by Andrew Morrison | Vancouverites are picking up the pieces tonight and likely struggling to compute the shameful visuals of yesterday’s debacle in the heart of their city that – for just a few hours – appeared to have momentarily lost its way. And who can blame them? June 15th, 2011 was a skull-numbing disaster, a day when idiots ruled.
The Canucks lost what I (and probably you) thought was ours, and rather spectacularly; shut-out 4 goals to nothing. I’ve been a fan for my entire life (having been born in this city two years after the franchise landed), so even though I’ve been down this same road twice before, it hurt hard.
In ’82, I wept like the 9 year old kid that I was on the edge of my mother’s bed. In ’94, I drank myself into such a stupor that I slept for 24 hours. My wife’s tolerance of this devotion was written into our vows ten years ago this month, but little did she know that I’d be 9 years old again for three hours on 82 nights every year.
I watched this Game 7 with well over a hundred friends and neighbourhood compatriots at Pat’s Pub on the DTES and left – more devastated than in years past – with four minutes remaining in the 3rd period. I couldn’t bear to see Chara lift the Cup or watch my team take a collective knee while the bumblebee bastards skated around the arena. I just couldn’t.
Never had I felt more crestfallen than when I made the decision to quietly get up and leave. I won’t ever forget navigating through my friends. I lied to one of them, “I’ll be right back”, but told my brother the truth on my way out. “I can’t take this. I’ll see you later.”
Having a recently broken leg didn’t help my situation. Neither did the effects of Tylenol 3’s mixed with the few beers I’d managed to nurse. Outside in the inappropriate sunlight of East Hastings, I very nearly broke down, making what must have been quite the allegorical sight walking the few blocks home: a choked-up cripple unevenly hobbling the deserted, silent street on crutches with a full playoff beard while wearing a Kesler jersey and a frown as deep as the Laurentian Abyss.
I’d wanted it so badly.
And not just for me. I wanted it for my Mom (who used to send me VHS tapes of the games when I moved to Africa, usually two weeks after they’d been played) and for my grandmother, Doreen, with whom I watched the Canucks fall in Game 5. I wanted it for my kid sister and her husband Rob; for my cousin Christine – possibly the biggest Canucks fan ever – and for my amazing in-laws and friends (so sorry John, Jane, Spencer, Holly, Pablo, James, Mark, Sean, Sonya et al). I wanted it for my grandfather Jack and for my step-dad Ross, both hockey fans who passed on before they ever got the chance to see the Cup paraded down Georgia.
I wanted it especially for my kids, who are of the age when fandom usually strikes. The play-off run had finally gotten them into hockey. This year, they knew the names of the players. They wore their jerseys to school. They made funny signs (the one with the Sharks insignia flanked by golf clubs was my favourite). They were starting to make calls during the flow of play and sometimes even yelled at the refs.
I wanted it for my team. For the Sedins. For Burr. For Luongo. For Manny…
But most of all, I wanted it for my city. I wanted, if only for a year, to live in the home of The Stanley Cup Champions. I wanted to hear tens of thousands of people sing Queen’s “We Are The Champions”. I wanted to see a celebration the likes of which we’d never witnessed before.
Instead, I went home.
My wife and kids did their best to brighten me up, but their condolences did little to assuage my funk. I was irritable. In a fit of utter ridiculousness, I rose my voice to quell an argument about Lego. Not even Michelle’s hurriedly-baked-to-console coconut and chocolate chip cookies could soothe my seething. Not tonight. I was the very definition of inconsolable. If there were to be tears, they’d be coming soon.
But then the texts and photos starting coming in…
“Fighting on Georgia. Feels like a riot’s gonna start.”
“Dude, shit is going off down here. Not safe. Going home.”
“Riot 2011 is on !”
Oh, Jesus. Really? I put on CTV’s live stream and my sadness was quickly replaced by anger. It took me all of three minutes to understand what was happening: my city was under attack by douchebags enabled by even bigger douchebags cheering them on and snapping photos, taking video, tweeting and texting their stupidity to their Facebook “friends”, as if this was somehow the seminal moment of their otherwise vacuous, Nintendo lives (it probably was). People riot for food, for freedom, for myriad worthwhile reasons. But this? No. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as I flipped around and found equally damning footage on ABC, NBC, CNN and so on…how embarrassing.
Such is suburbia unleashed. Perhaps I’m being a little naive when I think that no Vancouverite would actively participate in the destruction of their own city, but if I know my fellow citizens at all, I know them to be as house proud as nesting beavers.
But they were there. In the footage and photos from last night, you can see them trying to stop people looting. You can see them breaking up fights. You can tell by the looks on their faces that they’re shocked and ashamed.
And there were heroes among them. Take a look at this courageous fellow (arrives at 2:04)…
That took guts. Give that dude a medal. And then there’s this lady, trying to stop these goofs from smashing another window (she was assaulted for her trouble)…
But what of the rest? Take a closer look at them. Look at the age bracket, the haircuts, the shades at 10pm, the clothes, the shoes, the gold chains and the irrational steroid + Red Bull + cocaine rage. These aren’t kids from East Van, Kits or the West End, and that guy with the skateboard isn’t a skateboarder. I’ve been skating for 25 years and know poseurs when I see them, and those pants are a dead giveaway. Fucking loser.
