The Transformative Power Of Sports

National Survey on Transgender

There is only one thing my mother-in-law loves more than hockey, and that’s her daughter.

You wouldn’t know that she loved hockey unless you sat down and watched a Buffalo Sabres game with her.

It’s amazing to me how quickly she transforms from a quiet, unassuming 60-year-old woman into a raging hockey fan with as much hockey knowledge as any veteran analyst, and the vocabulary of a sailor. The first time I witnessed this transformation, I was in utter shock.

Whenever a Sabres game comes on, we watch and listen to her break down the game, telling us what the Sabres are doing right and (very bluntly) what they are doing wrong.  I had never met a woman who was so into hockey before.

My wife is an only child. She and her mother are very, very close. We even moved out to the “country” to be closer to her.  So when her father-in-law called one Tuesday evening to tell us that he was taking her to the hospital, we were very concerned.

My mother-in-law has a lot of health issues, and she has suffered a heart attack before. Late Tuesday night, we were informed that she was in critical condition and the prognosis wasn’t good. Luckily, the doctors were able to stabilize her heart with an electronic pacemaker. My wife spent almost every night at the hospital for the rest of the week, and I went with her on Thursday.

It was hard to see my mother-in-law lying there with a breathing tube stuffed down her throat, barely conscious. She was breathing but she wasn’t awake, and the doctors were concerned. On Friday, they conducted a brain scan. The results were negative.

On Saturday afternoon, my mother-in-law finally opened her eyes and began to speak to us. I can’t really describe how that felt — to have her look at us, recognize us and talk to us coherently.

While sitting there, seeing her awake and alive, a funny thought crossed my mind — she’s going to be able to enjoy another hockey game after all. It may seem like a small thing in comparison, but to her it was huge.

That’s how much she loves hockey. That’s how deep a sports connection can be. A friend once told me a story about the day her grandpa died. The doctors wanted him to be as comfortable as possible. They asked him what he wanted, ready to give him anything he asked for. You know what he asked for? Golf. He wanted to watch his favorite sport on television one last time. That was it.

One Christmas, I gave my mother-in-law a replica of a famous painting of “The French Connection,” the three most popular players in all of Buffalo Sabres hockey history.  When she opened it, she looked at me in awe and began to cry. At that moment, I knew I would never be able to top that gift.

I know this is a “LGBT” sports blog. But to me, sports have a transformative power that crosses all boundaries. You don’t have to be a certain gender, a certain race, a certain religion or a certain sexuality to love sports.

You can even be a 60-year-old closet hockey fan, who would rather leave a rehabilitation center before she was fully recovered just so she could get back to watching the Buffalo Sabres play hockey in the comfort of her own home.