Wednesday, December 5, 2007

St. Trev in No Man's Land

Coach Vigneault won’t let Trev play. Trev who is skating like a happy stallion this year, who is often the only Canuck finishing checks and causing turnovers, who is bigger than 80% of the team, who was dangerous always versus Chicago the night I went, who looks unbelievable without a helmet in the warm-up skate, who resembles Christ—or a real human being—in the new pics from Children’s Hospital. I’m not saying he’s got what Selanne or Modano or Kariya still have—he’s not a miracle vet—but the games are no fun to watch without him.

I’m feeling shunned by the game and I’m so cranky I’ve gone back to the essays of Jean-Marie Brohm in Sport: A Prison of Measured Time, a dandy little anti-capitalist, anti-organized sport tirade from seventies post-Vietnam France.

Here’s a sip of its Red Bull elixir. According to Monsieur Brohm,

Sport is a concentrated form, an officially promoted microcosm, of all the ideological prejudices of bureaucratic, bourgeois society:

--the cult of the champion and star-system;
--the cult of promotion, social advancement, and the hierarchy;
--the myth of transcending one’s own limitations through effort;
--character building;
--sexual repression, the healthy life etc;
--the brotherhood of man, everyone united on the sports field;
--nationalism and chauvinism

Sport is also, for example, a type of opiate of the people and a means of militarizing and regimenting youth and repressing sexuality and reinforcing the commodity spectacle.

Trev, in other words, doesn’t have a chance in today’s NHL and neither do Canucks fans.

We’re told that our kids should play sports in order to build character, confidence, fitness. But studies—and Brohm—also suggest what every nine-year-old picked last for field hockey knows: sports can breed and reward aggression, selfishness, arbitrary hierarchies; it can destroy self-esteem and permanently injure pride and knees. The ideology of sports celebrates discipline, competition, self-abnegation and chauvinism. It is bureaucratic and hierarchical. Those don’t always help kids be kids or grow up to be kind, helpful, and healthy adults. Like Trev.

Superstitious or just faithful? Addicted or merely loyal? Obsessed or just really focussed? Sports fans are clever justifiers. Scoring is down in the league and so fans are upset because the game isn’t thrilling. Oh please. Scoring is down and fans are upset because every morning when they look at their fantasy pools and they’re still not winning their own little game, they think it’s the fault of players, or the neutral zone trap, or the schedule, or the refs. There is nothing aesthetically or psychologically bad about a 2-1 game, unless the guys who scored and assisted on the 3 goals are 4th liners and not in your pool, and you’ve got the goalie who coulda hadda shutout.
(Derek Roy, I beg you: Get. It. On.)

Lack of scoring will not kill hockey in Vancouver. Violence and headshots won’t. Never winning the Cup, no. In Vancouver, hockey will fizzle to its pre-Bert and Nazzie lukewarm insignificance if

a) zealots can’t see this many games because Pay Per View is the only way to get them and we refuse to give the greedy and infatuated cable companies any more of our paycheques and

b) gritty no-name call-ups become the face of the team and we have to watch Trev look spiffy but sad up in the press box.

Linden says he has faith that he can “make a difference” for the team by staying ready and being positive around the guys. It isn’t reasonable for fans to prefer the positionally sound Linden to the scrappy little terriers who have replaced him and who might Alpha-dog their way to the playoffs. The difference he makes is not reasonable, or statistical. It is sentimental. Of course, we can’t win if we give in to emotion. But some of us don’t want to win without it and we will, once again, turn away from the game.

No comments: