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I love hockey. One of the things I miss most from Ontario, now that I live in Vancouver, is outdoor ice rinks. Everyone has that one activity they love so much that they can’t remember how much time has passed while doing it. Outdoor shinny is that for me. What has also struck me about this type of hockey is that when I have played with guys I often don’t have to go through the usual frustrations of not being passed the puck and all that other crap that comes with being a female athlete. There’s something about the informal nature of shinny that can momentarily escape gender roles.
I should be an obvious candidate to be an NHL fan – I’ve got the Canadian hockey love! And the nonsensical Canadian hockey nostalgia (my parents are non-skating Americans). Now more than ever I want to be because my current home is location for the unstoppable Vancouver Canucks. During the playoff games the streets (and anywhere without a tv) are empty. Which is actually nice for me because it means more ice time if my hockey game falls on the same night.
So, what’s my beef? Mainly the money, power, and violence.
I saw this episode of the Simpsons recently in which Mr. Burns acquires a basketball team and in an effort to attract an audience he proposes, much to Lisa’s protests of course, that the city builds a huge and luxurious stadium. Mr. Burns gets the vote at city hall and they go ahead with the building. On the opening night Burns shouts over the load speaker: “Welcome to the American Dream: A billionaire using public funds to construct a private playground for the rich and powerful!” The crowd cheers in response.
Watching that made me laugh really hard…and then sigh.
According to Dave Zirin, (awesome political/sport commentator/feminist ally) over 30 billion dollars have been spent since 1990 (not including tax breaks) on stadiums in the States (I’m sure it’s something less but proportionally disgraceful in Canada). Zirin aptly describes this process as socializing debt and privatizing profit. The cost of the new roof to BC Place in addition to the original amount to build the stadium puts the overall cost at $835 Million. That makes BC Place the 13th most costly venue IN THE WORLD.
And who can afford to bring their family to a Canucks game? Using the average ticket price for the 09/10 season a family of 4 would have to spend $250 on tickets alone (for my hometown of Toronto: $470 – if you can believe it). And, that’s if you plan to not buy a single thing to eat or drink at the stadium. For an alternative check out the interesting story of the Green Bay Packers – the only publicly owned, not-for-profit professional sports team in the US (in Canada the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL are publicly owned).
From a feminist angle what really gets my goat about the absurd amount of public money spent on these venues is that women are not even allowed to play in them. (yes, yes except for the odd championship that may be in town). They are overpriced man tents. So, here’s where the power comes in. Rich men own the man teams who then sell the tickets to the rich men. Women are sometimes are welcome…as cheerleaders. I worked a season at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto running beer to the platinum section and I had many opportunities to see the treatment of the cheerleaders at Raptors games. I also attended many Argo games as a teenager and I don’t think I ever heard the following commentary coming out of one of my fellow fans “Oh gee, that cradle catch requires a staggering degree of athletic prowess” unless that’s what “show us your tits” actually means.
Anyone who has been around professional sport leagues know that it cultivates a macho jock beef cake environment (I’m pretty sure that’s the academic term). To date, there is not one “out” gay major professional sport athlete in North America (there are some that came out after they retired). This says a lot about the culture. Namely, that any sign of weakness (i.e. “femininity,” because you know gay guys aren’t real men) is not accepted. There is long held belief, largely based on proof and experience, that this kind of jock culture cultivates an environment that incites violence against women. Not only are the althletes themselves more likely to physically abuse women than the average male but the rates of domestic violence in home increases during sporting events, especially when the home team loses. Not to mention the correlation between major sporting events and the rise in sex trafficking.
So, I won’t hate on you for watching the Canucks but this is a little flavour of why I find it so hard to stomach. (This, and more uninteresting reasons like it would cut into my dystopian novel reading and Fringe watching)
I think it’s about time professional sports stops being the only thing many progressive people are not willing to critique. Looking critically at something you love doesn’t mean you love it any less. Sport can be such a powerful tool for positive social change; it deserves sincere examination.
Tags: Douchebags, hockey, professional sports, public spending, stanley cup, Violence Against Women
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