The ironic nature of life

Ray Smit looks at the many forms of irony — some provide comedic relief, others are morbid

There aren’t many people who can remember that far back, but in 1963 the Toronto Maple Leafs won their second of three consecutive Stanley Cups.

I was little, but vaguely remember the excitement in the city as the Leafs had their championship parade. Part of that team was a utility forward named Eddie Litzenberger.

In 1961, he was finishing a solid career in Chicago when the Black Hawks unexpectedly and almost accidentally won the Stanley Cup.

After the season was over, Eddie was sent to Detroit where he failed to make much of an impact. The Red Wings put him on waivers and his career seemed at an end.

Fortunately, for Eddie, Punch Imlach decided to give him a shot with the Leafs. He played a supporting role as the Leafs won the cup in 1962. Then in 1963, although he only scored five goals all season, he was included in the playoff roster as the Leafs won their second straight cup.

When asked by a reporter how he felt about being on three consecutive Stanley Cup winners, he replied, “You can say I’m getting tired of meeting all these mayors!”

Although he was complaining in jest, early in the next season he was sent to the minors.

Sadly, he missed out on the Leafs next two Stanley Cup victories and never played another NHL game.

So, ironically, he never did have to meet another big-city mayor.

Irony comes in many forms.

There is no lack of it in the entertainment business.

Take the great silent film star Charlie Chaplin.

For fun, Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest — and lost! In fact, he didn’t even get an honorable mention.

And consider Barry Manilow whose biggest hit was called “I write the songs.” But paradoxically, he didn’t write that one.

And who can forget the band ZZ Top. Their members are known throughout the world for their long flowing beards. The only exception is their clean-shaven drummer. And his name? Frank Beard!

Getting back to sports, there’s a perception that most athletes aren’t exactly rocket scientists.

Yet, many are unwitting masters of the ironic.

Take, for instance, Dizzy Dean. After pitching a 1-0 ballgame, Dean noted that “The game was closer than the score indicated.”

Yogi Berra, when questioned about other people’s opinions of him, famously said, “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”

And then there was basketball star, Jason Kidd who in an attempt to motivate his teammates said, “We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees.” Uh-huh.

Mind you, some athletes have a great sense of whimsy.

Take, for instance, former San Francisco Giants coach Rocky Bridges. When asked why he wouldn’t eat snails, he replied, “I prefer fast food.”

Then there was Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Largent who, when asked which of his records he would cherish the most when he retired, retorted, “The Beatles White Album.”

Last but not certainly least was Yogi again.

When his wife asked where he’d like to be buried, he answered, “I don’t know — surprise me!”

But then Yogi always left you wondering if he wasn’t actually the smartest guy in the room.

Irony is by no means always funny. Sometimes fate lends a hand in a most macabre way.

In 1911, three ne’re-do-wells in England joined together with sinister intent.

Their purpose? Murder.

The victim was Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey.

The three killers were Robert Green, Henry Berry and Lawrence Hill. They were convicted of their crime and sentenced to be hanged.

So where’s the irony, you ask?

The gallows were situated at Greenberry Hill.

Ray Smit is the author of The Trouble With Tapioca now available at Amazon.com. His columns appear every other Thursday. He can be contacted at

Raymondsmit@shaw.ca

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