against them, do or die, win or lose, etc. Zen is about getting past dualism. OH, I think maybe I just got it!

  11. #11

    Zen + Sports = ???

    Ah ha!

    I'm back with some random thoughts here: sports (well HOCKEY) and zen buddhism, two of my most favorite things in this life! The joy, the pleasure of them!

    I haven't been able to go ice skating for a couple of years now, but when I would go to a public skating session, sometimes I would see a game in progress. And I have gone to a rink specifically for the purpose of trying to catch some game, any game on the ice. When I come across a game in progress I usually root for the underdog (the team which appears to be losing)--because, it is not possible to watch for any period of time without taking sides. I actually have watched portions of games and had no side to take-- and it is a very different experience.
    The game (all games) can't be played unless there are two teams. There is no hockey if there is only one team--even when team's practice, they have to split up into two for a scrimmage after drills are done.
    The beauty of hockey (and there is so much really exquisitely beautiful about it--starting with the ice and then the blue and red lines and the red circles and the face off dots...., just the ice alone involves a wealth of expertise--how cold it is, what the mineral content is to regulate just how hard it is). I love winter and I love the cold, and I love wearing sweaters...but I live in Southern California, so hockey rinks (ice rinks) are a place where winter is 'kept as a pet' as it were.
    My most favorite hockey to watch is AAA minors 18 and under or 16 and under. Watching these young men--they still don't have their adult bodies yet--(this would be similar to watching young women gymnasts)--only for a brief period of time can the sport be played at this particular level: it is so fast, it flows like a force of nature: it is following a logic known as 'the game' and if you know the game you can follow the logic: you give yourself over to what you see in front of you, and what you anticipate will follow. What is taking place, where hockey is concerned, is at a speed where thought is too slow. Players cannot be thinking. I'm not saying there is no thought process involved, but it isn't thought as I know it: the beautifully executed moves take place because of practice practice practice, and there are many many parts of the game: there is the neutral ice breakout, there is the defensive zone, the offensive zone: where you are on the ice is a different game. If you are playing in the middle period (there are 3 20 minute periods of a hockey game) the goalies switch ends and now your bench is farthest from your goal. There are differences in the look and feel of the game as it is played different nights with the same teams or between different teams--sometimes the game is all about pick and shovel work--the puck is being held up and frozen along the boards by players and others have to come and dig the puck out and get it moving--the whole game feels like it's stuck along the boards. Other games are wide open skating, with amazing jaw dropping heart stopping drop passes and wrap around the net, badda bing, badda boom...
    One of the best ways to understand it is to slow it way down. In my case, that was learning to play it myself, which meant I had to learn to skate, and so I took hockey 1, hockey 2 and hockey 3 classes, another way is to watch really young children (pee wees) play a game. To see them struggle to try to get into the right position, and try to pass the puck up to someone closer to the blue line (to get a 'quick up' instead of bringing the puck up all the way by themself) is so wonderful--because it gives an opportunity to see hockey at the speed of thought--which is hockey in a slower motion.
    NHL level is something else entirely.
    I for one wish there were more amateurs engaged in sports. We all could use some time in play. Maybe if more of us wanted to play together we'd invent some whole new games with who knows what kinds of rules...

    (Murderball, by the way is a film I should add to my movie list on the other thread).

    Play is the perfect place to take our competitiveness and our goal seekingness and let it have fun, full throttle.

    Who could possibly 'hate' the other team? There would be no game without them! Every time I get the opportunity to see hockey--there is always great hockey being played--not always being played by 'my' team. It is just such a pleasure, even shut outs, even tied throughout and losing in a shootout. Ah, hockey, I forget everything, the rest of the world disappears and there is only the rink, the beautiful ice, and the sounds of skates and the puck...

    please forgive me for stating so many obvious things and 'gushing' so much, I'm a fan!

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    That was as poetic as I've ever heard hockey described and you are obviously a fan of pure sport which is as good as it gets. Professional sports bring so many more issues into the fold and the only benefit to the pros I can think of is being able to identify with a larger group of people who share your passion. However, find one other interested fan at one of the games you describe and I think the feeling is an even better one.

  13. #13

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    wait, wait, there's more!

