Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Firsthand Account of Playing with Fire

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Who would have thought last Thursday’s links edition would have been a foreshadowing? Not I. Yet here I am writing about hockey. As I already shared, I don’t know much about the sport, nor is it on my [Mike] Richter scale. So it would take something pretty unusual to catch my attention. Theo Fleury’s book “Playing with Fire” fits the bill.

This is not a raise-your-eyebrow type of book. This is a jaw-hit-the-subterranean-basement and eyes-bulge-out-of-your-head account.

“I stopped at the first pawn shop I came to, pulled out everything in my pockets and slapped it on the counter. About five grand in cash. The owner handed me a gun and one bullet,” Fleury recalls. He continues, “At 2 a.m., I reached over, picked up the gun, loaded it, flipped the safety off and put the barrel in my mouth with my finger shaky on the trigger. How did it taste? It tasted lonely. Cold, lonely and black … In one quick movement, I threw the gun down on the floor. I did a couple of lines, took another shot of Stoli, and that mellowed me out a little.” (Playing, 2)

If that’s not enough to make you read the book, read this book because:
1. America loves an underdog.

Look at Rudy from Notre Dame or the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team. Think about how many times we hear a team described as a Cinderella and we go all-in, at least emotionally, with the long-shot. Now examine Fleury. He was 5-6, 180 lbs. All you need to do is eye ball him. His career almost ended before it started when at age 13, he suffered a deep gash close to an artery. Clearly, he was human and would befall many setbacks along the way, but he would not be deterred.

2) Despite what the underdog label conjures up, along with much of the book, including the opening, Fleury experiences plenty of highs.

Fleury’s goal in the ’91 Stanley Cup finals is one of the most famous in the history of the sport. “Those five seconds [after the triumph] made life worth living,” he says. “No drink or drug that I have tried since, compares to the feeling I had at that moment.” (93).

Fleury shares the extent of his heights off the ice too – bringing home 20 girls and living in a mansion in the same neighborhood as Jack Nicholson, Regis Philbin and Oprah’s BFF, Gayle King, for example. (123, 200)

3) All in all, the book is a wild ride. After you wade through muck that comes up to your chin, you see that even if your life is a mess, there is hope.

“I am confident again,” Fleury writes. “That has opened up a lot of doors in my personal and professional life. Today, things are great. Life is way better, less pressure, less hassle.” (310)

The embers are still glowing on this new offering, so why not pick it up? It might just stoke something in you too! 85CEKSXY5M8Z

Sam Miller/Free Keon

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