The anniversary of the release of the movie Slap Shot just happened. That 1977 iconic sports film will live forever. A screen legend that played immortal characters like Butch Cassidy, Rocky Graziano, and Cool Hand Luke, was also an incredibly believable Reggie Dunlop. And then there was the introduction of The Hanson Brothers. So impactful, they are still Sports A-Listers everywhere they go. Allow me a recollection of our softball team’s time with Steve Carlson. It seemed like a decade so it was probably about 5 seasons, but what a great dude to play next to.
The guy could absolutely fly at like 46 years old. You know the chances of a top-tier hockey player having a pretty strong top hand are high. Never ever made a mental mistake. A 100% supportive teammate that never tried to get in your game…he just played his game knowing we were all enjoying every move he made. When you lead off Chris Johnson (the original Sunnyside CJ) and then Greg Feivor and then Steve Hoppenjan and Carlson clean-up, you got 3 dudes that can just motor and a self-aware, competing-machine-like Hop in there…they all scored 4 times a game for 4-5 years, I swear.
It sounds cheesy to say playing with Steve Carlson was empowering, but it kinda was. Who wants to look like a chump while playing with a Hanson Brother? I sure didn’t. And the best part of it was, because of having been where he’d been, it was easy for everyone to gain his respect because even though the Sunnyside CJs weren’t winning the Rotary those years, everyone that was on those teams embraced the competition and took it very serious. Try playing with Hop or Kevin Brothers and NOT play to win..you do so at your own peril. I think that’s why it worked out with Steve as well as it did.
He rarely came to the bar. One time, my wife and I were sitting with him and MMM in that classic purple house and he said, “At this point, I usually drink wine…I usually drink it right here…and I only drink when I’m with her”. He didn’t talk a lot about the “what it’s like to be a Hanson Brother in a bar”, it didn’t really even seem necessary. He’d share stories but never self-glorification. He’d get real talking about his professional hockey days though, and they were all great stories to hear.
And even though the CJ’s were all pretty loud and intense in between the lines, virtually none of em are really loud people outside of competing…with the exception of me, of course. And that again is something I’m sure contributed largely as to why this guy played with us for as long as he did. He was on our team 2 years before anyone knew that was really a Hanson Brother on our team. Put a guy like him on one of the “beautiful teams” of the Golden Era and traffic stops. But that really wasn’t his MO, so I’m glad I’m the only loud idiot of that bunch.
So props to our teammate Steve Carlson and to the movie Slap Shot. Kenosha was lucky to know that guy for the time he lived here. I sure feel fortunate to have been able to compete with him. And in keeping with the theme of respect over glorification, let the loud one from the Sunnyside CJ’s say that I represent the entire team of guys when I say….we all enjoyed who he is and what he did over at Lincoln Park…and it was very easy to tell he felt the same way back…and that in and of itself is all that really mattered.
*Quoting the Late Great Dr Fred…from the first base coaching box at Lincoln 1(3) on a Tuesday in July around 6:20 PM…”Just how it starts in the Bible…In the Big Inning”