    Maybe it's because at age 47 I was already 17 years into zen practice, and no doubt this has played a part in my approach to embracing sport in the particular manifestation of HOCKEY. For example, when I was (painfully) learning to skate backwards and to make transitions (forward to backward, backward to forward) I would practice in between my hockey 1 classes during public skate sessions. Well you know these can be very crowded--like skating in a school of eels-- with the infrequent child skating in the wrong direction of the flow of traffic with a look of terror on their face, without warning others (hot shots) play tag racing around other skaters as if we were trees. Well at first I found it hard to concentrate on what I needed to practice AND attend to what was happening on the ice around me: I'd get bumped or knocked down, or I' bump someone else. I rememder the time I knocked someone down (they weren't hurt--but still!) I vowed nothing I was doing was more important than not harming another skater. Some time after that I found myself skating with the whole rink. And as time went on, no matter what the conditions of the rink: I skate with everyone, with the whole ice--I'd find openings/openings would find me and I'd practice the manouver that needed that kind of space and then I'd find myself in a part thick with skaters and each would make an impression on me as I skated through.
    This business of skating with the whole rink is not unlike sitting with all sentient beings when sitting in zazen.

    Being on the ice is such a special privilege--well I've gone on a bit here, I'll come back later--promise!

  14. #14

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Keishin,

    How to score a point in "Zen Hockey" if there is no "goal" ?? Har har har :roll:

  15. #15

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    So Alan and other sports fans posting here:

    Tomorrow the puck drops for the first official game of the season (so far it's been exhibition games for my boys, The Anaheim Ducks).
    Let me tell you why I became their fan. I felt so sorry for these world class athletes, skating for a team named after a movie (The Ducks were originally called " The Mighty Ducks" after a Disney movie with that title) I felt really bad they they were a Disney owned property. While I knew it was wonderful for them to have jobs paying them to be the professionals they were...well, I became their fan.
    Could never get behind the Kings, sad to say, but just couldn't and still can't although they are so far down the hole my 'root for the underdog' may now come into play and I may become a Kings fan (I wish they'd change their name to Knights--they'd have better results, I guarantee it--think about it: Knights have a quest, they go out and loyally serve their Liege, but a bunch of Kings aren't going to be able to have a coordinated effort--)

    But Alan, I've digressed in my various posts and now, the eve before the season starts in earnest, I'd like to address some things you raised about a non-playing fan's use of professional sports.
    I do think professional sports acts as a mode for the lancing of boils and other festering places within our psyche. As such, it has potential to be healing.
    In a way similar to going to a theatrical performance and being brought to tears, to laughter, to recognition of one's own foibles and dark places--professional sports (to my way of thinking), allows another vein of emotions to be run through the viscera--as such, you get to see what's in your locker, so to speak: there isn't any culture I can think of that doesn't have some form of this kind of thing available where folks can (relatively) safely explore and express emotions unacceptable in other settings.
    I would never condone such behavior at games between children's teams. Right now I'm talking about professional sports--people are paid very big money, this is a hugely different level of play. (My mind boggles just trying to grasp the enormity of it.)
    At my workplace the morning after a team most people follow closely did badly the night before: it is like a morgue. Even on the drive into work the morning after--there is a somberness, quite palpable.
    This is powerful stuff, the team letting 'us' down. This male stuff (I'm generalizing, but it is testosterone driven), needs a place to play itself out, needs a place to be all serious and beating its fists on its chest about it all, and needs to be sweaty and stinky and scratching its balls and tilting its head back and making a big roar. So let it!

    It took me a long long time to come to terms with fighting in hockey, I'm still coming to terms with it, I'll always be coming to terms with it: I don't like it, but there it is...sometimes I understand why it happens, other times I have no clue. I don't think I have the time tonight to put my thoughts into words--it'll take too long and I have to go--sitting and then bed you know, 5:20 am comes too early!
    I'll be back

    But something I did want to say in response to Jundo's 'how to you score a point in Zen Hockey' remark, is that learning how to skate, and learning how to understand the game by learning how to play it is zen on skates and at public skate sessions I was doing zazen on skates.
    At whatever understanding of practice we have matured to: it is with us at all times, in everything we do. You can't take it out of me. As I would take my skate bag out of the trunk of the car, as I would change into my gear, as I would do my stretches, as I would take that first lap around the freshly zamboni-ed ice...breathe in that taste of winter air I love so much--every moment sweet, sweet, sweet and who was to know when the day would come and I'd never have the chance to be on the ice again? Because I skated as if my skating days were numbered, now that several years have gone by and I haven't been on the ice--I have no regrets.
    Same thing for sitting on the zafu, for doing anything, everything. This moment, the meeting of everything together, the pure nowness of now,
    the sense of this while playing in scrimmage, this is zazen permeating another aspect of my life--as it does in all aspects of my life.

