Have you ever met Angry Tyler? He’s a distant cousin of Frustrated Tyler.
If you want to know how to fix a problem, Angry Tyler can help. Angry Tyler is great at solving a problem, because Angry Tyler always does it the easy way. He even fixed my laptop’s whirring fan by breaking off several keys on the keyboard.
It’s actually quite easy to work out a solution with him: He’ll yell, throw something, break it, lose patience, alienate, throw his hands in the air. If none of that works, he’ll burst a capillary, and that big problem you had before is now suddenly smaller than the new one.
That’s how Angry Tyler fixes things and I should thank him for all he has done to make my life better.
However, if for some strange reason, Angry Tyler didn’t fix the problem, I have only one thing really to blame: My hockey career. It ended too soon.
Let me back up a minute.
There’s many ways to approach a problem, and I could write about several. But since I often write about the harmony of three, I am going to leave Angry Tyler for a moment and tell you about Nate, Barney, and That Other Guy.
A Rare Opportunity
Skating around on ice doesn’t register as a sport where I am from. I grew up near the beach, surfing every day, sun bleached and tanned. Our only winter sport was walking outside to take vegetables out of the freezer.
So when they opened an ice skating rink a full hour from my house, my mom and another friend’s mom seized a rare opportunity: They took us summer boys to learn to play ice hockey.
They say an archetype is a recurrent symbol or motif. It’s something molded from a primitive recognition, an image embedded deep in our psyches. Archetypes come up in dreams, but they are also represented in our daily life: The archetype of the father, the wise person, the mother, the tyrant. These are just a few examples.
A representation of an archetype may vary in detail, but the very fact that you cannot change the pattern is what makes them archetypes. Primordial. Permanent. They are reflections of our most fundamental nature.
I remember standing against the walls of the ice skating rink. Three coaches were to guide us past the various stages of learning how to play the game. If we made it past all the stages, we would qualify for league play.
With ice skates on, I stood next to my friend, and we both wobbled without direction. With no clue how these funny shoes worked, I was afraid to even move because I might fall flat on my face, paralyzed by the fear that all the others would laugh.
Like a feather, he was light in the air and bristled, as he bumbled like a bull.
His real name was Scott, but I want you to meet Barney first. This nickname came from the belief that he looked like Barney Rubble, from the Flintstones cartoon, and the name seemed to fit.
Barney broke the ice with one big joke: He introduced himself by skating around in a hilarious impersonation of a figure skater. Miraculously completing clumsy spins in air, he performed a feat that would have been impressive if he hadn’t appeared absolutely ridiculous in the process.
He didn’t care. Each attempt was a bigger trick, a bigger chance to fail, a bigger attempt to entertain, and always with increased risk. Eventually he couldn’t sustain them, and he fell flat on his face.
Everyone laughed. Especially Barney. It must have been worth it.
That was the point. I don’t even think it was us he was attempting to entertain. I think it was he who wanted the laugh, who wanted the pleasure of the attempt. But, in the process of him enjoying himself, our own nervousness was immediately thrown out the window. If this was funny for him, then it was funny for us.
Hockey is meant to be taken lightly with Barney as a coach. Not with stress. With laughter. It’s just a game.
Nate The Great
Meanwhile, my mom was outside the rink, watching from behind the glass. There, on the other side of the rink, the older kids were in the middle of a scrimmage. These weren’t beginners like us. These were teenagers. They’d survived a little longer. They played a serious game. A rough one. They knew how to curse better than us.
If you listen closely, you might even hear the spray of the ice, the crunch of the armor, the clash of the sticks.
A whistle interrupted all of this. Among the kids emerged a tall, looming figure with a quiet elegance and a lean face.
This was Nate, my mom’s favorite skater.
At the time, I didn’t care or notice what she saw.
Amongst the carnage and roughhousing, the impressive cursing, the clashing of the sticks, the battle for the puck, between the losses and the gains, Nate skated with ease.
He had the finesse to quickly change direction, to immediately reach around a moving obstacle, to snatch the puck away with technique and method. And if he ever lost it, you didn’t notice that. Not really. Why? Because he was graceful.
Graceful. That’s what my mom said. She said he skated gracefully. That’s a good way to put it.
That Other Guy
I told you about Nate, and I told you about Barney. But there was a third coach. I cannot remember his name.
Although I don’t remember his name, I can tell you precisely why I don’t remember.
And maybe that is more important.
I told you how Barney performed for us, and his humor broke the ice. But I neglected to tell you that while Barney was making us laugh, That Other Guy was talking. They were a duo, both coaching in tandem. But we weren’t listening because we were busy laughing.
That Other Guy was stoic, always reviewing a clipboard as he talked. Every day he arrived with that clipboard, hat on his head, and always with a kind of concerned look in his eye. It seemed as if he was concentrating hard on something, as if he was constantly thinking:
“Am I covering everything?”
After Barney fell on his face and we laughed, That Other Guy reminded us that this is what can happen if you are a hockey player, but you try and be a figure skater without learning the rules.
He then proceeded to line us up against the wall in a row. Then he taught us how to dig in.
As you lean into the wall for safety, you plant one foot forward, and push your back foot against the ice. You literally dig into the ice as if you are pushing against it. Then you switch feet. This exercise is like a slow motion simulation of skating forward, meant to strengthen your legs while safely bracing against the wall.
Every day, we simply did what he instructed. And we became better. Before long, we weren’t safely braced against the wall, anymore practicing what it felt like to dig in. Soon we were actually digging in on the ice, moving forward, with our sticks, against our competitor, and towards our goal.
Inch by inch, always with a clipboard, and always with the checklist, he took us through the process: “Am I covering everything?”
I don’t remember his name. His is not an easy name to remember, because his is not fun.
It’s not fun to be the step between Barney and Nate.
Let’s call him Discipline.
I made it through the first stage of skating, and eventually I was one of Nate’s cadets. That was when it got serious. Under his command, I learned how to sweat, I learned what it meant to always have something just out of the reach of my ability.
This was made evident by example. A few times, my mom would take us on that hour long drive to watch adult games on the weekends.
There, on the ice, was Nate, no longer a coach, but also a player, skating against snarling beasts, a clock, and high stakes. But he always skated against these odds just as gracefully as he trained us.
When something always remains out of your reach, something new always passes within your reach. Finesse is the result.
And skating next to him was his teammate - Scott. There was no sign of Barney, not on the ice, not on his face, nor in his skating manner. He may have not been leaping around in the air as light as a feather, but deep down, I knew Barney was there.
Inside, he was grinning and rolling with the punches, taking both the losses and the gains in equal measure: with lightness.
Because anyone who is willing to fall face first in front of others, but still enjoy their laughter, will have no problem facing them. There's no need to be nervous if hockey is just a game.
But finally, somewhere on the team, and in the mess of this game was The Other Guy.
Always less visible, but always most present, the scrapes of the ice and all his trails left behind do not paint a random design that goes unnoticed.
Those are the patterns which remain after the game. The trails of his skates are the only purpose to invent a Zamboni, they are why the rink is there.
Where his skates have been are the only thing that remains on an empty rink once the final whistle blows.
Those are the marks of he who constantly digs in, who pushes, who refers to his notes, who keeps focus in spite of distraction. Those marks do not belong to the nameless. They belong to those who face the game, not the entertainment. Their concerned look is of a person who must answer his own question:
“Am I covering everything?”
They closed the rink down after a few years. My friend I’d started the lessons with had long since left, but my mom continued to make that drive every Monday until I finished the four development stages.
I was ready to start the league. But I had nowhere to play.
My career on the ice didn’t last but a few years, and was only a career of lessons. But maybe it continued in other ways. Maybe I never got to put those archetypes to use because there’s a lesson still to complete?
So now, when Angry Tyler wants to solve a problem, I think back to Barney, Nate, and That Other Guy.
And I tell Angry Tyler to sit on the bench.
Because I already have a first string.
The Journey Continues
*My mom also did something else that probably no hockey student ever did. When Christmas rolled around, she made sure I brought my coaches a Christmas gift and thanked them. There’s probably a good reason she liked Nate’s approach to skating.
Grace is just another word for gratitude.
Tyler Gooden is the director of TheFCStartMovie.com If you like stories like these, subscribe to receive a monthly email with chapters, free artwork, and behind the scenes info.