LS: Bruce Cameron Column January 18, 2009

Today ice stop ice skating

As frequent readers of this column know, I am a natural athlete who enjoys participating in a wide variety of sports, as long as I don’t have to be there in person. This is especially true during winter, so when my nephew informs me he wants to go ice skating, I’m only too happy to tell him he’s wrong.

Here’s a little history: Ice skating was first invented sometime around 3,000 B.C. to make the game of hockey more dangerous. It was introduced to North America by the Swedes, who fled the frozen terrain of their native Scandinavia and moved to sunny, balmy Minnesota.

Many Swedes insist it was the Vikings, not Columbus, who first discovered America. This is shocking news to the people who were already here in the first place, many of whom felt they didn’t need to be discovered.

More history: The Vikings were explorers, famous for wearing silly helmets and never winning a Super Bowl.

The people of Minnesota have many different words to describe the hard blue ice that covers their land — words such as “outside,” and “Interstate 90,” and “I lost a tooth.”

My nephew is descended from both Swedes and Minnesotans, so he is genetically predisposed to dangerous activities, such as skating on ice and shopping at Ikea.

I, on the other hand, am descended from retired people and am therefore genetically predisposed to no activities whatsoever. But after observing my nephew’s brokenhearted expression, I change my mind and agree to take him skating because he says he’ll buy me hot dogs.

Like most men, I’ve long watched male Olympic skaters grab the body parts of scantily clad women skaters and thought to myself, “I could do that.”

In reality, though, ice skating is extremely difficult, because the rink doesn’t automatically supply you with a young woman to grapple.

The problem starts with the skates themselves, which are outfitted with sharp metal runners that refuse to stay steady on the ice while you eat your hot dog.

Then there’s the ice, which when you drop your head on it, turns out to be both flat and unreasonably hard. It’s as if you’ve fallen down on a parking lot in the state of Kansas, only
in this parking lot, everyone else runs over and tries to step on you with razor blades.

I lie there wondering how the people who built the Volvo could invent a sport like this and not supply airbags. “Are you OK, Uncle Bruce?” my nephew asks anxiously.

“I’ve probably got a skull fracture and could use another hot dog,” I admit.

After a few minutes, the rink manager skates up to me and demands to know what I’m doing, lying there on the ice when I should be on my feet, falling down. I tell him I’m figure skating, and in this case I’m doing the figure of a man who needs an ambulance.

“Get up, and also you can’t have hot dogs out here,” he tells me.

What? How can ice skating even be considered a sport if you can’t eat hot dogs while doing it?

I’m able to struggle to a standing position by clutching the rink manager a handful at a time.

“OK,” he coaches, “now push off with your left foot while simultaneously letting go of my pants.”

I do as he says, gracefully gliding across the ice and onto my rear end. It feels a little like being tackled by the Minnesota Vikings — I’ve broken bones I didn’t even know I had.

At the first-aid station, the paramedic cares for my ice injury by pressing ice against it. Since when is irony considered a legitimate medical treatment? “You must be from Sweden,” I tell him.

“No, Denmark,” he corrects loftily. More irony: I’m American — I thought Denmark was Sweden.

The paramedic hands me an inflatable pillow —  now they give me an airbag! — and I sit in the bleachers to watch my nephew, waving my hot dog encouragingly every time he coasts by.

This is, I reflect, a perfect way to spend the day, him ice skating, me eating fatty foods, each of us fulfilling our genetic destiny.



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