  16. #16

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hi,

    I am, I think one of the few people who have no feeling for sports. It makes me sad because there are winners and losers, and my little heart wants a game where everybody wins. I grew up being taken to such games, they are called plays and ballet and opera and concerts. I did once go to a baseball game (in an effort to "bond" with the woman I was dating at that time) and I realized it was the first time I had been to a spectator event where they didn't know what would happen (not much did happen and when it did I cheered, but everyone looked daggers at me and I realized i had cheered for the visiting team) . I have watched a little bit of various sports, but the physical skill level is so much rougher and clumsier than ballet I don't see what the fuss is about. But the Harlem Globetrotters are great (are they still going?)

    I remember when the press was moaning that Olga Korbut (the great gymnast) was no longer number one, she was only number three, how sad, how the mighty have fallen. And I thought, WAIT A MINUTE, she is one of the THREE GREATEST GYMNASTS IN THE WORLD!

    And people vehemently assert that life is about winners and losers. But it really isn't. Our life is 99% about very close and detailed cooperation and coordination. The cooperation and coordination it takes for me to get to work and how everyone at my work coordinates making it all happen. How we get our food, housing, water, sewage, transport, everything is about cooperation and coordination. And when it goes well, everybody (well, a lot of people) win.

    I am not saying sports is a bad thing, it obviously fulfills some need since it is so popular. And perhaps it keeps people from doing bad things.

    as usual,
    rowan

  17. #17

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hi.

    You should not separate things in hot and cold.
    They're winners and losers and losers and winners.
    all at the same time.

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  18. #18
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    I am not a hockey fan. I have tried, but it just doesn't work for me. BUT after reading all the postings, I think hockey should be the designated Treeleaf Sport. Like baseball is America's pastime, so should hockey be the treeleaf pastime.

  19. #19

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Quote Originally Posted by ros
    Hi,

    I am, I think one of the few people who have no feeling for sports. It makes me sad because there are winners and losers, and my little heart wants a game where everybody wins.
    In futbol/football, sometimes: No winners. No loosers. Tie. :mrgreen: Vamos Cruz Azul!

  20. #20

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Alan!
    No need to designate any particular sport as being 'treeleaf's official sport.'
    The only reason I write about hockey is because hockey is the only sport I've ever been really REALLY exposed to, and the only reason I allowed myself that kind of exposure was that it intrigued me.
    Think about--really, all sport/play is like this:
    you start with emptiness, a special kind of emptiness: a basketball court, a tennis court, a soccer field, a lacrosse field, a football field, a hockey rink. Ok, you construct the 'special emptiness' of rink, the court, the field. Then you set up lines and markers and rules about how to conduct passage from one end to the other, rules for the movement of people and rules for the movement of the object--the ball, the hot potato.
    This object is only valuable by its temporary possession, by it's movement into areas where it becomes more and more difficult to take it.

    The fact that this can not be done alone, but is done in concert with a group of players in action simultaneously with an equal and opposite group of players. Without these two simultaneous pressures of direction, no game is possible. **
    (This is very different from a race--where all flow is in the same direction and it is a case of endurance, and timing, pacing.)

    I have to say I am surprised more folks haven't written about their own love of a sport. Or, forget team sports--any activity they have a passionate feeling for. Love after all is interest.


    (I still haven't sat down and addressed fighting in hockey yet...it's the hardest aspect of the sport for me...but I will, promise!)



    **I heard about this amazing 'super games' being played by 4 teams at one time--it was set up so that two basketball teams and two soccer teams were playing on an indoor basketball court with soccer goals underneath the basketball hoops. I read about this--somewhere in San Diego several of these teams got together. As memory serves me (not always well these days), I believe it was not only two teams for two different sports, but I also think there was a cultural duality being played out as well: that one team was American high school students and one was Mexican high school students. At any rate it fascinated me, the combination of all these things, and I would very much have liked to have seen it in motion!


    I just looked it up: Gustavo Artigas is the performance/artist who 'invented'/coordinated it. I just glanced quickly at a write up of his work (wow!)
    at : http://kunstenfestivaldesarts.be/en/2003/stc/stl23.html. (I don't know how to make this a hot link, sorry!)



    I

  21. #21
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    This is just beautiful...

    all sport/play is like this:
    you start with emptiness, a special kind of emptiness: a basketball court, a tennis court, a soccer field, a lacrosse field, a football field, a hockey rink. Ok, you construct the 'special emptiness' of rink, the court, the field. Then you set up lines and markers and rules about how to conduct passage from one end to the other, rules for the movement of people and rules for the movement of the object--the ball, the hot potato.
    This object is only valuable by its temporary possession, by it's movement into areas where it becomes more and more difficult to take it.

