Roy Exum: Bobby Orr’s Great New Book

Sunday, October 20, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I spent an hour or so on Saturday morning reading the first pages of what will undoubtedly become a best seller in the weeks to come. “ORR --  My Story” is an autobiography written by the greatest hockey player who has ever lived – Bobby Orr – but since I know next to nothing about the sport, I am reading the book because I believe the kind and gentle Orr is my all-time favorite professional athlete out of many hundreds I have met in my life.

I was with “Number Four Bobby Orr” – as he was once called by every kid in New England -- for three days once long ago when he and I were paired together during the old Red Food Stores’ big cancer–awareness promotion and we hit it off instantly. The Nabisco Company had arranged for him to come to Chattanooga and everywhere we would go all these hockey lovers would show up and just stare. That’s how big a legend the former Boston Bruin will forever be.

Bobby Clarke, another hockey great, once said that Orr was so good that there should be a league higher than the NHL for him and Serge Savard added, “There are stars and superstars and then there is Bobby Orr.”

But the part that intrigued me about Bobby is that he is the nicest, most genuine and unassuming “famous person” I have ever met. The story is told that once in Boston a prominent doctor got Orr to pay a visit to a sick patient and, as the hockey great was leaving, a mob of reporters and photographers suddenly showed up. Orr was incensed – his always a very private life – and the doctor felt terrible until he learned the patient’s wife had alerted the press.

So if everybody knows that Bobby has carefully guarded his story for the last 65 years, how does he suddenly write what he has vowed to never tell all these years? “I only committed to write this book when I realized I had something worth sharing. Not because I scored a famous goal, or because I won this or that trophy, or because I hold this or that record,” he wrote in the book’s first pages. “Parents have things worth sharing, as do coaches and other mentors. I am a parent, and a grandparent, and it is in that spirit that I think I have a story worth recording and lessons worth passing along.”

Bobby grew up in a small town in Canada called Parry Sound, where his dad worked at a munitions factory. Located several hours drive north of Toronto, Parry Sound had about 5,000 residents until the summers would bring 10 times that in vacationers and tourists to the shores of Georgian Bay. And in the book, he credits much of his life with what he learned playing sports with his friends.

“Parents today might be surprised to discover what kids can do if they are left to their own devices. We certainly learned to figure things out for ourselves. We had to take the initiative, because the odds were that no parent would be available to shovel (the snow) off the bay or rink or stretch of road … we had to do the work to make it happen.

“It doesn’t take too long to figure if you play by the rules, not much trouble will happen … There were no coaches to tell us what to do, no parents to tell us how to behave, no referees to tell us what was fair. We figured it out. That’s freedom.  But it is also was responsibility – we had to figure things out or there wouldn’t have been those day-long games we all loved so much.

“Today, far too often I see baseball gloves and hockey sticks being replaced in no small measure by satellite TV and video games … I am not trying to tell anyone not to watch TV … but kids who don’t have the chance to organize themselves and solve their own problems and feel the exhilaration of sport for its own sake, are missing out on something irreplaceable.

“We never waited on an adult to organize our social time or sports experiences. We took that upon ourselves,” wrote Orr of his childhood. “We were the ones who decided what game to play, where to play it, when to assemble and who would be on which teams.

“Without some form of sports, kids lose something. Being part of a team, official or otherwise, shouldn’t just be for elite players. These types of experiences should be enjoyed by every child.”

Bobby also revealed that during all the years he played, he rarely read about himself. “I never saw the point,” he said in his book. “Whether a writer was praising me or burying me never really mattered, since I was generally first in line to criticize myself. There wasn’t a whole lot a writer could say about my game that came as news to me.”

Of course, I have barely put a dent in the book, the best of it is 290 pages still unread, but I can assure you it is a gem. And that comes from someone who doesn’t know anything about hockey but who really likes Bobby Orr. He is one of the best people I have ever met.

royexum@aol.com


Easter Sunday Is Victory Day For Christians

Easter Sunday is a Christian's day of celebration.  We will not be denied our day of victory for the sake of political correctness.  We may be suppressed and labeled as fanatical and offensive, and we may be denied our freedom to openly express our faith but one thing we cannot be denied; the reality of an empty tomb.     He lives!   While others ... (click for more)

City’s Zoning Reform: Fresh Water But Dirty Pipe

It’s taken decades for city government’s outdated zoning scheme to be thrown out, but the day has come. Planners and zoning rule overseers seek to pour a fresh current of design energy into city districts, an energy that will force new structures into a brighter sort of design, a more human-scale and relational concept that is intended to make the city more walkable, more personal, ... (click for more)

Tennessee Broadband Expansion Bill Sought By EPB Put On Hold For Now

Advocates for broadband expansion in Tennessee, including Chattanooga's EPB, announced Tuesday that efforts to extend community-based fiber optic networks are being placed on hold for now "because there is not enough support among state lawmakers to change a state regulation that prevents the expansion of municipal fiber optic systems." EPB earlier won a ruling from the Federal ... (click for more)

Haslam Adds K-12 Funds In Budget Amendment

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday unveiled additions to the FY 2015-2016 budget that will be considered by the General Assembly in the coming weeks, including added funding for K-12. The governor last week met with school superintendents from the largest systems in the state over the issue of state funding for K-12. The next day, the Hamilton County Schools joined ... (click for more)

'Canes Edge Mustangs On Cox's Game-Winner In 7th

  Maybe it was just East Hamilton’s turn to win a tight game. After dropping 5-4 and 2-1 decisions to District 5-AAA rivals Bradley Central and McMinn County, respectively, the Hurricanes weren’t about to lose their third straight one-run decision in league play on Tuesday. So, Kyle Cox and Matt Milita, two of the team’s five seniors, decided to do something about ... (click for more)

Central Scores Early, Hangs On To Beat Red Bank, 7-6

Central baseball coach Glen Carter could finally breathe a sigh of relief. His Purple Pounders had bolted to a 7-0 lead in the first three innings of Monday's 6-AA skirmish with the Red Bank Lions and things were looking pretty good for those guys in purple. But it all came down to Red Bank's final at-bat.  The Lions sent eight hitters to the plate and scored ... (click for more)