The Barnstormer: Hate Between the Lines

The following can be found in its entirety at The Barnstormer. Link below.

Racism, Sexism, and Prejudice in Sports     

I don’t hate. Simple as that. It’s too strong a word, too violent an emotion to indulge. I dislike strongly. I oppose firmly. I abhor, I loathe, I detest. I can even provide an example, or two, for the haters out there who would doubt me. For instance, I used to work for this Russian fella who would disparage me and my peers to others with great frequency and malice, write me emails questioning my commitment and intelligence, withhold funds owed to me, use back channels to kill my career opportunities, and when I finally left his sausage-fingered grasp he told my colleagues I had stolen money from him. A lot of money. But, I don’t hate him. I quietly encourage others to avoid him, I won’t raise a glass with, or to, him. I try to take a shot at him covertly in many of my writings, but mostly as a running joke and to maintain my sanity.

Hell, I don’t even hate any of my many ex-girlfriends, even the one who tried to have me killed, or the one who went out for a drink and never came back, or the one who stole my cat. I have problems with the concept of hate. And yet, as a sports fan, writer, enthusiast, it’s hard to ignore the fact that sport remains well behind the progress of the rest of the West in the dissemination and elimination of hate. For sport, is one of the last refuges of hate in modern Western society. And while I love it for so much of what it has provided me, I hate it for that.

There are many forms of hate in sport, but for the purposes of this discussion I’m going to ignore, for the most part, team-hate, or player-hate, or city-hate. Yes, the Habs hate the Leafs (and, c’mon, for good reason), Philadelphia hates New York, and everyone hates Boston. And, yes, nobody loves LeBron, and A-Rod is an abomination, and we’re less than impressed with Tiger, and we wouldn’t invite Roger Clemens over for a BBQ. But that’s not really hate. It’s hate-adjacent. It’s hate because we have vocabularies that lack imagination. Real hate, true hate, breeds vitriol and violence, and no one’s turning violent against Clemens, with the possible exception of his wife in the midst of a Mindy McCready-induced roid rage.

The hate I’m concerned with is the manifestation of racism, and sexism, and prejudice, within the sports community and discourse, and its inherent acceptance by society at large. Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in baseball on April 15th, 1947. Willie O’Ree was the first African-American NHL player when he stepped on the ice for the Boston Bruins on January 18th, 1958. And yet, a half-century removed from these feats of humanity, these benchmarks of progress, we still get racists fans denigrating Joel Ward on Twitter, ignorant treatment of PK Subban, fans throwing bananas at Wayne Simmonds, players in blackface at team parties, andracist taunts on the ice.  In many ways, in sport, it’s still 1950.

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