Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh, Canada, Cleveland should understand your plight

Fun Fact: Canada is a country of 35 million people.

Let's start a fire, let's start a riot...

Fun Fact # 2: Half of Canada's population, apparently made up of white males ages 18-24, boiled up from underground like Morlocks clad in Trevor Linden jerseys to descend on the heretofore laid back and eminently livable city of Vancouver on Wednesday night in a fit of Stanley Cup-cheated rage.

Those wacky Canadians, eh? Good thing those Prius-driving bong-tokers get all that free health care, amirite folks?

Such seemed to be the sentiment this week after the Canucks' Game 7 Stanley Cup defeat led to riots in Vancouver. There's nothing us humans like to do more than to group other humans into neat little boxes. It's our nature, and for a couple of days at least the actions of a brazen group of dumbasses got a fanbase, if not an entire city and country, labeled as barbaric idiots.

The scenes of burning cars and citizens beaten for protecting storefront windows were certainly appalling. The fools happily snapping cell phone pics of the chaos deserve to be in jail right alongside the perpetrators. With all the violence happening to folks fighting for basic rights in other parts of the world, it's hard to feel anything but contempt for people battering a newspaper box to death just because Canada was once again denied Lord Stanley's Cup. Nor is this the first time Vancouver has rioted over its beloved sport - a similar, albeit smaller-scaled mob scene followed the Canucks loss to the New York Rangers in 1994.

But let's take a step back for a moment. While columnists are telling Vancouverites that they should be ashamed of themselves, Clevelanders should empathize with our friends north of the border, as we've been the target of similar finger-wagging over the past 12 months.

Yep, another That Guy in Miami (TGiM) column, friends and neighbors. This one's instructive, though: Did you know that when LeBron James announced his decision, the entire city of Cleveland went up in flames? Yes, it's true. Roving bands of jilted, most likely racist hooligans prowled the streets that hot summer night and fed LeBron paraphernalia to a hungry bonfire so bright it could be seen from the International Space Station. And from that day forward, every Cleveland's fan's last hateful waking thought was laser-focused on James's bitter betrayal against the down-at-the-heels city that worshipped him so.

Our Grinchy hearts couldn't even be happy for LeBron when he reached the Finals with his two besties in the whole wide world. Oh, so spurned and revenge-minded we were, why couldn't we just "get over it" like that one guy on SportsCenter suggested?

In case you couldn't tell, I was being sarcastic. National outlets in fact exaggerated our post-Decision reaction and utterly failed in delving into the complexity of the C-town fan mindset when the Heat made the championship round.

It's admittedly hard to parallel Cleveland's response to James with what happened in Canada this week. Hundreds of rioters were caught on tape and the shots of smoke billowing up amid the backdrop of the gorgeous Vancouver skyline were shocking and undeniable.

Maybe I'm naive, but I'd like to think the thousands who volunteered online to clean up Vancouver's riot mess are more representative of the city than the group of punks who seemed like they came downtown just to raise hell, win or lose.

My rather obvious point harkens back to the oldest rule in the schoolhouse book. For many in this age of Facebook, anonymous sports' message boards and instant Twitter feeds, a few bad apples really do spoil the bushel, and perception becomes reality when that first image of a flipped car (or a burning #23 jersey) appears on YouTube.

We in Cleveland should know better than to join the soap-box chorus against Canucks' fans. If nothing else, we should understand how it feels when the few ruin it for the many.