Dear Random Fan: You Are Not The Problem Police

Hey, guys!

If you’re reading this, you probably watch sports — although maybe you don’t, and someone just directed you to this for the overall message. That’s fine. You’ll keep up with what I’m saying anyway, I’m pretty sure; I’m discussing sports-related incidents here, but what I’m saying can really apply to anything.

Today was the first day of the 2015-2016 NHL season; I was pretty effing excited for it, too (if you’ll pardon my french). It’s been a really long, really hot — and I mean really hot, I just moved to Arizona in January — summer; I’ve been ready to get back to the rink and watch games, play scrimmages, and hang out since about mid-June.

Then a couple of things happened, and I just wanted to get something out there.

First, Patrick Kane

I know that a guest author over at the all-female sports blog The Other Half did a piece on walking away from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this week, centreing around the NHL’s decision to uphold the lack of suspension with pay for Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane — and the fact that the Blackhawks have made him a central focus of their season and their marketing campaign moving forward.

Kane, for those who still don’t know, is under investigation for allegations of rape made against the forward back in his hometown near Buffalo, New York. No charges have been filed yet, and the case has taken more than a few twists and turns that left many onlookers more confused and upset than anything else; there was falsely tampered with evidence planted, the prosecution’s legal council aggressively asserted his determination to see the case to justice — then quit unexpectedly just days later — and amidst all of it, Kane played in his first game of the 2015-2016 season on opening night.

For some fans, that was reason enough to walk away from watching and supporting the team.

Look; I personally did a piece on why I disagreed with the decision not to suspend Kane a few weeks back. I think that when it comes to a social issue that’s still very lopsided and difficult for society to handle properly, the league can spare a couple of weeks without a star winger to put him out of the spotlight during an emotionally sensitive investigation.

They didn’t, though, and the case is currently a tangled web of lies — from likely members of both parties — and it’s become one of the most polarizing issues heading into the regular season.

Then, We’ve Got Greg Hardy

I have about six million different reasons why Greg Hardy is a trashy piece of humanity — starting with the reason he served out his suspension and ending with the way he showed no remorse when returning to the team this week. I think Katie Nolan summed them up pretty well, though, so I’ll just post her video here:

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Like the post published by The Other Half, Katie Nolan’s rant is a commentary on why she’s got a problem with the way situations have been handled by a high-profile, PR-conscious sports organization with high levels of influence and a huge platform for people to listen to what they say.

For various reasons, I both agree and disagree with what these two pieces are saying. I accept that people need to step away from hockey if the decision not to suspend Kane makes them feel uncomfortable watching the game; I also think there’s very little (if any, really) excuse for what Hardy said when he returned to the locker room and addressed the media.

Am I as upset about the ‘guns blazing’ comment as I am about the rest of it? No. Do I think, at this point, that the NHL has done enough to make me stop watching the game? No – but that literally does not matter.

I’ve got somewhere a little over 2,000 followers on Twitter; the last piece I published on this blog got just over 1,000 views. I know that I’ve got an audience when I speak; despite this, I am no more important of a sports fan than someone who has never published an article in his life. I am no more important than Katie Nolan (and not because she’s got a TV show, either) and I am no more important than Casey Rathunde. One of these pieces resonates with me more than the other, but that does not make it the more important piece, either — they both hold equal value, and we as a society do not seem to understand that. 

The comment section on Garbage Time’s tweet of the video is a mixed bag; many responses applaud the rant, but there are a good number of them that tell Katie that she “doesn’t get it”. Then, there are all the Patrick Kane comments — both from people who support what Rathunde’s piece asserts and from those who don’t see the lack of a suspension as an assertion that the league (or the Blackhawks) don’t care about rape — that make the same accusation: the other side just “doesn’t get it”.

Wrong; you, the commenter, do not get it.

What I find problematic and what you find problematic may be two completely different things.

I find it problematic when men can harass women in the workplace, knowing that complaints against their behaviour are more likely to get the woman dismissed or demoted than him. I also find it problematic when people use the money they save with Obama’s new student loan plan to go out and buy a brand new car using credit, which racks up the national debt even more and makes it that much harder for me to live in a world where getting by debt-free is nearly impossible anymore. I find people who cheat on their taxes because “the system is flawed” problematic, I find girls who publicly humiliate ‘nerdy’ guys problematic, and I find people who think gun control is ‘missing the real problems’ problematic.

Do you see what I’m saying? What I find problematic is no more or less legitimate because you, the reader of this post, don’t find it problematic as well — and the lack of respect I’ve seen when people speak out on recent events is absolutely appalling.

Of course, it goes both ways.

A colleague of mine reached out to me tonight, feeling conflicted that they were happy hockey was back on. They didn’t want to publicly admit it, though; they knew that a number of their friends and other colleagues were walking away from the game this year, and they were afraid those friends and colleagues would call them out for being a bad person for still enjoying the sport. That’s not okay, either.

The scenario I just mentioned, though, is criticized by those who are walking away due to a long history of seeing concerns voiced by women and minorities silenced; it’s frustrating to feel as though the only people who care about your problems are you and those in a similar situation to you. This returning disrespect is the byproduct of years of being ignored; it’s still not right, but it’s certainly easy to see why it exists.

This probably isn’t going to be an easy season in sports for a lot of people.

On the one hand, it’s certainly a step forward that issues like these are getting as much attention as they are — and from huge voices. Sean Gentille at The Sporting News has a huge written platform, and he’s got a pretty extensive audience — and he’s been using it (while his publication has been letting him) to talk about why so many things that have happened in the past year really aren’t okay. Katie Nolan is a sports media monster — chances are, you’ve heard her name before today — and she’s being shared by big social media names like Pete Blackburn. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times has shared out Casey Rathunde’s piece, and he’s not the only one; for maybe the first time, it looks like the ball is really starting to roll. Things aren’t changing yet, but there’s public admittance that they need to change soon; that’s going to bring a lot of tough moments for fans who are used to getting the whitewashed experience cheering for their favorite team, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

As we head into this tough season, though, here’s your friendly reminder — no matter what you think about things, you will never have the right to tell people what they can and can’t find problematic. Ever.

I sincerely hope everyone who wishes to has a very happy hockey season. If you have comments to make, contact form is below:

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