Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kazakhstan greatest country in the world/ All other countries are run by little girls/ Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium...

Yes, it's that time again. Time to talk about a bunch of drunken idiots booing some poor nation's official theme song: in this case, Montreal fans booing the Star-Spangled Banner (for those who came in late, the U.S. national anthem) last night when the Boston Bruins rolled into town.

Mirtle apologizes for a few dumb compatriots here. Wyshynski is well worth reading, and I can't add anything to what he says because I agree with pretty much all of it, but hell, let's try. A few quick thoughts on booing the national anthem:

1. Sports fandom has always been a cousin of nationalism. They're both species of tribalism, which is a natural and understandable human impulse that can get expressed in ugly ways. Love of country and love of team can manifest themselves in all sorts of ways, of course, from emotions of pride to hatred of others to the occasional bout of mindless violence. The nation-fan examples of this are too numerous to mention; European soccer hooliganism and, uh, rioting Montreal mobs are clear enough examples of sports fans going beserk in the name of their teams.

2. Anyone who identifies an NHL team with a nation-state is a fucking moron. Teams in the NHL, the last time I checked, play for cities and not countries, unless you count those eccentric state-representing teams like the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Florida Panthers. Suspiciously, all three of these "state" teams play in major cities. More importantly, the NHL is one of the most international professional sports leagues in the world. Every team is a mongrel mix of Canadians, Americans, Russians, Swedes, Czechs, Finns, Slovaks, Swiss Misses, and even the occasional Frenchman or German or Austrian. No team, thank God, is a pure race. As many have already noted, the Montreal fans were booing the anthem of their own Mike Komisarek, Mathieu Schneider, and Christopher Higgins.

3. That said, it's not as if the booing Montreal hordes were booing America itself, and there was pretty much zero political content in their booing. They were booing the American national anthem for the simplest reason imaginable: they identify it with the opposing team. The Boston Bruins = Boston = America = The Star-Spangled Banner. The boos have nothing to do with, say, NAFTA or Guantanamo Bay; they had to do with Marc Savard, a Canadian, and Zdeno Chara, a Slovak.

4. Fans of team sports have a predisposition to thinking in such stupid, simple black-and-white terms. Investing your emotions, time, money, and loyalty with a group of people who wear matching uniforms and fight against enemies in different uniforms lends itself to this kind of thing.

5. Fans of team sports also have a predisposition to worship of brutality and violence, if not always to actual brutality and violence. The world of sports fandom is a world where it's perfectly acceptable to scream obscenities at players and officials and fans of the opposing team, wish death on them, occasionally start fights with them, etc. I've done it myself. Well, not the fighting thing. But I know how easy it is to get carried away in mob-type fury. 

6. THEREFORE, fans of team sports should always be on their guard against this stuff. Booing someone's national anthem is only the mildest form of the hysteria that can be brought on by sports fanaticism. 

7. I honestly don't understand why the national anthem is played before any sporting event that's not the Olympics or an international tournament of some sort. Especially in a league as cosmopolitan (as in "international," not "this hotel bar is very cosmopolitan") as the NHL.

8. I do enjoy the anthems before the games, though, partly because of the comfort of tradition and partly because both the US and Canadian anthems (unlike so many others) are actually fine songs. I'm always glad to hear O Canada when the Canadian teams come to Atlanta.

9. So basically part of me likes hearing the anthems before the game and another part of me thinks it's completely ludicrous outside the Olympics or the World Cup.

10. A sports arena is one of the few places where you can enjoy the pleasures of cost-free verbal abuse AND witness (and cheer on) fun, stimulating ACTUAL violence. Not video-game or movie violence, but the thing itself. 

And, um, people are throwing a hissy fit because some fuckwits in Montreal booed the Star-Spangled Banner. Right. 


FrenchCatalogues said...

It's just rude. That's all I can say. No one should do that to anyone's anthem. I don't get why Montreal is the only one that does it. I mean did this stuff happen in Quebec City? Tim Thomas said, "I thought when Obama got elected (president) they were going to stop doing that." This is why the real French think they are rednecks. Really stupid stuff on the Canadiens fans' part.

FrenchCatalogues said...

There is complete reason to be upset about it. Again, it's just rude. Very rude. If someone near me did it to "O Canada" I'd punch their teeth in. You just don't do that kind of stuff to an anthem in my opinion. You like the biggest fool. In this situation the fans speak for themselves. I don't think we can really analyze it much more than, "boy, they look really dumb."

FrenchCatalogues said...

One last thing, I agree about the international stage thing. But Toby and Moose are from Kansas right? And Kovy grew up on an Arizona ranch didn't he?

Mortimer Peacock said...

I'm not saying there's no reason to be upset about it. I'm just wondering why people are surprised. This sort of thing does tend to happen in sports.