• SETH ON SPORTS, SETHICS 13.07.2011

    Now that it’s been nearly a month since Vancouver hosted the Stanley Cup Final with a riot for dessert, I think it’s time I finally let everyone know why the mayhem happened. Well, truth be acknowledged, I did share this opinion with more than one newspaper op-ed department, but none saw fit to publish it (I like to think that’s because I hit a nerve of Canadian truth that was too dangerous to print on their pages, but you have my permission to consider other reasons). Luckily, I have an “in” with the SethBlogs op-ed department.

    Note: I list a week since the riots in the below piece, which is no longer an accurate timeline, but it was right at the time I wrote it.

    ANARCHISTS ON ICE

    In the week since the Vancouver riots, the consensus seems to be that a compilation of insidious factors (anarchists mixed with alcohol-infused crowds, along with insufficient police numbers) made Vancouver the perfect target for this storm. Few seem willing to consider the possibility that the hockey itself may have aided the proliferation of rage.

    The civilized majority of us, of course, did not riot, and so, like a collective parent, have been left shame-faced as we tell the international community, “This isn’t who we are!” Hundreds of locals came downtown the day after the mayhem to help clean up. Wooden walls put in place of the smashed windows of brutalized businesses look like children’s casts covered with notes from people expressing post-riot depression.

    Phrases such as “This wasn’t us” and “This isn’t hockey” provoke passersby to smile, but what makes us so confident that hockey violence didn’t contribute to the riot mentality? During the playoffs, fans of all ages seemed to cheer every Canuck whether they played with sportsmanship or not. I was in the downtown crowd that watched the infamous between-play-scrum in which Alex Burrows appeared to bite his opponent. Many fans applauded the would-be cannibal like a hero. I suspect the anarchists were cheering, too.

    Pleas for vandal accountability, meanwhile, dominate Vancouver radio. Concerned citizens set up websites for witnesses to post their pictures for others to “tag” with names of villains. A 17-year-old boy “turned himself in” after evidence of him assaulting a Louis Vuitton store was published. His tears of regret reminded me of the sorrow that Todd Bertuzzi expressed after his infamous on-ice neck-breaking attack of hated rival, Steve Moore.

    This notion that consequences beget responsibility could be right, but we may have difficulty explaining to our misguided youth why there aren’t similar consequences for their favourite hockey players’ misdeeds.

    Many blame the youths’ action on a sense of entitlement, which they apparently acquired from a lack of disciplined parenting. Indeed, it’s difficult to refute that kids who grow up in luxury sometimes expect so much for themselves that they’re willing to trample on the very civilization that has pampered them merely to secure some bonus stimulation. But is entitlement worse in Vancouver than in non-riotous North American cities that have also suffered the indignity of defeat?

    Throughout the playoffs, various on-ice “rats,” as they’re affectionately dubbed by announcers, have attempted to agitate and intimidate their opponents with assorted cheap shots. Only in hockey are such characters lauded as “key ingredients” to winning. No other popular North American sport celebrates its athletes for physically antagonizing each other between plays and outside the rules of the game.

    Given that such wild behaviour is sanctioned by the hockey culture, should we be surprised, after the intense competition of game 7, that passionate young Canucks enthusiasts, spurred on by increased testosterone and alcohol, might feel justified in bullying Bruins fans?

    Mayor Robertson says the riot was a carefully crafted collection of chaos courtesy of anarchists, who brought Molotov cocktails to the event. Once they lit the match, the alcohol-soaked crowd provided the fuel that rapidly fostered a mob mentality. Robertson may be right that the riot was premeditated by a small group of chaos seekers, but the instigators were only so successful because they exploited the tools available to them, one of which was the ready-aggression of young people – which was ramped up and normalized by two months of watching angry competition.

    In most cultures, young men are a combustible substance. Vancouver probably doesn’t have a greater percentage of hooligans than other cities, so, as we rightly question the parenting skills and security levels that could have contained our youths’ unearned rage, we might also ponder the sort of role models we are placing on a pedestal in front of them. The Canuck players have said they are disappointed in the actions of these “false” fans: maybe they should ask themselves why their own names are on the backs of the jerseys of the criminals.

    Posted by SethBlog @ 2:27 PM

  • 4 Responses

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    • TomM Says:

      Nice alternate point of view. I also think that the overriding boys-being-boys mentality is something the hockey players symbolize, perhaps rather than causing.

    • Bryce Says:

      hey seth! love the post. what’s your current email? (me and family are in BC for a bit)

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thank you, TomM. Yes, I suppose it’s the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the bad egg? But, while I think it’s more likely that the violent culture built the jerks on ice than the reverse, I think the latter have surely nourished the alpha attitude and helped to keep it thriving (perhaps even to a point beyond its natural state).

    • SethBlog Says:

      Hi, Bryce: thanks for your support and idolization. You learned a lot, I think. 😉

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