The Agony Of Defeat

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Just as a matter of interest, the guy who said ‘What’s another word for thesaurus?’ was not Anonymous, it was Steven Wright.

I don’t know why the Sandman decided to harass me last night (it could have been the cheese and Spanish onion sandwich or the Polski Ogorki dill I had before I went to bed or both) but he did. I woke up at 3:00 in the morning thinking about the most humiliating experiences of my life, a 55-5 football drubbing and a disastrous 72-9 basketball disgrace that has been floating around in the backwaters of my brain for 68 years.

The basketball fiasco was at the hands of a Toronto branch of the YMHA. I was playing for the local YMCA and for some reason the Young Men’s Hebrew Association decided to take revenge on us bozos in retaliation for the shabby treatment Jews had suffered at the hands of the Christians for the past 2,000 years and they did it in spades. Although my memory is spotty since I can’t remember how we got the 9 points, maybe at half-time when they weren’t looking. I know it happened because I was there but for some reason most of the details of that disaster have disappeared into the ether or whatever fills the empty corridors of my mind. Even today, whenever I walk down Bathurst Street in Toronto I get the eerie feeling that some big tall guys are smirking at me.

Sadly, I have to tell you the second catastrophe, the 55-5 pounding we received on the gridiron of Saltfleet High School in Stoney Creek haunts me to this day.

Our team, the OCI or ODCI or ODC&VI seniors (the name of the school changed three times while I was there which helps to explain why the school ring weighs 12 pounds) won our division. I have no idea how many schools are involved now, probably dozens, but back then there was just Midland, Collingwood, Penetang, us and Barrie. There might have been more I can’t remember, but that year we beat Barrie in the playoffs which we did quite regularly. Even today I could hustle up a team and we could do it again.

It would be quite simple really. I would grab a couple of old geezers from Champlain Manor, one or two from Spencer House or Oak Terrace, and fill out the squad with a few ex-teammates residing in the Leacock Care Centre and we’d be ready. It probably wouldn’t hurt to pick up Mary’s School-Belle singers and a chick or two from the local church choirs as cheerleaders.

First we would get in the mood with a chorus of the old school song  

Come all ye sons of the old OCI

Get in there and fight and never say die

We are the best as now you see

Onward to fame and Victory

March down the field and give us a score

Convert the touch and give us some more

We are the best as now you see

Onward to fame and victory.

Rah, Rah, Rah.

Then it would be off to Barrie to take on the cream of their high schools’ athletic programs and hammer them. It wouldn’t take us long.

Sadly I remember the Saltfleet game as if it was yesterday. The humiliation started almost before we got there. Orillia got a foot of snow the night before and we were all wearing parkas and snow boots. Stoney Creek hadn’t seen snow since the late 1880s or before and when we piled out of the bus they looked at us like we were Inuit tourists from Moose Factory without the sled dogs.

Their first touchdown came within seconds and by half-time we were down 36 to nothing. We were starting to think we may not go onward to game and victory and would be lucky to get out alive. I remember this part as if it was yesterday. One of our players had gone to Saltfleet High School the year before and he kept running around telling us to “Watch out for Clark! Watch out for Clark!” Since Clark had already scored four touchdowns, his sage advice was hardly necessary, but we thanked him for the information and made him walk home. Well, we didn’t, we wanted to but apparently coaches and school boards have rules about that sort of thing. Mercifully the game eventually ended and our plans for a victory banquet were put on hold for another year.  

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