Victors and Spoils

This spring has been the most exciting in my life for me sports-wise. My favourite basketball team and the hockey team of my adopted city both had long and impressive runs through their respective playoffs culminating in a NBA championship and a seven game loss in the Stanley Cup finals. I had hoped to be in both towns for their final games, having scheduled a trip to Dallas before it seemed imaginable that both teams would make the finals. Alas, Dallas won the night before we left so I ended up watching it and celebrating at the local sports pub with four hipsters, two of which I had to explain the rule of free throws while in the bonus.

Fortunately, I was in Dallas to witness the last two games of the Stanley Cup final, in which the Canucks looked somewhat hapless against the Boston Bruins. When the final horn sounded on game 7 and the Bruins skated with the Stanley Cup around Rogers Arena, the downtown core erupted in violence. I received news of the riots while watching the Mavericks victory parade in downtown Dallas and noted the contrasts of each downtown.

It was a far cry from the elation of Game 5 where the city seemed to come together better than ever before. When that game ended, we ran outside to celebrate with everyone driving their luxury cars back home from downtown. The kids on our block got the drivers to honk their horns; I gave a long-distance high five to one of the residents of the at-risk woman’s shelter that acts as a legalized brothel across the street. All of the differences that come with living in such a diverse city were masked by our common goal of winning the Cup.

We flew back from Dallas yesterday afternoon and changed from the subway to the bus at the intersection that received the most damage from the riots. The windows of the Bay department store had been destroyed and were covered up by plywood. We rode through downtown noting boarded up windows throughout the area.

We spoke to a woman on the bus who said that the rioters were prepared to act whatever the outcome of the game. She also mentioned one rioter who was forced to come forward because he was captured in a photo lighting a rag next to a police car which was followed by a photo of a police car on fire.

The culprit comes from a middle-class suburban family and has received a partial scholarship to a university due to his success as a water polo player. The boy has been shamed through the media and blogs the last few days and has been suspended by the national junior water polo team. I mention him because I couldn’t help but notice his similarities to me at his age. When I was 17, I lived in a comfortable suburban home and received a partial scholarship to a university due at least somewhat to my success as a swimmer. I also participated in some vandalizing. However, I should be quick to point out that I was not nearly as successful at water sports as the culprit and nor did my vandalizing lead to long term damages like a burnt-out police car (I threw some water balloons at moving cars). Nevertheless, I could identify with his likely belief that, because he was athletic, in shape, wealthy, and a 17 year old boy, he thought he was coated in Teflon.

The woman on the bus got off before we turned east toward our neighbourhood. As we moved into the slums, more people boarded the bus and the boarded up buildings ironically disappeared. The affluent part of the area held the riots while the poorest neighbourhood in Canada, where people are often afraid to go, was a refuge from the storm.

A woman sat down across the aisle from me holding a bag with a small radio that faintly played “Careless Whisper” by Wham. I thought about how our neighbours were probably the least shocked in the city by the news that some privileged teenager thought he could get away with such violent behaviour. It seems that about once a year in the park across the street from our house, some kids from “nice homes” have a few too many and think it might be fun to beat someone up. They choose this park because they think that no one will care if they release some of their pent-up energy on someone of little social value. I guess they think that because a man doesn’t have a home, he doesn’t have friends or family.

The woman across the aisle snapped her fingers which woke me out of a daze and I looked over at her. She stared right at me in a way that could be interpreted as either accusatory or glazed over. I noticed how much she looked like one of my old students who came from the south of England. The woman kept staring at me for several blocks until we arrived at our stop, never even blinking.

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About azlewis

I'm an academic living in the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. I also teach at a local seminary.
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