Crime and Punishment

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on May 19, 2008 0 Comments

I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out – Rodney Dangerfield

Every once in a while, in a blinding moment of clarity that fortunately doesn’t last long, I realize my family thinks I’m utterly insane. 

Such a moment occurred not long ago when we gathered to watch a group of males armed with sticks fight over a slippery, seemingly trivial object. On most days, I could simply stay home and watch something similar take place among my own children. But for some reason, we paid top dollar to experience the same kind of violence and mayhem in a large and very loud arena. We attended a hockey game.

Call me a dork – my kids do – but I’m just not interested in watching sports unless my children are participating. My family, perhaps thinking they could redeem me, insisted I come along to the game and so I did, bringing a book with me to ward off certain boredom. If you are shaking your head at anyone nerdy enough to bring a book to a hockey game, you know just how my loved ones were feeling. If you are nodding your head in dweebish accord because you feel my pain, contact me later. We dorks need to circle the wagons and stick together.

I arrived at the game knowing only one thing (thanks to Mr. Dangerfield) about hockey —  that it tended to occasionally break out in the midst of a brawl. So I entered the arena primed for violence, my head down, my shoulders hunched, my beloved book clutched close in case someone tried to snatch it and begin reading.

Surprisingly, we made it to our seats in the front row of the appropriately named “nosebleed” section without incident. I looked around at the enthusiastic crowd, many of them wearing team jerseys and happily drinking adult beverages. No one else appeared to be holding a book.

When the game began, the fans started screaming encouragement to their players and heaping insults – most of which involved allegations of insufficient manhood — on the opposing team. The men battled each other valiantly, hacking away with their sticks at a tiny black speck (evidently called a puck) on the ice. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving; elbows frequently flew into faces, and bodies were slammed against the sides. Large video screens hung over the rink, enabling everyone to see each act of disorderly conduct in vivid detail. It was exciting stuff.

After watching this riveting spectacle for several moments, I decided to delve into my book. I’m currently in my Dostoevsky phase — everyone eventually has a Dostoevsky phase, don’t they? — and so I’d brought along the great classic, Crime and Punishment. It turned out to be a fitting title to be reading at the game. As I tried to focus on this great work of literature in the midst of the maelstrom all around me, I began to wonder if I’d committed a crime, and this was my punishment.

I managed to read for quite a while, losing myself in 19th-century Russia , when I was jolted back to the present by a very loud horn that made me literally jump out of my seat. Apparently, “our” team had scored a goal, and the ear-splitting sound was necessary to commemorate the event. Sadly, the unexpected jolt caused me to drop my book, and it tumbled from the nosebleed seats down on to a frenzied fan below, knocking his beer out of his hand. 

If you are a happy hockey enthusiast whose team has just scored a goal, you are going to want to drink your adult beverage in celebration, not have it spilled all over your seat by runaway Russian literature. The fan picked up my sodden book and looked up in a way that made me think I’d be safer if I was that little black puck on the ice below. Courageously, I hid behind my husband.

Somehow, though, I managed to survive the game. I even got my book back. My family has decided that I will no longer be allowed to accompany them to sporting events, and I am trying to appear upset about that. The crime was definitely worth the punishment.

   © Jackie Papandrew 2008

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I am an award-winning writer and editor. My syndicated humor column appears in several newspapers in the United States and Canada. To find out more, please visit my website (

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