In a matter of hours on Wednesday night, Vancouver turned from one of the most gorgeous cities in North America to a full-on war zone, all because of a hockey game.
It was surreal for a couple reasons. First, because the scale of the anarchy was worse than what we usually see in even the worst American sports riots. Second, because you'd think the city of Vancouver would have been better prepared after what happened in 1994. But most of all, because all of this was happening in Vancouver of all places, but it felt like a scene from Eastern Europe (or Detroit).
To me, Vancouver has always been the city that was supposedly too refined for the NBA. When the Grizzlies left, everyone agreed that if the NBA's boorish, arrogant superstars couldn't appreciate a city like Vancouver, then the league didn't deserve a team there. Or something like that.
So as an NBA fan, before Wednesday, everything I'd ever heard about Vancouver made it sound like a perfect little city with an understated night life, a bustling film industry, and serene landscapes that lent the city a calming, gentle atmosphere that trickled down to all the kind, gentle residents who greeted visitors with warmth. The placed seemed delightful.
And ... Uh ... Turns out, Vancouver's like that quiet girl in your office who never says much. She's pretty, you think, but not really hot. Just a little too innocent. Then one day you guys all go out to happy hour, people start taking tequila shots, and next thing you know, she's telling off-color jokes, badmouthing co-workers, propositioning bartenders, and generally leaving everyone else kinda speechless.
Apparently hockey is Vancouver's tequila, when a scenic little town full of supposedly mild-mannered people turns into a end-of-days dystopia that looks like the set from Escape From LA.
A bunch of Canadians pillaging after a bad hockey loss? And they all look like this kid?
Anyway, since the scale of the insanity Wednesday night has everyone talking about rioting a day later, I'm sure people will be asking, "Why do people riot in the first place?"
On that one, I have a pretty simple theory. Or three simple theories, to be exact.
- Everybody's really drunk.
- Nobody thinks they're going to get caught in a group of a thousand people.
- Rioting--burning stuff down, breaking windows, jumping on cars, etc--is really fun. Nobody will admit to it, but if someone said you could set a car on fire with absolutely no consequences, you'd probably give it a whirl. Especially if you're really drunk, and surrounded by thousands of people doing the same thing.
The same way anonymity on the internet brings out the most hateful, ignorant side of people, being among a crowd of 10,000 drunk people who are all breaking stuff seems to bring out the most barbaric, morally ambivalent side of us all. Especially if we're piss drunk at the time.
But why does it happen at sporting events?
Well that part still makes no sense, but it's some twisted tradition, I guess. And as terrible as this sounds, watching the riots was a helluva lot more captivating than the actual game Wednesday.
With that, let's get into another edition of Talking Points...
The Riot On Video. Again, if you could vandalize a cop car without getting in trouble, wouldn't you be pretty tempted? Granted, setting fire to the gas tank is taking things way too far, but if you were drunk and surrounded by insane people, something like this would seem like a good idea:
And so would this:
Before Dirk Became The Best On Earth, He Went To The Other Side Of The World. Deadspin had an interesting piece on Dirk Nowitzki yesterday, where Luke O'Brien claimed Dirk Nowitzki's triumph in 2011 is proof that the "soft" label has been unfair all along.
The closest town of any significance was Alice Springs, or the Alice, as the locals called it. It was once a telegraph station so remote it had to be stocked by camel train. Aborigines could still be seen at times on its outskirts, wading shirtless in the muddy Todd River. But that was 250 miles away. Other than the wind, which blew softly through camp, the night was silent.
Nowitzki sat in front of the fire, strumming his guitar and sipping his whiskey straight from the bottle. He had stopped shaving days ago and didn't know when he would bathe next. He had been in Australia for a week and a half, even though it was May, and by all accounts he should have been somewhere else. He should've been on a basketball court, leading the Dallas Mavericks deep into the NBA Playoffs. He should've been winning a championship. But for the second year in a row, the season had ended in disappointment. Once again people were questioning his mental toughness.
"Why me?" Nowitzki wondered, gazing into the glowing embers. "Why is this happening to me?"
That sets the scene for a trip that ended with some serious self-discovery, and allowed Dirk to find some peace with himself, and the rest of his career. People that say "Dirk was never soft" or "Dirk has been soft all along and this title proves there's nothing wrong with that" are missing the point, though. The concept of soft isn't just about a guy's physical game. Part of it's psychological, and being fearful in the face of failure. To the best, you have to be able to detach from the consequences. Like that one Jordan commercial.
That quality is what separates the greatest from the greats.
Dirk didn't have it until he did, hence the "soft" label early on, and the vindication this year. To suggest he's always had it, or he never had it but didn't need it, is to ignore the lessons of the Outback:
The key experience for Nowitzki, Geschwinder would later say, was to learn how long a day is. "When you're camping you have to get up at sunrise, you might not be totally up, but you're up," he said. "You use daylight to know when you should get up and when you should go to bed. You have to go with the flow of nature, you can't force it."
There was no direct application to basketball, because a basketball team runs a system, Geschwinder said, and "there is no flow." But in life, regardless of your profession and pursuits, you have to learn that in the end, you are not in control.
You could it all playoffs long; he's more comfortable than he was in 2006 and 2007, and it's made all the difference. Maybe his game's pretty much the same, but the player is night-and-day. Dirk had to learn to let go of the pressure, and ultimately, that's what let him take control.
God Bless America.
Mr. Spock Wants To Fix The Middle East. Warp speed on the two-state solution!
An In-Depth NBA Mock Draft For Your Viewing Pleasure. I already hate Enes Kanter.
Boston Wins Again. Northeasterners have the most sex in America, according to a new study. But having spent most of my life dating girls from the Northeast, I can tell you they are NOT fun to deal with on a consistent basis, so I hope the sex is worth it, Tawwwmy.
Finally, Remembering The Vancouver Grizzlies. In the process of writing about the riots today, I came across an article remembering the Vancouver Grizzlies, 10 Years Later. You should click for the picture along (Mike Bibby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and BIG COUNTRY) and also the names that pop up from the Grizzlies record books. Did you know Kevin Pritchard (ex-Blazers GM) was the first guy they signed? And who could forget guys like Pete Chilcutt, Antonio Harvey, and Benoit Benijamin?
My favorite entry was Blue Edwards, though.
Edwards was the Grizzlies starting shooting guard for all 82 games in the club’s inaugural season, averaging 12.7 points and 4.2 rebounds. Started just 32 of 142 games over the next two seasons.
The serial philanderer will probably be best remembered for the messy, three-year child-custody dispute with admitted "groupie" Kimberley Van de Perre, a Burnaby waitress, that exposed the sexually charged lifestyle of NBA players. In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned an Appeal Court ruling that had granted custody of Elijah to Edwards and his wife on the basis that the child would be better off in a black household. The custody dispute was the basis for a 2009 made-for-TV movie titled Playing for Keeps in Canada and What Color is Love? in the U.S.
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