A lost Cup and a defiled downtown core. Each on their own would provoke considerable navel-gazing by proud Vancouverites; coupled, they prompt ennui and deep questioning of our cherished beliefs. We believed the Canucks could, and would, take Lord Stanley's chalice this year. We also believed that Vancouver was a city that had matured past the calamitous frat-boy urges that blazed a trail of sick destruction across a part of our beautiful home. We were wrong on both counts, terribly so, but perhaps not for the reasons one might think.The Canucks' failure to win that dearly-coveted trophy this year was disappointing, if you'll forgive my tendencies for understatement. Our beloved team had a regular-season record that everyone in the League envied. But statistics don't win Cups, and the Bruins proved to be better seasoned for the serpentine, torturous run that is the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins unequivocally deserved the win, as they proved in the end to be the better team. Canucks fans at Rogers Arena did us all proud by staying until the end, even when it was clear that Boston had the win secured, and witnessed the Gold and Black hoisting the very jewel that we wanted in our bereft crown. Our fellow fans gave Thomas and his team a standing ovation, because they deserved it, and because it is the true way of sport. You shake the hand of your rival with sincerity and respect, even when they beat you, because they earned those sentiments.
And then calamity erupted, as a small group of rioters who had clearly premeditated their shameful actions, began their swath of harm and destruction. Surrounded by thousands of young adults with questionable values and poor impulse control, the core rioters stirred up the mob and a disgraceful mentality took over. Innocent people were hurt, property was damaged and looted, and smoke stained our beautiful skyline. This canvas, known around the world for its allure and elegance, had been spattered with the hate and anger of the unthinking and selfish. In the aftermath, the true Vancouver once more revealed itself, as thousands of volunteers struggled to scrape off the dirty oil paints that sullied our once-proud work of art.
And yet, the sportsmanship of our fans in the Arena, and the yeoman work of the volunteers who toiled as they removed the stains of imbecility, go almost entirely ignored by the rest of the world. Vancouver is a classless city. Vancouver has no redeeming qualities. Vancouver is populated only by the self-absorbed and destructive. Vancouver deserves no sympathy.
The core rioters have a simple psychology operating behind their dishonest, shifty eyes: they feel powerful when they harm and destroy, and creating that noxious turmoil was clearly their intent whether the Canucks lifted Lord Stanley's Cup or not. The thousands of Canucks fans who joined the rioters, as well as those who stood around smiling beatifically as police cars crackled in flames were simply sucked in to the maelstrom of easy power. We are potent, we are defiant, we are to be reckoned with. Make no mistake; despite the compelling nature of tribal urges, what they did was a choice they made, collectively and individually. But also make no mistake; the few thousand who behaved in a manner reflective of the boys in The Lord of the Flies are not representative of Vancouver. If a few thousand are to be deemed an accurate sample of over two million people, there is not one city in the world that couldn't be smeared with a foul-smelling brush.
But the haters won't heed these arguments. They will reject the simple logic offered because it inconveniently interferes with their unthinking hyperbole directed at the people of Vancouver, and Canucks fans in particular. The haters ignore the fact that nearly all Vancouverites see these riots as appalling and shameful. They ignore the fact that we love our city and have a full-boil anger going for the fools who ravaged our downtown core. They ignore the fact that in the end our rivalry with the Boston Bruins ended with unbounded admiration for their abilities as athletes. Indeed, the haters ignore the fact that Vancouverites are people just like them, who have as many virtues as well as flaws as anyone else on the planet, and despite our loss in the Cup Final, we strived to uphold ourselves well as hockey fans first, and Canucks fans a close second.
In a strange turn of irony, haters share much the same psychology as rioters. They feel powerful when they harm and destroy, and this is what they seek to do with Vancouverites as their hapless, mostly innocent targets. It's easy to put the boots to someone when they are despondent, whether from loss or confusion. It is much more difficult, and unsurprisingly much more mature, to take the time to think about what actually happened before drawing conclusions about an entire city. When you seek to feel dominant, it is easier to insult and injure than it is to hold out a hand and help someone up. Wagging a finger while blocking the view to your own history of imperfections is the ultimate refuge of the venal.
I am a Vancouverite. I am proud of my Canucks, my city, and the volunteers who gave of themselves. I am angry at the rioters, whether they were wearing Canucks jerseys or not. And I am so very grateful to those who don't use broad brushes as a substitute for thinking. Those people are the ones I wish to invite to our once-beautiful home, which will soon be beautiful again.