Volume 93, Issue 89

Friday, March 17, 2000


The elite eight

Holding court with Joffre Ribout

For the love of God - it's just sports

For the love of God - it's just sports

March 17, 1955 – the city of Montréal was the scene of one of the most despicable displays in the history of sport.

An unruly and angry mob of hockey fans took to the streets with tear gas bombs, rotten fruits and vegetables – which they threw at National Hockey League president Clarence Campbell – and other weapons of destruction. In the seven hour orgy of chaos, more than 50 stores were looted and vandalized.

The reason?

Campbell had suspended revered Montréal Canadien Maurice "Rocket" Richard for an incident during which Richard and Boston Bruin Hal Laycoe had gone at each other with their sticks.

Some have theorized the riot had more to do with political turmoil than with hockey. While this may be the case, it is hard to deny the impetus behind the violence and vandalism – sport.

Recent history has shown us that sport-related riots are not isolated incidents. From the death and mayhem of soccer riots to the "celebrations" which occur whenever a city wins a major sports championship, violence and sport have become forever fused.

It was only a few years ago that a Colombian soccer player was murdered for scoring on his own team. We can also look to the last Soccer's World Cup when Britain's David Beckham was red-carded in a crucial match, possibly costing England the game. He was forced to make himself scarce for a period of time after the incident.

Was this really necessary?

What about how sport reduces people to mindless peons? Consider this for a moment – does the outcome of a game have any bearing whatsoever on the lives of the general public? It doesn't, unless you have a bundle of money riding on the outcome, in which case you may have bigger problems. But really, very few people's jobs, family lives, relationships or well-being are affected by whether or not the Habs win the cup.

It is interesting to see the ire raised in sports fans when athletes demand to be traded from certain teams. When Eric Lindros refused to play for the Québec Nordiques, fans reacted as if they had just suffered a personal insult.

Why should we care? I hail from the Greater Toronto Area and I've gotta be honest with you – when Damon Stoudamire asked to be traded from the Raptors, I didn't think he was questioning Toronto's worth as a city or the Raptors value as a sports franchise. Even if he was, I couldn't have cared less.

At the end of the day, what Damon Stoudamire thinks means squat to me and it shouldn't mean squat to anyone except the franchise. I don't think Damon should have been booed when he showed up in his Portland uniform, I think he should have been treated with indifference.

Sport has never been life, it has always been and will always be – a game.

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