It came as a surprise when I stumbled upon the Charles Schulz Museum during a vacation in Northern California recently, and an even bigger surprise when I discovered that the world’s most famous cartoonist was an avid lover of hockey. When given time to recollect on this, all the Peanuts comic strips and animated films I saw over the years and the prevalence of the sport in his creations, maybe I needed to pay closer attention.
Schulz spent a good portion of his life in Santa Rosa, Calif., and so his museum is located there, next to what is now the Snoopy Ice Arena, one in which he played in several times as a senior hockey player. There’s an annual tournament that still bears his namesake with the logo made up of Peanuts characters. Nothing else would be fitting.
It was in a small section of the museum that I found a quote from Schulz centered around hockey gear, jerseys and sticks. It was the reason why hockey was so important to this amazing artist. “Playing hockey is one of the few things that takes my mind off of everything else in my life. You don’t have to think about anything else. That’s when I think sports have the biggest value."
I won’t pretend to love hockey. I respect the sport but never played it outside of a few roller hockey games as a kid sparked by the "Mighty Ducks" movies. I still believe Lord Stanley’s Cup is the greatest trophy in sports and I make it a point to always watch the deciding game of the Stanley Cup playoffs for that very reason. But as far as skating and playing, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
I can’t relate to Schulz’s feeling while playing hockey, and I certainly can’t relate to his genius and creativity. I’m a novice in comparison here in the literary world as I try to scratch enough words together to entertain an audience and satisfy an editor on a weekly basis. I couldn’t carry the ink well Schulz used to draw Snoopy and Charlie Brown, but I can relate to the value he put on the escape that sports provides.
For me it has always been playing baseball. Growing up I couldn’t count the number of innings played on dirt fields, makeshift diamonds and the Calaways' front yard. We played every possible combination of the sport using hard balls, tennis balls, racquet balls and anything else we could hit with a bat. I still believe poor Mr. Calaway is trying to get the grass to grow back on that one spot we used as the batters box on his front lawn 30 years ago.
When I was older it was the lure of the organized game that kept me coming back. I enjoyed the science of it, the skill, the feeling I got between the lines where my only thoughts were of game situations: How many outs there were, where the base runners were at and what was I going to do if the ball was hit to me. The rest of the world failed to exist.
Now as the softball opportunities come around as an older adult I’ll still suit up and take the field to capture that same escape. Others might use cycling, running, golf, tennis or swimming. I choose to feed the child and keep playing any form of baseball while I’m still capable.
It makes sense, really. We all need an escape, some sort of activity that takes our minds off life for awhile. I still believe that was one of the reasons for the outcry last year to the NFL players kneeling for the national anthem. Apart from the disrespect, having political discourse infiltrate the purity of sport infuriated many fans who simply wanted to suspend reality for a few hours and enjoy a game.
Playing hockey worked for arguably the most notable cartoonist the world has ever known, and playing baseball, or even just tossing the ball around from time to time, works for someone like me, albeit on a much humbler scale.
Sports can play both a major role in your life or be a very convenient pause button with staggering potential. It took a random visit northbound and hundreds of miles of roadway for me to realize something I’ve known all along. To quote one of Schulz's most-famous characters, “Good Grief!”
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.