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I Predict A Riot

Whatever it is I imagined myself writing this evening about last night’s post-Stanley Cup Final riots in Vancouver, it’s mostly said and said damn well right here. But I would perhaps echo the closing paragraph’s assertion that this sort of result was not only predictable but, maybe, inevitable. One can hardly be surprised when modern capitalism’s limited septic tank for the vast unsublimated reserves of masculine aggression that civilization has a profound need of diverting (some call it competitive sport) overspills with such sudden, volatile pressure. A sport like hockey, in particular, with its (barely-)controlled violence and underlying narratives of virility and male mastery, dangerous activates the inherent violence characteristic to the human character. Those dark primal impulses to smash in your fellow man’s skull with a stone in order to avail yourself of his cave and his mate can be easily triggered in such an environment. But, more importantly in Vancouver’s current case, it can even more easily be triggered when the possibility of mastery, of domination over your unworthy opponent, is no longer possible. Deprived of a fiery on-ice glory by their team’s unceremonial collapse at the critical moment, the Lower Mainland’s frustrated and coddled youth turned their backs on their skating ciphers and sought mastery of the scrubbed streets of their coastal metropolis. For the lizard brain, thoughtlessly stimulated by greedy, jingoistic hype, no other course of action meets its peculiar logic.

Never mind the accepted standard. This CANNOT merely constitute first base.

There are politics at play, too, and not just the window-smashing iconoclastic nihilism of the anarchist infiltrators that were surely at least slightly involved in the destruction, as they were during the Vancouver Olympics and Toronto’s G8 protests last year. The regressive vigilante-justice types always seem to expose themselves in such situations, laying bare the ugly authoritarianist tendencies that run coldly through the veins of “freedom-loving” conservatives. The Left, while abhoring the largely-mindless smashing, can’t help but feel wistful and pine for properly-directed revolutionary fervour. But these are guests at the dance; pure instinctual aggression and rage are the bedazzled hosts, and you better believe they’ve spiked the punch bowl and set out at least one plate of special brownies at the snack station.

Really, though, this is a fitting end to a fairly unbecoming Stanley Cup Finals series. Prone to dirty post-whistle intimidation, blatant embellishments, scores run up without pause, frightening injuries that beget uneven discipline, and generally strapped-down ugliness, this was hockey that begged for a nasty coda. Even though the destruction of that coda will be forever pinned to Vancouver and its fallen Canucks, it has an inescapable Bruins character to it, a chip-on-the-shoulder belligerence that is a raison-d’etre of its own, beyond whatever dubious rewards it grants. It is what this unattractive, strange contest likely deserved: not professional sport’s most shimmering and iconic trophy, but a Molotov cocktail. It’s disappointing that either had to be used in such a manner, but it can hardly surprise even the less cynical observers. The more cynical, of course, saw it all coming a mile away.

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