Arkady Tyurin:

Games people play

As told to: Dave Bidini

This is an edited version of the original story, copyright © 2016 Sorgenfri (Trondheim, Norway)

As a Russian, I should write either about ice hockey or Dostoyevsky. Both these topics are about self-identification and about how people release it.

Hockey is probably the best model of human life. It is a team project. It’s impossible to be released without rival and respect to rival, without pain and happiness of overcoming pain. It’s unthinkable to be imagined without rules and laws in the modern megalopolis. As cynical and optimistic as life is, there will always be one more game, one more attempt.

The national team of Finland — their virtuoso of counterattacks — were a pulsatory monument to Kraftwerk.

The sense of every attempt is to find and express oneself. Maybe that’s why the history of hockey and the history of music detached from the classical canons are so similar. Psychedelia is like the speeding up of a sled jumping from the mountain, or throwing the puck in the air using straight blade stick. The 70s were a burst of energy and a kaleidoscope of stylistic diversity. In Russia, the Red Army and Spartak were embodiments of the USSR’s most popular bands: Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. Glam Rock was reflected in the Boston Bruins led by Bobby Orr, a defenceman and winger in one body. The national team of Finland — their virtuoso of counterattacks — were a pulsatory monument to Kraftwerk. The Swedes were folk-rock, and so on…

With the 80s — a crisis of music, and the beautifully named New Romantics era– came the sale of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings (do you remember his tears?), and in the 90s, the epoch of heavy metal came massively. The beginning of this epoch is the subject of the documentary “Red Army” released in the US in 2014 by Gabe Polsky. The most interesting thing in any work of art is what the author says, unwittingly.  In this case, it’s not “the link between sports and politics” (as it was announced loudly), but the story of the Russian Five — a unit of players (Fetisov, Kasatonov, Makarov, Larionov, Krutov) who dominated national and international ice hockey for nearly a decade before being split up in the NHL. In the early 90s, this unit decided against remaining the best in the world. Instead, they had to betray their comrades a little and deceive themselves very much. They got it right when they said: “I have the right.”

The main question of Dostoevsky’s heroes is: “Am I a trembling creature, or have I the right?” This is the traditional and favorite wording of humanity, beginning with the original sin, and ending with both Marxism and later religious and social sects, to solve the problems at the expense of others and deceiving oneself to the necessary extent. Dostoevsky also said: “lying is only man’s privilege over all other organisms.”  Gabe Polsky’s documentary has dispassionately recorded the unhappy and unkind faces of aged and tired men after deciding to deceive themselves.

Hockey, like human life, is not about “taking,” but rather, “receiving.” It is about seeing others and not hiding.  It is about staying true to yourself and staying among other people, despite the fact that, in Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s words: “No unit and no company is perfect. Even in Christ’s, which was one he had recruited himself, there was one who betrayed him, another who denied him and yet another who failed to believe him.”

And it never ends.



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