Last week was one of those weeks in which there was so much to talk about and so little to say.
As a supporter, one gets used to the club doing things that irritate and annoy, or that are downright stupid. We console ourselves by saying that “we’re really just here for the players”. In the Pigeon Loft we have a banner that says “Waving Flags and Singing Anyway” which captures this spirit perfectly. No matter what happens, we’ll be behind the players.
Then a week like last week rolls around and real life intrudes into the simple moral universe of sports, where the good guys and the bad guys are so obvious, and proper taunts and teasing are offered in the spirit of the moment. It requires introspection and reflection and a pause to remember that there are real people involved here. People that make mistakes, people that even do so willingly, and there are victims.
With everything that happened last week, to Cyle Larin, within the Residency, and with Sheanon Williams, standing around with friends and singing seemed the very epitome of “too soon”. Talking with friends at the TSS Rovers game on Friday, many were just not in the mood, which was a shame as our local PDL side had nothing to do with everything that went on this week, and were lucky to come away with a point against the Timbers. Even then, singing “build a bonfire” was a one-time-through bad idea, and everyone stood looking at their feet for a moment thinking of the tragedy in Kensington.
At AFTN we have been talking about and debating the kind of response that comes with these issues and the consensus seems to be that we all just feel like deer in the headlights. No one wants to say anything, as none of us have enough facts to do so properly and there are legal restrictions around what we can even report, and yet there are victims, and it seems cruel to remain silent. How can one NOT say something?
My hope this week is that the victims will find healing, and those that have found themselves in police custody will focus on what is most important, which is making amends and working hard on becoming a good human being, and not merely a good footballer. I am an optimist, so I believe that’s often possible, even if it sometimes isn’t.
I spent Saturday afternoon hanging banners and setting out flags in BC Place, before heading back to Doolins and welcoming people into the Southsiders, On the march we tried to get the energy flowing, and it felt a bit better until we got to BC Place. The young friend I was with, visiting from Ontario, was subjected to another tale in the sorry state of BC Place security theatre.
He was refused entry at Gate A after I’d already gone in, on the basis that his bag was too big. Of course there are handy boxes by the gates to measure bags and settle arguments, but none of the security staff would let him stuff his bag in a box to show that it was compliant. Many others were allowed in with bags that were bigger. My friend had to check his bag, containing an expensive camera, with a couple of young staff at a pop up tent by Gate D next to a hand drawn sign saying “Bag Check.” He received a claim check saying that BC Place was not responsible for loss or damage to his property.
His first and (probably last) experience at a Whitecaps match was poor. He felt unwelcome, unfairly singled out and was worried about his camera all during the match. After I tweeted about this, a BC Place staff person kindly came and explained the policy to us. No apology. No offer to go get his bag and bring it to him. No comment about the other bags around us that were bigger than his. Just a conversation during the run of play during which I think I agreed that security was an important thing and yes there is a bag policy.
This is not a one off. I have no idea what the purpose of the security policy is at BC Place. They create tons of tiny problems and detract from the welcome that the Whitecaps and BC Place no doubt would like to foster. They have been consistently bad and reached an apex with the U2 show. Not one person I have ever talked to feels any safer at a Whitecaps match for their presence. In fact, I feel less safe with them in place. They seem to have the bare minimum of training, an unwillingness to stop pitch invasions, and zero conflict resolution skills. I haven’t seen any indication that policies are getting better either.
Too bad. The Whitecaps “fan experience” is suffering for it and BC Place’s reputation is in the tank.