    The fact that this can not be done alone, but is done in concert with a group of players in action simultaneously with an equal and opposite group of players. Without these two simultaneous pressures of direction, no game is possible. **
    (This is very different from a race--where all flow is in the same direction and it is a case of endurance, and timing, pacing.)

  22. #22

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    I promised I would write about hockey and fighting and I haven't done that yet. Grab a soda, here goes:

    There is a joke told by the "I don't get no respect" comedian (whose name I can't remember).
    It goes like this: "I went to the fights last night and a hockey game broke out!"

    Some games feel like that.

    When I first started going to professional games NHL and IHL level (the only place in the various levels of hockey I've watched where I've seen fighting occur). I found it impossible to comprehend. It horrified and shocked me. It didn't happen often enough to turn me off of the game of hockey, and as I came to understand a bit more of what was going on, some of it actually makes sense--but understand I'm a woman writing about a very male aspect of a very male sport--so I'll do my best to convey the understanding I've come to from my perspective. To tell you the truth, this is the first time I've ever tried to discuss this aspect of the game.

    The game itself is very fast--skaters travel at 35 mph or better, the puck can get up to 90, 100 mph. The players are only on the ice for very brief periods of time (usually a minute and a half or so): there is a constant flow of players coming on and off the ice. In fact, to really see this, you need to sit either just above the players benches or high enough opposite them so you can see this part of the game. Usually the puck is such a distraction, you miss what is happening at the benches. But the referee and linesmen are watching and there is a penalty called 'too many men on the ice,' this is when players have jumped on to the ice before the players they are replacing have come off, and when a player coming on ice has entered the game before a replaced player has gotten off the ice. (it is one of my favorite penalties because when they announce it "Two minute penalty: too many men on the ice," I always want to yell "Yeah, and not enough women!", but I don't, I just enjoy thinking it). Not only do fans usually miss the phenomena of flow of players on and off, but so much else is missed. We fans try to follow the movement of the puck. But where the puck is is only one tiny part of the rink: on the rest of the ice, a whole lot of other stuff is happening, and a lot of it isn't very pretty: players push the edge of what might be considered fair play and get into exchanges which are questionable to the point of outright infraction. Not all of these are detected by the refs. Sometimes refs are not consistent in what they call. Players will absorb some of this, but if it goes beyond a certain point (?) fighting will happen. (Parents of households with more than one child can appeciate this phenomenon of 'unfair' calls--and the 'behind the scenes' scuffles to 'equalize' the perceived/actual unfairness).
    This partially explains fighting. The other side is the sheer spectacle of it: Fighting on the ice takes tremendous talent--it's another skill set--believe it or not, it is extremely difficult to stand up on the ice and throw punches--they make it look like it's easy--fighting on the ice is taking what has been happening behind the play and moving it front and center--bringing it forward and airing it out. Obviously it stops the game, while this other game within the game, or rather this other sport withing the game takes place.
    TV really doesn't capture this.
    In person, you don't always see what leads up to it. But at least when you are at the rink, you see the reaction of all the other players. Many times the fight is for them. The central message being 'you and your guys won't be allowed to take liberties with us (our skill players) or you'll pay a price for it--and I'm willing to put my own body on the line and take penalties for it--. In other words 'I'm willing to stand up for what's right by doing something I will be penalized for.'
    The fact is without any malicious intent-- incidental contact, inadvertent high sticks, etc,-- can lead to injuries, despite all the new generations of equipment. Just playing the game you can get hurt, so anytime there is the sense of deliberate attempt to cause injury, and refs do not catch the infraction (intentions may not be so obvious), someone (designated 'someones' are the enforcers) will step up to 'send a signal.' In otherwords: "if you don't want to play HOCKEY, then let's fight, and let's be real clear that that is what we are doing out here."
    There is a whole set of etiquette about who fights whom, and when 'they drop the gloves' can be strategic (because it means both players will end up off the ice for a minimum of 5 minutes each.)
    Sometimes players coming up from the farm team will want management to see they've got what it takes for the 'big time' and act so that a well executed fight will help get them their position.
    I had season tickets for the Long Beach ICE DOGS (no longer around), and there were many games without fights. I did notice that televised games had fighting in them, so I wondered if somehow that was playing a part.

    I have to say my preference is to watch a game free of fighting even when I 'get' why it's happening. The All Stars game is especially fun to watch because all of the players are voted for and it honors them all. The game they play is more a display game, and so they are all playing for the fun of it. Obviously there would be no fighting.


    So why is there fighting in hockey?
    Because it serves a purpose and because they can (it is allowed).

    So to understand this is to ask the question what is the purpose served,
    and why is this allowed?

