Friday, June 17, 2011

Pull Yourself Together

As someone who writes about soccer, known for its hooliganism, I can’t help but weigh in on the Stanley Cup riots of this week. But what’s left to say? Like you, I’m embarrassed and angry. I love sport- but this week, some of the good things that go along with sports—endorphins, excitement, and national pride—all turned ugly. Why?

In his excellent book “How Soccer Explains the World”, Franklin Foer writes about how some feminists like Susan Faludi have tried to explain away soccer hooliganism as being a product of “downsized men....deprived of traditional work and knocked off patriarchal pedestals”, who “wanted to reassert their masculinity.” But Foer disagrees and says that the most notorious English hooligan soccer gang’s members include “middle-class thrill seekers.” That’s what we saw on Wednesday. Well dressed, middle class young men (and some women) who can not only afford hundred dollar hockey jerseys, but can afford to toss them onto burning cop cars as they photograph themselves doing so with expensive camera phones. UBC sociologist Rima Wilkes, looking at Wednesdays rioters in Vancouver, says “they weren’t even angry. They were having fun.”

To me, more than anything else, it speaks of boredom. And the thing is I remember some of those feelings of boredom from when I was young. Even though it was 25 years ago, I remember being a frustrated teenager and wanting to get drunk and do stupid, stupid things—just so I could feel something. But like you, I just don’t understand how that feeling translates into flipping cars and smashing things.

Sophie, my 8 year old, was so depressed watching the game after the Canucks went down 2-0 that she said “I’m going to get a piece of paper and draw a picture about my feelings,” and Steve and I struggled to keep straight faces. Of course, I don’t expect that drawing pictures of your feelings is the answer for every drunk and frustrated young man, but come on. Want to feel something? Why not shave your playoff beard, if you had enough cajones to grow one (although many I see in the riot photos don’t appear to be old enough), and splash some acidic aftershave on? I bet that would hurt like a bugger. Or get a hockey stick and ball and head over to the tennis court and whack the ball against the wall for half an hour-- that feels damn satisfying. Or why not stand up to some of those crowds of bastards who are smashing things? I’ve seen great videos of a few brave souls doing just that, and boy, I bet the tension in that moment would sure make you feel alive.

As I headed downtown to work Thursday morning, I saw some red faced young guys in Canucks shirts at Bridgeport Station – heading onto buses leading out of the city, as I was heading into it. Released from their night in the drunk tank? The red in their faces was the ruddy kind you see in those that are hungover, although I’d like to think some of the red was from embarrassment too.

I work at Granville and Georgia across from the Bay, in “Ground Zero” as I heard someone call it, and I was curious as to what I’d see as I headed up from the skytrain station. Plywood where the Bay and Sears once had windows. Spraypainting on the public art that was put up during the Olympics. Charred chunks of sidewalk. Blackened garbage cans. But I also saw tons and tons of people in Canucks jerseys cleaning. For every burned garbage bin, there were four people scrubbing at it, trying to get the black stains off. And tons of positive (and only positive) graffiti on the boarded-up stores, apologizing for our fellow citizens drunken rampage. There were crowds of people around, still writing messages. Whenever people even slightly brushed against each other in the crowd, they apologized. As schmaltzy as this sounds, all of this totally choked me up. I got tears in my eyes the way I do whenever I stand with my kids and sing O Canada before a sporting event, especially when we get to the part about the truth north, strong and free.

Finally I walked by the Canucks team store at Robson and Granville. It was closed, but everything about it was untouched—no glass smashed, no spray painted graffiti—it was as though the Canucks had nothing whatsoever to do with the rioting. Accustomed to reading messages on every surface in sight, I glanced around and noticed the only word was near the handle on the door-- a sign that said Pull. I found myself thinking I was glad it did not say push—we’ve definitely seen enough pushing for now. Come on, Vancouver. I’m pulling for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment