Given that an NHL player (Auston Matthews of those perennial heart-breakers, the Leafs of Toronto) is in arse-deep manure for pulling his pants down and mooning a security guard this past spring (he did leave his underwear on, the ever-vigilant press has alerted us), and that Pierre’s boy Justin has been been labelled a racist because of his blackface routines, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.
First of all, it’s fortunate I was never imbued with the kind of talent needed to play professional hockey (though I would have sold my soul to play right wing for the Rangers, on a line with Jean Ratelle). And second of all, that I was turned off early on from politics, realizing it was a kiss-ass way of making a living, a racket that demanded unadulterated subservience and blind loyalty, an occupation that, for me, had absolutely zero appeal.
Because, if I had gone in either direction, sports or politics, there would have been headlines dredged up about my past that would have placed Matthews and Trudeau in the minor leagues of impropriety.
Matthews, as we all know, is a millionaire, grossly overpaid, for sure, as are all professional athletes (although none of us, if we were in his pads, would have turned down his salary or donated half to charity; we’d have gladly taken the money and run, or skate, in his case.).
But, for gawd’s sakes, he’s still a young fella, still feeling his oats, a mite immature, as I certainly was at his age (early 20s, I do believe), and it’s not exactly earth-shattering that he’s gotten into “trouble” because of that drunken escapade in a parking lot.
Holy poop, I was making 95 bucks a week at The Evening Telegram, not tens of thousands a week, as Matthews is, and I managed to pretty near kill myself with beer and cigarettes and general debauchery; imagine what I would have done with big bucks in the bank.
There were plenty of embarrassing moments as it was, any one of which would have stalled, if not killed, a promising hockey career, if that was the route nature and my gene pool had allowed me to take. (Fortunately for me, every Tom, Dick and Harriett was not armed with a mini video camera when I was up to no good back in the day).
Let’s see: there was the time I was dressed up as a sheep for a Halloween dance at the LSPU Hall, and found myself drunk as a skunk, throwing up on the sidewalk on Duckworth Street; (imagine if that had been caught on film; no, on second thought, don’t imagine that).
Or the time at that party downtown when I got in a racket...
Ah, forget it. I won’t bore you or turn you off with any further stories this weekend from my days of indiscretion (to put it mildly); I’m sure you get the picture.
The bottom line, so to speak, is that it’s only natural that I believe hockey fans and non-fans alike should cut Matthews some slack. Not that every adjudicating soul has had as many moments of mortification as I have, but I’d bet the cost of my Centre Ice access on cable that there’s many of you out there who’ve said or done something you just wish to hell you could take back.
Yes, it was stupid, unseemly, and it was moronic on his part not to have contacted his employer immediately after the police became involved in the incident. But come on, it’s not as if he was a man wearing nothing but a trench coat exposing himself on Yonge Street.
I’d say more than a few of some of those holier-than-thou reporters who covered the Matthews case with such glee have skeletons in their closets.
Give the guy a break, I say.
Which brings me to the political arena and the hyperbolic reaction to the Trudeau photos and video.
My memory bank, as far as I know, doesn’t include a deposit of a performance in blackface at a costume party (a hefty sheep, yes), but I have to wonder how many times I said something that would have, at the very least, run afoul of the language police, or, at worse, been viewed by some (perhaps many) as racist or homophobic or sexist? The fact that I fit none of those labels would have been deemed irrelevant if I was a participant in electoral gamesmanship and an opponent was in search of any advantage at his or her disposal.
I had the distinct feeling that most Canadians weren’t quite sure how to react to Trudeau’s misguided experiment in humour, perhaps because so many had either engaged in past episodes of inappropriate behaviour themselves or had merely gotten a kick out of something foul done or said in their company.
And the ambivalence, I do believe, was also a result of an awareness that Trudeau’s policies and philosophy do not bear the stamp of a narrow-minded bigot. To the contrary, in fact.
The prime minister’s shocking interference in the SNC-Lavalin case and the despicable way in which he virtually condemned Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott is what I believe has tarnished his reputation in the most profound of ways, not his costume buffoonery.
As for me, neither a rich hockey player nor a politician did I become; the dirt of my past has non-weaponry status.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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