    Why is there fighting in hockey? is the hockey koan

  23. #23

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Zen Fanaticism? what a novel concept.
    So, what we're saying is that when I am dismayed when The Chiefs get a first round draft pick for being absolutely awful, I should be in the moment of dismay?

  24. #24

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    FeMonkey!
    Tell me more....
    I only know some about the flower of hockey, I don't know it's stems and leaves and roots---I know nothing about the business end, nothing about draft pick and waivers and free agents. I don't know how the trade system works, or how the new salary cap effects things. I have heard these terms, but know nothing. I just know guys get sent up, sent down and get traded. I've heard it can happen that a player arrives in town on a road trip with the team and can be traded and end up suiting up for the opposite team, now their 'new home.'
    Please tell me about this other level of the game. This is still uncharted water (or should I say 'ice'?) for me.

  25. #25

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hello sports fans! I’ve had feelings of resonance at SO many points in this discussion that I’m not sure where to begin. My husband got me hooked on hockey (yes, another rabid hockey fan!). We had season tickets to the Washington Capitals for many years until prices got too high and then we moved too far away. We traveled to the USSR with the team in 1989 for their pre-season games. So, that being said…

    Alan—I can relate to the Cubs comparison. The Caps were a lousy team for a long time. Even with sparks of talent throughout the years, they didn’t have much results until fairly recently.

    Quote: What about right thought to that million dollar player that just went 0 for the series?
    Yes, just like getting Jaromir Jagr, a HUGE star at the time, only to have him decide he didn’t want to play for us, and in effect sat on his bum (figuratively), leaving us hog-tied to a huge salary liability for years after he vacated the premises!

    Keishin: (Quote) I came to the world of sports (which exclusively includes hockey, hockey and hockey), at age 47.
    Prior to that, sports==(all of them--including hockey) did not exist for me.
    I knew that other people liked them, but, for the life of me, couldn't see why.


    Exactly the same for me, although I think I started a little earlier, somewhere in my 30’s. I also, eventually, learned to like NASCAR, but that’s another story entirely.

    Alan:
    I think playing a sport is different that being a spectator. Having played a sport also, I think, makes you a different kind of spectator, even more involved and attached, or so has been my observation.

    Absolutely concur. I played in symphonies for many years, and to this day that affects how I listen to classical music. On the other hand, I listen to rock music as a ‘pure spectator’. My husband and I compare notes on what we hear in a piece, and how we hear it—it’s always different. This is like reading Zen books in a vacuum, and reading them AFTER doing zazen—they read differently, don’t they? Which is not to say that we can’t fully enjoy aspects of life as a spectator—after all, we can’t all DO everything, but I think we can enjoy everything if we so choose to. The nice thing about Zen is that, indeed (I think—I’m suspect of generalities but this rings true for me) , we can all SIT!

    Keishin: Ah, hockey, I forget everything, the rest of the world disappears and there is only the rink, the beautiful ice, and the sounds of skates and the puck...

    Isn’t this the perfect analogy for mindfulness? That of being totally focused on the here, now, what, and OH NO (or OH YEAH) ?
    It took me a long long time to come to terms with fighting in hockey, I'm still coming to terms with it, I'll always be coming to terms with it: I don't like it, but there it is...sometimes I understand why it happens, other times I have no clue.

    Funny, that. I never had a problem with this aspect of hockey. I see it in several facets. Most good novels we enjoy due to the complexity generated by ‘sub-plots’, right? Well, fighting is a sub-plot to the game. I’ve seen many more dangerous injuries from pucks, blades and players being slammed into the boards than EVER seen in a fight, so that doesn’t play into things. I have also seen a good fight totally change the tone and direction of a game. These guys are called ‘role-players’. Well, in ANY group of people, don’t we get to know everyone, and tend to (sometimes even while trying not to) label them by their role (either by function of their actions or personality)? These guys fill a good purpose as part of the game, as far as I think. ALSO—the fights bring out very human emotions. Isn’t part of Zen learning to observe what is actually REAL, what is actually going on inside and why? Well, loyalty, protection, revenge, passion—all of these come out in the fight itself, or in the aftermath of the game. It’s like all of the game itself in microcosm. Sometimes. Other times they just take a couple swings and miss and fall down and it’s ‘poof’. So, even with the emotion of feeling deflated—that shows up too.

    Ros: but the physical skill level is so much rougher and clumsier than ballet.