No, dear friends, these are douchebags of the first order; malevolent, knuckle-dragging cave boys of the “fuck you, faggot!” breed. I reckon the overwhelming majority were Skytrain and souped-up Honda Civic bandwagon imports from the strip malls of Maple Ridge, Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam and other points beyond our city limits where culture among twenty-somethings and teens fears to tread.
Sure, we have some living among us (witness the recent ruin of Yaletown and the weekend wrecks of Gastown and Granville), but make no mistake: Vancouver was invaded last night. We were attacked and over-run by ignorant young men with assholes for fathers, shit for brains, and no experience of life beyond their Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, 7-11’s and highschool smoke pits. I mean, who attacks a bookstore, for fuck’s sake? Who smashes the windows of Charlie’s Music?
One of the most frustrating things about the whole gongshow was watching the cops stand by while these shitheads stained downtown. This after they’d bragged that they were ready for every contingency and had the Solicitor-General shut the liquor stores early. Their idleness at the start was beyond me…
Seeing their patrol cars and other vehicles go up in flames and store fronts looted while they “contained” and “organised” a response made me want to scream “Move your asses! Do something! Fight back!”
As much as I respect the VPD (and personally admire their chief), I wanted them to get into trouble last night. I wanted them to kick so much some spoiled brat ass that there would have to be a public outcry for an inquiry about excessive use of force. I wanted to see horse hooves stomping new tattoos on weekend would-be “anarchist” ankles. I wanted to see all the shit-grinning gawkers throwing up fake gang signs and yelling “wooooo!” getting their ribs properly tickled with truncheons. Though I understood the cops’ restraint (especially considering the success of “passivity” during the Olympics), I didn’t find it admirable in the least. Of course, when they did get the opportunity to smack some sense into a few people, I didn’t wince…
More frustrating was Mayor Gregor Robertson repeating that this was a “small group of troublemakers.” This was a doozy of a hope masquerading as a truth, and so very wrong. For every dozen jerks turning over cars or smashing windows, there were at least a hundred people encouraging them from the sidelines. These were the brave souls who would run up to the flames to pose for pictures before running away. The total number of the invasion force is unknown, but it certainly exceeded a “handful” or a “small group”. We’re talking thousands, all of them getting in the way of police and emergency responders simply by standing around and soaking up the atmosphere so one day they’d be able to say to their presumably illiterate grandchildren “Look how stupid I was!”
There were moments ancillary to last night that got in my craw, too, like Mike Killeen’s coverage on CTV. It was awfully Dad-like with all its grating, knee jerk pontificating and general “I can’t believe this is happening” tut-tutting (if you turned the volume down and just watched his face, you can almost hear him yelling, “Get offa my lawn!”). But it was his flippant assertion that “these aren’t hockey fans” that made my jaw drop the lowest. Vancouver Chief of Police Jim Chu said the same thing today, calling the rioters “young men and women disguised as Canucks fans who were actually criminals and anarchists.” Wow. Such denial is usually the province of third world dictators, as in “these people on the streets are criminals and foreign agents and we will crush them.” Newsflash: they were all hockey fans. You both forgot that it’s a game that principally appeals to yahoos. And therein lies the rub…
If you’re from BC, male and between the age of 5 and 100, chances are you’re a bit of a hockey fan. If you’re in the most unstable demo – say 15 to 30 – and from the suburbs, it’s been my experience that you’re an asshole. Young people do really stupid things when they get drunk and are made angry by the stubbing of toes, missing American Idol and watching their team flail against a goalie that looks like Zach Galifiniakis. And when they have thousands of people letting them know that trusting their instincts in such an emotionally-heightened state is a spectacularly good idea, well…this sort of shit happens.
What’s more, putting a camera crew in the midst of such a crowd rioting and having your cops do nothing about it will serve only to further incite, accelerate and exacerbate the situation. And Mike, uttering inane generalisations like, “this city does not know how to behave” is almost as embarrassing as watching a guy jump through the flames of a burning BMW. That guy didn’t know how to behave. Me? I’m alright. I even have a sense of humour about these sorts of things. You definitely made me laugh last night (and Dan Rather cry).
Worse, though, was former rocker Matthew Good’s awful editorial in the UK’s Guardian, published early this morning. Granted, it was written from the hip when he was as hot under the collar as I, but his condemnation of the entire city as “far more a backwater fishing village that a world-class city” was as wrong as it was dumb. I’d burn his CD’s if I hadn’t first stolen them digitally and then deleted them because they weren’t any good.
But I digress…
If there’s any silver lining at all to last night’s embarrassment (aside from Hawksworth coming out unscathed), it’s that anger is a far more potent emotion than sadness. As I watched the riot unfold, I could no longer give a damn about the Canucks losing. That will sink in later, when the bruise is already half-healed. What I care about today is my city and ensuring that every one of the Ed Hardy-wearing fucktards that messed with it get five times more punishment than the law allows.
If you were one of the assholes down there shooting pictures and video of the rioting and looting for the sake of your own social media kicks, you have the chance to redeem yourself by sending your shots and footage in to the police. If you can help in identifying some of the idiots who were active participants in the riot, go here and help out. If you just want to make fun of people being outed for their stupidity, this is pure gold. Top marks.
And for those who feel like last night was somehow representative of Vancouver, I leave you with shots of the day after to remind you of…
PS. Go Canucks Go!
PPS. Follow up post here.