When I went to Boston College, I was excited to watch our* hockey team play. Growing up a fan of the Flyers (a family inheritance which, at least for a while, translated to die-hard me-ness, i.e. I am a Flyers fan), I expected college hockey to look like the NHL. My defense of this expectation was somehow NCAA basketball versus the NBA. Sure, the NBA is way more everything (e.g. athletic), but I just never bothered to notice it. Same with football. The worst players in the NFL were the best players in college. I knew this, but again, the two examples of the same sport didn’t feel that far apart. With college hockey? It felt like I was watching the poor kids in The Mighty Ducks before they’re saved by Gordon Bombay.** The NHL then looked like Space Jam, i.e. otherworldly (not wonderfully terribly, in retrospect).
Let me state it more plainly: BC hockey (based on the one time I went as a freshman) was a slow, sloppy mess compared to the now-more-clearly elite NHL. And BC was one of the best teams in the country when I was there. Completely deflated, I never attended another college hockey game.
One detail has stuck with me from that game. It was a crowd chant directed at the opposing goalie.*** It was very creative. It went, “sieve! sieve! sieve! sieve!” To be fair, me sarcastically calling it creative a moment ago is covering up my ignorance at the time. I don’t think I knew what the word meant. I’m not sure what my brain heard in place of “sieve,” because, having no working knowledge of the word, I must have filled in the gap with something close enough to it for me to make sense of the situation. Or I just turned more fully into deep resentment of the experience and shut down entirely to any positive takeaway (e.g. learning a new word).****
Probably that, the latter.
Why did that stick with me? Especially when often it feels like so little sticks with me, my mind being a sieve and all. (That too is irony, I think. The “too” here will only make sense if you’re diligently tracking the footnotes in order.) I’m claiming my mind as a sieve because of my consumption habits. Take this 52 book quest, for instance. I’ve read 40 books so far this year. What can I actively recall about all those 40 books? That I’ve read 40 books. Most of the information (a lot, clearly) just slips right through my conscious awareness, which is either great meditative practice – ideas come and ideas go and I experience eternal sunshine of the spotless mind*****- or great mental deficiency. If it’s the latter, I wonder if it’s a personal defect or a cultural imposition. I think I used to, like, really learn stuff when I was younger, although if I’m equating learning with regurgitative memory instead of creative synthesis – which I’ll claim as my current “talent” – then perhaps my mind as sieve is a redemptive metaphor. If all I could do before was summarize what I read and experienced, then…well, there wasn’t much Lou coming through my words. I was just an echo, and once I echoed, there was nothing left of me to continue, making it necessary to keep consuming to fill in the gap. Put that way, I’ve always been a sieve. It’s just a matter of taking care of what’s coming out the other end. Retaining anything doesn’t get us anywhere; there’s really nothing to hold onto.
I think I planned to lament how relentlessly my mind seems to let go of everything that comes its way, making whatever I experience just for me; just for a moment. When I read, I’m reading, not wondering how I’ll use that reading for something else. This fills me with childlike wonder and leaves me empty with (perhaps) childish amnesia.
How long before I forget this post? How long before I return to it and wonder who wrote it?
*Sports and colleges are fascinating expressions of in-group mentality, aka tribalism. I don’t really identify with BC at this point, but I do proudly share that I went there when asked. It’s reassuring to say you belong somewhere, and with an alma mater, you get to participate in its benefits (namely, to say that you went there) for what feels like eternally. It’s like you’ve given your soul an anchor. Should you (in soul form, spiraling through an infinite cosmos of wonder and awe) ever feel lost, just know that YOU ARE BC. Also, you’ll always be an Eagles fan, so there’s that. Which is nice.
**Inarguably one of the greatest character names in narrative history. In every way for the specific context of this film (and even in general, as far as names go without context), Gordon Bombay is perfectly constructed.
***Wait, why isn’t the singular form of this word goaly (making the plural form a more sensible looking goalies)? Then again, that makes it look like an adjective describing one who is this thing called a goalie, or one who does this thing called goalie-ing with some measure of efficacy.
****Is there a way to do numbered footnotes in a WordPress blog post? Anyway, I do remember knowing what the word meant after reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (the book about the guy named Guy), which had a section titled “The Sieve and the Sand.” If you read the book in high school (I did not), you probably spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what the title symbolized. And then you went on to hate reading for a long time until one day your Internet was out and you were forced to reckon with that abomination of a book shelf you’ve always somehow had and oh but then you discovered The Alchemist or something and wondered how it was that you ever stopped loving reading except then the Internet turned back on and you decided to burn the book shelf with all its books in it. Which is irony, I think.
*****That movie is increasingly heartbreaking the older you get.