    I ardently disagree, but in the end, it’s a matter of perspective. A ‘no-look’ pinpoint pass across the ice while skating backwards---nothing is more amazing to me in the skill and grace in certain moments of the game. And, in Zen we also deal a LOT with perspective—I think it’s fundamental—we learn HOW to see, and often from vantage points we would never come to any other way. And, on the other hand, people outside this tradition see Zen as a ‘do nothing’ practise, which it is in a way, but not how they mean it. Life is all about perspective.

    IronMonkey: dismayed when The Chiefs get a first round draft pick for being absolutely awful, I should be in the moment of dismay?

    I point to the multi-levels that sports, once again, bring to a single moment of time! Dismay, yes, since our team was so poor as to even been in that position. But also, hopeful—that the draft pick can be the start of a new era. And, rejoice in the added opportunity to practice patience, since ‘re-building’ can last, what, a decade or so??!! (from one who is just now seeing the fruits of what seemed like an eternity rebuild).

    Keishin—in brief, the team with the worst record at the end of the season gets the first draft pick, and can get first shot at the best available potential talent. This can even get so bad as to result in suspicions or accusations that teams have purposely lost games at the end of the season to guarantee getting that first round pick (not my team, of course! :P ).

    A final note--I deeply appreciate the international flavor that hockey has. A 'sports sangha' that crosses over many barriers, language, culture, and even playing style. And no other sport has stories (at least I don't know of them) where people risk their lives and leave their families to sneak out of one country to go play in another country.

    Thanks for a most enjoyable thread. Gassho, Ann

  26. #26

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Awwh Zen and Hockey.. always has been an interesting thing in my life..

    I've played Hockey for countless years now... in that 2 min shift it's hard to really be clear on anything going on in the chambers of ones mind..

    Hockey fans/parents will understand this.. as will those who follow footy (soccer) as the set up is the same.. but I'll clear up some things.

    I play as a main line Left wing, and am the team sniper ( basically meaning pretty much every shot I take is on goal, regardless of where I shoot from, or how...and good at picking out a weak point in a goalie...mind you ' on goal' does not mean scoring so much is Im atleast hitting it in the right direction ) :P

    what comes with that position is that I become a target, hit against the boards, leveled in open ice, the line between " stop me from making a shot, and injure me for the game" becomes blurred. And I admit, when I know someone lowered a shoulder and basically flipped me over with the intent to hurt me rather than disrupt my progress it's always tough to let it go, more so when you know you have 80+ minutes of that ahead of you to endure... I had the luxury of being able to fall back on my martial arts training, Kendo/jujitsu teaching the focus on shutting things out, but even then it's very hard to find that moment of mental clarity. Closest to a " zen" approach I've found playing is to just remove myself to some degree, and when that fails...throwing down the gloves will always get me atleast five minutes to just sit :twisted: ( I admit though, I have only instigated 2 fights ever, and when I do get swung at, I almost never retaliated, or I try to just hold him, so the ref can actually separate us safely.....not a boy scout, but pretty close)



    and Keishin, just for you, when mentioning the speed of a puck.... One tender of ours took a 136.5 mph slapshot to the face mask, and though the puck itself never touched him....the shock wave from it hitting the mask still knocked him out, and gave him a mild concussion. ( I never shoot at that speed, I prefer the wrist or backhand shots, more control comes with the loss of power behind the shot, and in my book I prefer the control)

    it's easy to forget that while made of hard rubber, the pucks are also kept frozen prior to use, making them basically round bricks.

  27. #27

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hey, FeMonkey...
    It just dawned on me (Yes, it's taken me this long), to wonder if you were talking about The Charlestown Chiefs of SLAPSHOT fame, or others...
    A silly movie with Paul Newman--he credits it (so I've read) as being the most fun he ever had making a film.

  28. #28

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    East coast Canadian here, and as such I think I'm supposed to be, at the very least, a rabidly avid hockey fan.

    (like this guy: click it ;Dhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZWxErEbQkY[/video]])
    if you need more info on Dr. Stoppin' Tom Connors, PhD:Check here

    Truth is im not a hockey fan or really any sports fan in the sense of following a team/player/athlete, I'd rather play it then watch it - Heh but I don't know the rules .

    Always faced with "Hey you see the game?" and I Never know what they are talking about and i feel like a bit of tool. kinda similar to my practice :S All said and done though... I have really enjoyed reading (spectating?) this thread just the same!

