Say it ain’t so.
One of the dumbest things I do that is related to the sports world … listening to any form of sports talk radio is in competition as the dumbest … is wander into sports memorabilia shows, which regularly pop up at various locales around the metro area.
I’m not sure why I do it, but I do. And as you can tell by the tone of this piece, I’m not proud of my attendance. Lately I’ve imagined watching myself at a distance, roaming the aisles at these shows, surely too old to be doing so, like some kind of spectre haunting sports cards and memorabilia displays, looking for missing pieces of my youth.
Anyway, if I’ve visited 50 such sports shows in the past 20 years, I’ve vowed 49 times to never go back. But, again, I do. And at the 50th show that I attended last Saturday I received such a shock that I left confused and dazed, unsure as to whether to swear off the things forever, or get up the nerve to make show 51.
Because I was handed a flyer on leaving Saturday … and I was prepared to toss it away until its blaring headline caught my eye. Amid color pictures of an all-too-familiar hockey memory, amid exclamation points galore. the handout said “McCARTY LEMIEUX! First Time Signing Together! On Sale At The Show 16×20 Fight Photo!”
Yup, Darren McCarty and that jerk Claude Lemieux, the villain of our hockey dreams, teaming up to make a joint appearance … for big bucks … at the Gibralter Trade Center on my east side in Mt. Clemens.
The flyer said that McCarty would be charging $20 to sign fan items, while darling Claudie … and how does HE rate the bigger bucks? … would be signing … and who knew he could write? … for $25 a pop. You could opt for the “Combo Special,” which for $60 would get you a 16×20 photo of their famous March, 1997 half-fistfight at the Joe Louis Arena, with the display signed by both former players.
McCarty? And Lemieux? Together?
I’m tempted to ask “Darren … how could you?” The idea of Red Wing hero McCarty sitting down with evil villain Lemieux (formerly of the Colorado Avalanche and about 17 other forgettable teams) in a joint capitalistic enterprise seems beyond the pale, the signing too far, the appearance that breaks the showbiz back. Those two … together?
Going back a generation or two, that would be like Bobby Layne sitting down with Chicago’s Ed Meadows, who knocked him and the Lions out of the 1956 Western Division championship game, to make amends and pocket some ready cash. Or, more appropriately, maybe Cowboy Bob Ellis and Dick the Bruiser joining forces. Too bad Lyndon Johnson and Ho Chi Minh didn’t stick around long enough to cash in on their moments of conflict and fame.
McCarty and Lemieux … together.
I shouldn’t be surprised. If there’s anything we could learn from modern times and attitudes, it’s that the buck solves all, that capitalistic enterprise can soothe and smooth differences of all kinds. I know that Gordie Howe and Lou Fontinato for years have been agreeably penning their names to Life Magazine reprints of their monumental heavyweight battle of 1959 in New York, when our Gordie punched their Louie into a hospital and hockey oblivion when Fontinato decided to see just how tough hockey’s heavyweight champion really was.
That, at least, was a conflict based on honest disagreement and a mano ‘a mano challenge. Lemieux made his name, and his name is “Turtle” as you’ll recall, by smearing Kris Draper’s face along the wall from behind in Denver in 1996, and then by trying to crawl under the ice when Draper’s buddy McCarty looked to even the score face-to-face ten months later here in Detroit.
I fail to see how that performance should profit that jerk $25 for anything, much less $60 for the so-called Combo Special. I’d much rather learn that the whole thing was a trap, and that when Lemieux showed up in Mt. Clemens to sign his flawed name and collect his blood money that McCarty might again jump his ass and teach him yet another HockeyTown lesson.
But I’m sure that’s a wish … my wish anyway … too far.
And me? Now that I think of it … I will make my 51st vow to never again attend a sports memorabilia show … especially THAT one. I wouldn’t be able to take seeing the creepy grin on that creepy Claude’s creepy face.
Not that I have anything against him, mind you.
But I must be too old for such stuff. This one caps it. My sports memorabilia show days are over.
Blame it on Lemieux. And, yes, McCarty. Together.