I was shocked when violence broke out after Vancouver’s game seven Stanley Cup loss to the Boston Bruins. Shock turned to anger when I saw images of the senseless mayhem. The indignant parent within me railed against the young idiots who destroyed my city and theirs. No punishment could be too strong. But the next day my inner idiot tossed up memories of stupid capers I’d cut as a teen and the day after that I admitted that I too had lost control during the Canucks’ playoff run. Emotional control.
I might have realized I was in trouble when I developed acute anxiety that the Canucks would lose their round one series against the Chicago Blackhawks who knocked off the Canucks during the second round of the playoffs in 2009 and 2010. I mean, why would I care? Professional sport is entertainment and deserves as much attention as who wins the Oscar for Best Film Editing. Still I panicked when Vancouver blew a 3–0 lead in the series and couldn’t bear to watch the end of game seven which they won in overtime. I was hooked and followed victories over San Jose and Nashville against players I’d never heard of more avidly than Kevin Bieksa’s mother. The adrenaline rush as the Canucks marched on, dispatching San Jose in six games and Nashville in five, peaked on June 10 in the downtown fan zone after Vancouver won its third game against Boston. The euphoria of being at one with thousands of people all pulling for the same outcome was intoxicating.
While excitement was building I also became agitated and disconnected from daily activities, danger signals for us depressives, so I pulled out my journal to map out what was bothering me. Everything was ticking along nicely in my life with the exception of the Canucks’ quest for the Cup. I reported this to my psychiatrist and learned that in people susceptible to depression intense feelings of suspense, anxiety and fear of loss can trigger associations with past experiences of deep depression. I had not lost my sense of perspective on a sporting event, my brain was taking me back to a very dark time.
If I, a mature, usually sober writer for TAN, could be caught up in playoff mania and then understand why, maybe it was time to cut rioters a little slack and look for plausible reasons for lapses into idiocy by young drunks. What’s more, there might be an Afro News column in it. Writing articles to explain the riot is Vancouver’s newest growth industry so there was no lack of opinions to sift. The only explanation that doesn’t wash is the first one out of the gate, that the riot was caused mainly by criminals, anarchists and thugs. Loss of our social moral compass, an education system that does not meet the needs of boys, stressed parents’ lack of attachment with their children, brain centres from our evolutionary past that are hardwired for violence, alcohol’s dulling of our rational brain so we don’t anticipate consequences, current research on mob psychology, the glorification of violence by the NHL for commercial gain, society’s failure to instill a sense of responsibility in young men, a flawed police response, all these and more may have merit and deserve careful consideration.
Let’s be clear, explanations are not excuses. Each person who contributed to the riot must be held accountable under the law. With the exception of surgically destroying aggression and violence centres in all our brains, which seems a bit extreme not to mention very expensive, all other suggested reasons for what happened can only be addressed by working together. So pick an area – improved parenting practices, promoting a greater sense of purpose and belonging among boys and young men, instilling a more robust sense of community morality, working to encourage responsible drinking, an appreciation for collaboration over violence, improved police procedures – and get started.