We sorely could use some good news, so when Toni, a.k.a. She Is The One, emailed me a video link recently along with the words, “THIS is a column,” I decided to listen to her for once.
(Most of the time, Toni and I communicate by email or text; through nearly 10 years of this record-breaking marriage, we have discovered that in-person conversations generally are detrimental to the health of our relationship.)
The link she sent me was a 2:15 report from the Great Big Story video network on hockey in Kenya.
Ice hockey in Kenya.
This wonderful story begins with the Solar Ice Rink opening in Nairobi in 2005.
This in itself was a feat.
You ever try to keep ice cold less than 90 miles from the equator? You’ve got a better chance of keeping the carpet clean at a 5-year-old’s birthday party.
Twelve years later, Solar remains the only ice rink in all of East and Central Africa.
(If you look at a world map — and you might want to do this sooner than later, while we still have a world — you’ll notice that East and Central Africa is a rather large expanse of land.)
Alas, Nairobi is not a hockey hotbed.
I mean, you can bowl anywhere in, say, Belarus — heck, Minsk alone has five bowling alleys — but an ice hockey rink in Kenya? You’re more likely to find a bingo hall in Vatican City.
And, well, if you build it — unlike “Field of Dreams” — who exactly is going to come? Granted, almost three-quarters of Kenya’s 44 million inhabitants are under 30, so they’re young enough to play hockey, but who’s thinking of lacing up ice skates most warm and sultry evenings?
(Column Intermission: More good news! Stepson of Destiny Isaiah Eisendorf averaged 10.4 points and 5.0 rebounds for Division II Team of Destiny Le Moyne of Syracuse, N.Y., which completed its regular season 21-5, with visions of a deep, deep run in D-II March Madness; fellow Maryland prep product Russell Sangster led the team in scoring, assists and steals. Note: Like his mother, Isaiah only communicates with me online, though, frankly, he ignores most of my texts.)
Nairobi is such an international and cosmopolitan locale, hockey would not even crack a top 250 list of things to do there.
Sporting-wise, Kenyans engage in soccer, cricket, even golf and rugby. Most of all, they are known athletically for their long-distance running prowess.
(This always confounded me — in the sweltering heat, who wants to run a marathon, or even 5,000 meters? Run? I would walk briskly for cover and sit in the nearest shade.)
Still, one year after the rink opened, the Kenya Ice Hockey League started, in 2006. Okay, it’s really not a league, it’s more like a weekly poker game on ice. Every Wednesday night, about 30 hockey hopefuls gather, divide into two teams and drop the puck.
The long-term goal is to grow the sport of hockey in Kenya, which is sort of akin to trying to swell the naval sailor colony in Switzerland.
As Ben Azegere, the unofficial “captain” of the Kenya Ice Hockey League, ruefully observed, “There is no money in ice hockey in Kenya.”
Still, Azegere, who started to play hockey simply because he wanted to do something different, told the Great Big Story: “Our future dream is for our Kenyan team to be featured in the Winter Olympics. I know we don’t stand a chance, but just being there, we might prove the world wrong.”
One of the greatest things about the human spirit is when we reach for the stars no matter how far beyond our grasp they seem. Maybe Azegere and his countrymen can make it, improbably, to PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018, or to the Beijing Winter Games in 2022.
If they get there, here’s hoping the Jamaican bobsled team will buy ’em dinner.
Q. When a basketball player goes to the foul line, after the first one — make or miss — his teammates slap hands with him. When you do a World Series of Poker telecast, does Lon McEachern fist-bump you after you deliver a joke, whether it’s funny or not? (Lester Petersen; Thurmont, Md.)
A. Actually, he never fist-bumps me; then again, he doesn’t listen to a word I say.
Q. What city in the U.S. is the top sports city of all-time? My top 3: Boston; Fargo, N.D.; Schenectady, N.Y. (Sandy Family; Clifton Park, N.Y.)
A. I have no idea how this question got by my quality-control people, but I’m not paying 10 bits for it.
Q. Do you believe the seven newly discovered Earthlike planets also support an out-of-control sporting culture? (Joe Dougherty; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Yes, but at least four of them have figured out the block-charge conundrum.
Q. If a sports writer used the term “defense” in any story relating to the recent NBA All-Star Game, would that fall under President Trump’s definition of “fake news”? (Roger Lucas; Avon, Ind.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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