    Gassho, Dirk

  29. #29

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Hi all,

    I don't know much about hockey, but I do feel there is an awareness with endurance sports. I do triathlons and there is a lot of time for introspection during training and total concentration during races. I am constantly practicing even the little things to make sure I get them right in a race. Even buckling the chin strap on your helmet can become a problem if one is not focused. I'm always focused on how my body feels and how much pain I'm in, if my form is correct, if it's time to eat or drink, and any issues that might come up be it mechanical or course derived. Before an event I try to remain as calm and unattached as possible so I don't freak myself out. In training I try to keep my mind focused on what's going on but I do work a lot of things out at the same time, it's kinda like therapy. When you're on a bike for 4-6hrs all sorts of things come out. To me endurance sports really strip away all the fluff of life and you get to a lot of truths. You find out the best and worst in people and yourself. Being out, pushing yourself physically is like when I'm on my zafu, there's no where else to go and I have to face the reality of now; whether it's hitting a steep hill at mile 18 of a run or wrestling with my ego in zazen. Speaking of ego, it always seems to get slapped down, I'll start thinking I'm pretty good and then I get injured, passed by a female, or put my helmet on backwards. Nearly every person in endurance sports (triathlon, marathon, ultra marathons, etc.), when asked about it's effect on their life, will answer in spiritual terms. There are points reached (like Dharma gates) where we have to have the inner will and strength to push through and beyond, then the view of our training and the world is transformed. That's my zen of sport, I hope it helps.

    Alan

  30. #30
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    I have decided to recycle this thread instead of starting a new one, because 1 year after starting this thread the issue remains about the same.

    This is my koan: How can I be a Cubs fan? People ask me this and I have no reasonable answer. A quick refresher for those that don't know. The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball team that has not won the championship in 100 years. Yes, a whole century of futility. Most of that century (the part of it when I have been alive) they were just plain awful. The past few years they have been good enough to fail in a spectacular fashion, going 0 for their last 9 playoff games.

    How I can be a fan of a team that continuously breaks my heart is beyond logic, beyond understanding. I think I have a better chance of realizing my original face than understanding how I could be a Cubs fan. Maybe they are the same thing. Being a Cubs fan can only be experienced; yet it is beyond experience, beyond words. It just is, and I accept it, I embrace it... but there is still no relief.

    Here is where I now sit on this: The Cubs are not really dukka anymore for me, because that would mean that I had expectations of them that were not being met. All that's left over in my fandom after all these years is very little hope and even fewer expectations. By that definition, there's not much dukka there anymore, yet still I suffer. So I have boiled it down to this: I am happy when they win, and I am sad when they lose. That's all I got.

    Is this any way to live?

  31. #31

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    The Cubs teach you not to worry about whether your local sports team wins or loses. :wink:

    I'm in Minnesota and whenever any of our prospects gets really good, they get traded away for more prospects. I learn not to attach to our players!

    - Mike.

  32. #32

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    Hey, FeMonkey...
    It just dawned on me (Yes, it's taken me this long), to wonder if you were talking about The Charlestown Chiefs of SLAPSHOT fame, or others...
    A silly movie with Paul Newman--he credits it (so I've read) as being the most fun he ever had making a film.
    Actually, since I live in Kansas City, I was speaking of our Football Team. KC has no Hockey... We did have a bush league team, The Outlaws, for 1 season. I thought they were the best hockey team ever because once they got ahead in pts, the 2nd half was all fighting. I once saw an Outlaw player get a 7 minute penalty with only 1 minute left in play. I went to 2 home games... Then I read about how the team was being sold because, apparently, the only 2 games they won were the two I went to.

  33. #33
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    MIke wrote:
    I'm in Minnesota and whenever any of our prospects gets really good, they get traded away for more prospects. I learn not to attach to our players!
    I've been thinking about this ever since you posted it, Mike. It's an interesting perspective. Sports teach us, spectators and player alike, humility. A lot of what sports is about is losing :cry: Only one team wins in each sport at the end of the season, so only that team and its fans are ultimately happy and satisfied Everyone else didn't quite hit the mark, and there's some dukka there. The Minnesota Twins have won the World Series recently, yet you focus (at least in that post) on them losing players. The Cubs can afford players but can't win a WS. Even when our team wins in some aspect, we all too often focus on what we lost, or don't have, thus dukka. But I think its good dukka in the sense it teaches us humility; we can't always get what we want, and we learn to be Ok with that and enjoy the green grass or cold ice rink, etc.

    Gassho

  34. #34
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    A little addendum: Sports teach us to enjoy the process even though we attach to the outcome. Even when it hurts because our team loses, it is fun to go to or play the game. Life lesson there I'll leave y'all to figure out, if you don't already know.

  35. #35

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Louis mentioned hockey...
    and we are approaching mid season and the olympics are coming up too

    thought I'd dust off this thread an bring it back out for any wishing to add to the mix

    it's fun being a fan!

