Friday, 11 January 2019

TBC: Born Into It

There is something distinctive about being a fan of any team. We rationalize and justify moves made by our favorite teams that we'd scorn if any other team made the same move. We pay outrageous prices to watch our teams perform, in some cases travelling long distances to see them compete for victory. What actually makes us a fan? That philosophical question can't be answered in one sentence, but one man attempts to examine his own fandom in today's entry into Teebz's Book Club. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Born Into It, written by Jay Baruchel and published by HarperAvenue, a division of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Jay talks about how his upbringing, the city he called home, and the surrounding aura of the Montreal Canadiens swept him into their fanbase and how the history of the team, specific star players, and his own life have prevented him from straying from the pack.

If you don't know who Jay Baruchel is, he's legitimately one of the people to keep an eye on in Hollywood and across the world. From his bio, "Writer, actor, director and comedian JAY BARUCHEL is also part owner and chief creative officer of Chapterhouse Comics. He is best known for his roles in Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder, This Is the End, Almost Famous, Million Dollar Baby and the Goon movie franchise (he wrote both screenplays and directed the sequel). He is the voice of Hiccup Haddock in the How to Train Your Dragon movies and series. Born in Ottawa and raised for the most part in Montreal and later in Oshawa, Baruchel now lives in Toronto, where he continues to cheer for the Habs." Baruchel can be followed on Twitter at @BaruchelNDG.

Having met Jay Baruchel at a book signing for this book, I have to admit that I heard the words being read in Jay's voice as I made my way through the pages. The words chosen by Baurchel to tell his story may see you need a dictionary as his chosen diction is very accurate to how he feels. There are words that may trip up the casual reader, but don't let this discourage you. As stated, these words are very accurate in conveying the point and the message of what Jay is saying, and I commend him for his range of diction in expressing himself. The man is very intelligent, and this trait is shown throughout Born Into It by his command of the English language.

Born Into It takes you through several pieces of Jay's life that are interwoven with his eternal love for the Montreal Canadiens. Jay talks of growing up in Montreal where his dad lived his life through his love of the Canadiens and an illicit affair with drugs while his mother did everything she could to keep Jay and his sister from this life. While there was a lot of good days in Jay's life growing up thanks to the Canadiens and his family, there were the occasional days where things were not always rainbows.

The move that the Baruchel family made to Oshawa seemed to be where Jay's love for the Canadiens became steadfast as he found himself living squarely in Toronto Maple Leafs country. Despite living where the blue-and-white were the topic of choice each and every day, Jay's love of the Canadiens made him a bit of an outsider. This was also exemplified when he was 18 and moved to Los Angeles only to seek out Les Canadiens once more in a new city in a new country where hockey was solely known as the Los Angeles Kings. Through these moves in his life, Jay's love of the Canadiens never wavered thanks to the Canadiens being imprinted on him in his earliest memories, and this unwavering love of Montreal's NHL team is the basis for the first-half of Born Into It as Jay explains how deep the bleu-blanc-et-rouge runs in his veins.

One of the highlights you'll find as you read through Born Into It are the emails Jay has decided to send to various opponents of the Canadiens against whom les Canadiens have a long-running legacy. Whether these emails are real and were sent is of little consequence; rather, they serve to illustrate the histories these various teams have with the Canadiens and how Jay, as a fan, has been tortured by these meetings. Of all of them, I actually enjoyed the email written to the Quebec Nordiques the most as it really provided some insight as to how the two NHL franchises were not only fierce rivals on the ice, but served as political machinations within the province of Quebec during a time where separatism was a common word in everyday language.

Like any good hockey fan, Jay uses a chapter in his book to address the elephant in room - fighting in hockey. The argument he makes for fighting is entirely the arguments made since the game was first played while he also takes the opposite side in stating why fighting is a rather ridiculous part of the game on the whole. He doesn't approve or condemn the act of fighting on skates, but he does swing the pendulum over to the players who do so and the long-term health of those players before bringing it back to how we, as fans, condemn assault but cheer for hockey fights. He writes,
The point is, all of pro sports is an ethical risk. All of it is, arguably, an uneasy relationship between what one believes and exemptions one makes for one's favourite athletes. Competitiveness may not be a sin, but it is hardly a virtue either, and it, along with greed and pride and vanity and tribalism, is not just on display in pretty much any professional sport in the world, but is a defining aspect of sports. An athlete needs not just the will to win, but the overwhelming desire to. This is what we expect of them, what we require of them. We require them to be greedy on our behalf, because we want them to win as much as they can. We require them to be proud and to honour their sweater, and we hold particularly dear the team members capable of moments of individual brilliance. We require them to sacrifice their bodies for the glory of our neighbourhoods.
That paragraph illustrates the brilliance of Jay Baruchel as he describes the exact dichotomy of how fans cheer for a guy throwing and taking punches on the ice, but will condemn a guy doing the same thing in the street. It describes entirely what it is to be a fan of any team in any sport and how we often let our fan biases override the logic and sensibility we normally possess when it comes to everyday life. It might be the most perfect paragraph of why we love sports as a society, but struggle with right and wrong when our sporting heroes falter.

Born Into It likely won't make it onto any school curriculum reading lists or any list connected to Oprah's Book Club, but that's entirely why this book should be read. Born Into It won't make you question reality or prompt you to pick up a sign and join a protest. It's literally one man's quest to explain his undying fandom for hockey's most storied team. Perhaps it will make you examine your own fandom as well, but whatever the case Jay Baruchel has penned an outstanding book that takes you into the inner workings of his love for the Montreal Canadiens. It was a highly enjoyable read about a man for whom I have the utmost respect, and this makes Born Into It an easy candidate to receive the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Born Into It at most bookstores and libraries, but I caution parents that this book has a lot of R-rated language in it. I'd recommend this book for adult readers unless you're comfortable with your younger readers absorbing a large quantity of words they likely shouldn't be using. If you're a fan of any sports team and have always had questions as to why you fell in love with them, Born Into It is a good way to take a step back and examine your own fandom!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: