DETROIT -- Pardon me for a moment while I put my world in perspective.
In the six years I have been sending my newspaper dispatches from the outposts of the National Hockey League, I've been told numerous times: "You have the best job in the world." I nod with a smile and say, "I know. And you can't have it."
I wouldn't trade jobs with anybody in the world. Until now. Because there's a kid on a boat in the Persian Gulf who must be wondering about the fatherly advice he got a few years ago when he was encouraged to join the service, see the world, have some fun and try to figure out what he wants to do with his life. After all, it worked for his father during Vietnam. And for his grandfathers during World War II. Besides, this was peacetime.
But today I see war maps in the newspapers and on TV, and I see the aircraft carriers bobbing in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. I know one of them is the USS Ranger, and that my son, Allan, is there, a member of an aviation squadron that fixes weapons and radar systems on the carrier's warplanes. I worry, and I wonder whether he will ever trust me again.
I was in Buffalo with the Detroit Red Wings last week, in the press box at the Auditorium, when I learned that coalition forces had begun bombing Iraq. My heart sank. Until that moment, I truly believed war would be averted.
Suddenly, to be there covering a hockey game seemed like the silliest mission in the world. Who cares about the replay of Dave Barr's goal? Switch the TV back to CNN, where those guys are reporting on the war from under a table in a hotel room in Baghdad.
But life goes on. The Red Wings' schedule says there are 32 more games to play, then playoffs. And our sports pages will continue to chronicle the successes and failures of athletes while the news pages report on the real heroes of our time.
Allan John Gave, a 19-year-old sailor, is among the many who think his dad has a pretty cool job. He should know that if it were possible, I'd trade with him in a second to get him out of harm's way. Failing that, he'll have to settle for being my hero.
ALL-STAR IMPRESSIONS: Ted Lindsay is old enough to qualify for senior-citizen discounts, but he still looks great in a Red Wings uniform. And Chicago Stadium looked great to him when he played in Friday night's Heroes of Hockey game against Blackhawks alumni.
"For me, it was a very, very emotional experience," he said. "This building is one of the things that made it so wonderful. Periodically in Detroit, I'll drive the expressway and stop and get off at Grand Boulevard. I'll stare across the street and see a pile of dirt and weeds where years ago Olympia stood, a building where millions were entertained. Joe Louis Arena never will be Olympia, and no matter what they put up here, it will never be Chicago Stadium." . . .
Guy Lafleur, the senior addition to the Wales Conference team, will retire again at the end of the season. Only this time, thanks to the miracle of the weave, he will have more hair than the last time he called it quits. . . .
Any day now, puberty will catch up with Pat LaFontaine, 25, who still looks as though he has no need for a razor. And he still plays the game like a kid on a pond. . . .
During the pre-game ceremonies, fans were asked to observe a moment of silence "to express in your own way your support for the men and women in the Persian Gulf."
There followed an awe-inspiring scene while Wayne Messmer sang the national anthem. Dozens of flags appeared. Sparklers were lit, and banners unfurled. One stretched 20 feet. In bold black letters, it said: "GIs The Real All Stars."
The traditional anthem cheering at the stadium was much louder than usual, as you could feel the spine-tingling wave of patriotism grip the crowd. Especially when Messmer sang, "And the rockets' red glare . . . "
For a guy with a son fighting a war today, it was impossible to hold back the tears.