  36. #36
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    College football season is over . One of the local college teams is ranked number 2 in the nation right now but I still can't seem to get too excited about it even though my father-in-law is a huge fan and has season tickets. I run kind of hot and cold with the olympics and know next to nothing about hockey (other than my 6 year old son keeps beating at the Wii version) I'll probably get a little more into basketball when the tournament comes around in March. My college football team does what it always does - not quite good enough but still pretty good.

    Ron

  37. #37
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Ahhh, hello old zen + sports = ??? thread.

    The more I practice zen the less I get riled up about sports. This past week I watched my beloved Green Bay Packers football team lose a wild game, and I was fine with it. I shrugged it off with barely a pang of suffering. And when my really and truly beloved Cubs went down to another lost season last year I had only a mild pang of suffering, but that might be because I am so used to them doing that every year. So my patience with this sort of thing is getting better, but my patience with sports commentators, ESPN in particular (because who else is there, really?), gets less. They don't do a lot of right speech sometimes. It's gets to be all pessimistic speculation and shouting insults, etc. I know it's meant to be entertainment, but sometimes I just have to tune it out.

  38. #38

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    thanks for this thread! i am a big sports guy myself....and today, i suffer because of it....

    it aint easy being an Arizona Cardinals fan!! :roll:

    even though my teams lose, and cause a bit of suffering, i find that with practice, i see the sport itself more than the team...if that makes sense.....makes me appreciate both sides, winner or loser (though as a dodger fan, you will NEVER see me root for the giants....even though there there is no separation of dodger or giant....) or so i try and remind myself! ops:

    best wishes,

    steve

  39. #39

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    I just LOVE this topic Alan started quite a while back.

    an interest in sports came late into my life (I was 45 or so) my son was skating roller hockey and one thing led to another, led to another...

    I'd been sitting zazen about 10 years or so before the game of hockey entered my little personal world and opened up a whole new realm: a game to play on ice (obviously I didn't grow up in cold climate).

    The novelty of all of it!

    I fell in love, totally, completely, hopelessly....

    And, I wanted to know everything I could about this new love: I took hockey I then II then hockey III classes... at one point I learned that new skates (a 50th birthday present to myself) couldn't be skated on 'right out of the box'; they needed not only to be sharpened but 'rockered' as well (rockering is done on a 9' or 12' radius--and depending on if you are a forward or play defense, you will put the flattest part forward or toward the back of the skate) As far as sharpening goes, there are standard 1/2 inch or 1/4 inch hollows (the gap between the two edges of the blade--my guess is individual players might also have their own particular, specific preferences as well...)

    I never played on any team growing up--only the brief game for PE once in a while.

    I had no idea the healing possible when working with a good coach as far as 'reparenting' goes. But yes, at age 47 I did have the luck of having a great coach teach a hockey class I took

    It's too late tonight for me to go on longer with this topic I enjoy so much... I'll revisit it...but the novelty of all of it:
    the game, playing the game, the sport in the play and the playing of the sport.
    One's personal conduct: in learning the game, in learning drills involving other players, in applying what was learned in drills now involving other 'oppositional' players.

    All the interconnectedness of everything to make this 'simple' activity possible.

    My practice of zazen was already wrapped up in it from the get go:
    I just had to overcome my prejudice that sports were 'dumb'

    obviously, I did

  40. #40

    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Keishin, That's wonderful that you are a hockey 'nut'. I started playing on the ponds as a child. Last year I played in my college alumni game and as the oldest player led my team to victory with 3 goals I just retired from the 35+ league and try to play twice a week with the 60+ group. How does this relate to zen practice? First, it keeps your body and mind strong and healthy. second, the just playing hockey action and the just sitting action are the same. something like that

    I enjoy watching the women's teams - they seem to focus more on the interconnectedness aspect of passing and play making which I need to get better at
    /Rich

  41. #41
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen + Sports = ????

    Sports is a great teacher of zen. My latest example is Brett Favre, formerly of my beloved Green Bay Packers but these days on the hated Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre is probably my favorite football player of all time, but now he is on my team's possibly greatest rival. So my dilemma becomes do I love him or hate him, attachment or aversion? It's sort of both, and that's where my zen practice helps me. I can root against his team yet appreciate his greatness at the same time.

    Being a sports fan without zen tends to be an all or nothing experience, love 'em or hate 'em, all duality all the time, and that leads to a lot of suffering. But my zen helps me recognize there is more to appreciating sports and the people that play the games than that duality. The cliche is that it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game, and there is some zen in that. So today I watched Brett Favre win a game for a team I hate, and I appreciated his play while letting go of the outcome. It's that old acceptance without acceptance applied to sports.

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