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This is no game!

 Victoria Street Newz (Canada) 20 May 2019

(Originally published: 12/2009) “It is only a matter of months now before we hear exclaimed ‘Let the games begin’. Of course the games commenced long ago in the form of cost overruns, budgets that are better hidden than the steroids used to attain the coveted podium (not to mention the corporate endorsements), people displaced from their long term residences etc. This time the psychological slight of hand that justifies cruel and inhuman punishment delivered to anyone that happens to be wearing a different coloured jersey is also being heaped upon those that are the most vulnerable in our society - the homeless. As if they haven’t been marginalized enough, often vilified for not being “on our team” – ‘one of us’ (969 words) - By Rob Mason

I personally am not an enthusiast of the sports metaphor.  On the surface it occurs to me that they lack imagination. Beyond that I have concern for the fact that sports, which at best, is merely an entertainment form, is embraced to such a degree, that it is allowed to inform and alter how we see the world, our relationships and our communication.

 

It seems to me that most anything can be justified in the name of sports. I first observed evidence of this in school when I would have given anything for some form of merciful respite from another mind-numbing lecture. Most of us were there (at least in body) until the bitter end, with the notable exception of members of one of the school teams. They had a game so voila, amnesty is granted.

 

Of course stories abound about rabid sports parents - driving their kids to excel in some cases at activities they don't even care to participate in. In the stands all civility and decorum are completely lost. I would even go as far as to say humanity itself is sadly lacking. Of course this isn't confined to the area of youth sports.

 

I am reminded of an occasion when I joined some friends to watch their son play football - I went more in support of them - they were so proud of their son I thought, I really don't know much about the game but I'll keep an open mind. Throughout the game there were examples of the sort of behaviour outlined previously, both on and off the field. But the real eye-opener for me was after a stoppage of play involving someone who had been tackled - hit so hard that the sickening sound of the impact reverberated through me and literally turned my stomach.  A dozen or more players, averaging two hundred pounds each, all threw themselves on top of the two involved in this collision. It soon became evident that someone in that pile wasn't doing very well - it took considerable time to get to the player in distress and what I heard through the crowd shocked me. Instead of perhaps "oh my God I hope whoever that is will be alright" it was "oh thank God it wasn't one of our players"- suddenly caring and compassion were conditional, granted only to those on "our team" that were "one of us."

 

Needless to say all forms of violence are encouraged and widely appreciated by the "fans." This simply represents another form of divisiveness - a form of dehumanization whereby behaviour that would have one arrested in any other walk of life is applauded at the sports venue.  "Win at all costs," whatever it takes to "bring home the gold."

 

Damn, a sports metaphor.  How did that creep into my consciousness?  I don't even have cable! Well so as not to seem too self-righteous I will qualify its use, as it serves to leads into that which is to be the focus of the remainder of this commentary, namely the Winter Olympics.

 

It is only a matter of months now before we hear exclaimed 'Let the games begin'. Of course the games commenced long ago in the form of cost overruns, budgets that are better hidden than the steroids used to attain the coveted podium (not to mention the corporate endorsements), people displaced from their long term residences etc. This time the psychological slight of hand that justifies cruel and inhuman punishment delivered to anyone that happens to be wearing a different coloured jersey is also being heaped upon those that are the most vulnerable in our society - the homeless. As if they haven't been marginalized enough, often vilified for not being "on our team" - "one of us."

 

Now in the name of a two week sports event brought to town to entertain (read anesthetize) the masses, as we are encouraged to stand proud as we host the world, get behind our countries' athletes and other assorted nationalist, corporate sponsored malarkey. Proud of what - that so many cash starved social services and programs were squeezed further (or cut altogether) that those on the street are being shipped out, that those in low cost housing are being made homeless, that while the people of B.C. rush out to catch the fever (or whatever the jingle du jour is) and subsidize the whole fiasco further by buying designer license plates - being duped into believing that the legacy will live on long after the torch is extinguished. Well that is partially true  - certainly the debt will be a presence for years to come.

 

It is sad that the dedication, talent, and superhuman efforts of many of these athletes are tarnished, even outright exploited, to further the corporate agenda and those that stand to benefit from them. Can anyone really stand proud - prepared to receive a medal in an event that is being hosted at such a cost, which will bring about such upheaval and long-term pain? This is the same variety of divisiveness and dehumanization that brings about and justifies wars, illegal and otherwise pitted against "those" that believe differently than "us," another of the "games" of the industrial/military complex.

 

Perhaps if some creativity, commitment and proactivity had been applied to the homelessness crisis, we would have something to be proud of - instead as the athletes bow their head to receive their medal we can only wonder if there could be a modicum of shame upon their mind that these games have been made possible for "them" by so many of "us."

 

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