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Laughter is the best sports medicine

September 16th, 2012

Born on March 16, help 1937 in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Taylor began his newspaper career in 1954 as a part-time sports reporter at the Daily Colonist in Victoria and later wrote for the Vancouver Sun, the Province and the Calgary Sun. His 1987 chronicle of Rick Hansen’s wheelchair journey, Man In Motion, reputedly had a record first printing for a B.C. book. In addition to Taylor’s books on Wayne Gretzky and B.C. Lions’ receiver Jim Young, Taylor is credited with the re-write of a Soviet journalist’s biography of Igor Larionov. Always mindful of his predecessors, he compiled The Best of Jim Coleman: Fifty Years of Canadian Sport from the Man Who Saw it All in 2004. A member of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame, Taylor was awarded a lifetime achievement award by Sports Media Canada in 2000.

Jim Taylor recalled his half-century as a sports writer in Hello, Sweetheart? Gimme Rewrite! (Harbour).

When I left the sports pages for good in 2001 I swore not to become one of those tiresome carping old farts who bitch at the way things are and long for the days that were. I’d like a mulligan on that. Just a little one.

I need to know where the laughter went.

The weekly crop of fiscal foolishness, fat-headed owners, tunnel-visioned executives and jockstrap me-firsters has never been more bountiful. Yet I see little laughter in the sports sections. It’s not that there’s no one who could do it. There are gifted young writers out there, sharp and sardonic and fully capable of inserting needles in the hides of the pompous or poking fun at silly masquerading as important.

But somewhere between press box cynicism and laptop creativity they sip the cliché Kool-Aid and slide the sabre back into the sheath.

I’m not sure why. Maybe, in this new mixed-media universe, management doesn’t want it. Were I still with one of the Vancouver dailies I doubt I’d be allowed to lambaste Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics bid, that monument to excess and misguided enthusiasm, as I would have from the day the bid was announced.

In a city where the media race to see who can over-cover the Vancouver Canucks has turned into a yearlong preoccupation, there might not be room for a guy who looked at the old black, orange and yellow uniforms and suggested they looked like there should be a candle under every helmet, and that the huge V was on the front of the jersey to point them to where they were to put on the jockstraps.

Well, of course I’m biased. I made a living laughing. Mind you, I was blessed with editors who let me run even as they wondered what the Lone Ranger was doing in a sports column; or what the hell I was doing writing about riding an elephant in Thailand and telling our guide that in North America all elephants were named Gerald in honour of the great jazz singer Elephants Gerald.

Or why I demanded that Disney president Michael Eisner explain, as his company created the NHL’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks, how a family-oriented business could let Donald Duck care for his three underage nephews when he had no visible means of employment and they were all running around without pants.

But early in the game I learned an important lesson: people like to laugh. If you can amuse them as you make your point there’s a better chance they’ll see it, or at least read to the end. The other half of the equation: When you stop laughing, when you really get ticked about something, rear back and throw the high hard one, it has even more impact.—excerpt from “Hello, Sweetheart? Gimme Rewrite! My Life in the Wonderful World of Sports”

Essay Date: 2009

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