Posted by: Scott | June 24, 2011

A Kiss in the Chaos…

What's it take get yer guy to kiss ya? Rich Lam - Getty Images

I didn’t mean to go three months without posting, honest. I could blame it on a lot of things – a dead computer at home, playing parent to a parent, etc. – all legitimate excuses, but no. I blame it on the hockey.

When your home team (in my case, the Canucks) goes on a rare playoff run as deep as the one just finished, you want to savour every shot, every goal, every save and every blocked shot on the way to a championship… well, almost a championship. For those of us long faithful to the blue-white-and-green (let’s just forget those other colour combinations), these opportunities just don’t come around often enough. Thrice in my lifetime, that’s all.

The best part for me was getting to watch the games while getting paid. The CBC (of “Hockey Night in Canada” fame) set up a family zone from which fans could come and watch the game together on a large outdoor screen. Emphasis here is on ‘family’, not drunken knuckle-dragger. More on that later. I worked there as a kind of crowd marshal, setting up the seating area, keeping aisles clear, giving directions to the food carts, washrooms, etc. The family zone was such a great idea that it unfortunately became a victim of its own success. The deeper the playoff run went, the bigger the zone got. The bigger the zone got, the more room for pre-pickled party-crashers to make a mess of things. That, and not enough pro-active policing to keep it all sane.

You’ve no doubt heard how it all went sideways after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The riot I mean. Yes, there were some anarchist types, trying to instigate things. But, sadly, when it comes to sports, there is a certain constituency for whom sports appeals to their inner Barbarian. Their inhibitions turned loose with copious amounts of alcohol, they can go on a wrecking spree with little incentive other than “Well, other people are doing it.” Sports as a lower-order form of combat? Maybe George Orwell was right.

I witnessed much of the spectacle three floors up in the CBC station. Not a proud moment to be Vancouverite. It’s not that it hasn’t happened before; I just thought we had learned from the experience of last year’s Olympics to party responsibly. And it’s not that I have a lot of sympathy for big retail corporations, either; it’s that with this kind of mob hysteria and mayhem, violence towards both property AND people go hand-in-hand.

But then, in the midst of all the chaos, a series of funny things happened. First, there were people who went out of their ways to slow down the madness. Often at considerable risk to their own safety, they tried to block the destruction of shops and parked cars. They intervened to prevent people from being beaten up. One of my co-workers provided first aid for a beating victim before we had to dash for safety. From inside the TV station, we watched this one guy who stood in the middle of Georgia and Cambie Streets, smoking a cigarette (or was it a doobie?), standing his ground between rioters and the police. A point of stillness in the tension, every time rioters knocked over a pair of traffic barriers, he calmly put them back up. He did that several times as the crowd around him slowly gave up and dispersed.

There were other surprises, too, in response to the riot. A massive volunteer-led cleanup the morning after. The Facebook ‘name and shame’ board set up to find those responsible. And the ‘apology walls’ – notes on boarded-up store windows from citizens and hockey fans ashamed and dismayed by the actions of our lowest-common-denominator subset. A communal spirit-cleansing, if you like, amid the fearful recognition that there is a little Barbarian in all of us. A struggle to make sense of the seemingly senseless.

And then there was ‘the kiss’. No, I didn’t see it happen, but a moment like that doesn’t surprise me, with all the other unusual moments in this latest of riots in Vancouver. (Like all big cities, we’ve had our share.) Is it possible that the image of two people kissing between lines of riot police could overcome the images of violence and destruction? Not for a while, probably. But it would be nice to think that the most enduring image of a dark moment in a city’s history would be not what was destroyed, but of the several positive reactions mentioned above. If not those, then perhaps the image of a guy kissing his distraught girlfriend to comfort her amid the chaos swirling around them?

A kiss to remind us all of hope, of love, and life, with or without the Stanley Cup. At least until next year.

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