Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Street party

My particular chunk of the world went nuts on Sunday night just after the Olympic gold medal men's hockey game ended.  Canada is a country truly, deeply infatuated with hockey and our team won the gold medal in overtime against the United States.  That gets a big -shrug, whatever- from me, but the people of Toronto by and large went completely bonkers.

I live right near one of the major intersections of the city, Yonge and Eglinton.  Shortly after the game ended a group of people ran out into the middle of the intersection and started blocking traffic.  They were shrieking, waving flags and having a bit of a mosh pit in the middle of the intersection.  As time went on more and more people joined them and the corners of the sidewalks began to spill out into the street.  Eventually the intersection was more or less full and traffic was completely borked.  Cars were slowly pushing their way through the crowd as people literally hurled themselves in front of vehicles to try to stop or slow their progress.  I ended up calling the police to try to make sure someone got in there to keep an eye on things.  Certainly the police had no hope of actually stopping the party but at least they needed to get in there and make sure no one got run over.  Eventually they blocked off the streets so that the party could continue without the risk of cars hitting anyone.

A picture of the same insanity downtown:  (I didn't get a picture of my intersection unfortunately, but it was the same)

My intersection:

I read a little news coverage of this and the portrayal disappointed me.  In particular the news reports calling it the 'Defining moment of a generation' made my shrivel up a little inside.  The thing right at my intersection that really bugged me is this:  There is a large, empty plaza directly beside the intersection; you can see it clearly in the picture above.  If the celebrants had wanted a place to party where they would not interfere with others they could have moved 20 meters over there and had a giant mosh pit flag waving to-do and no one else would have minded or been inconvenienced.  They chose as a group to run into the intersection and deliberately block vehicles trying to get through instead.

The attitude that anyone who isn't involved in my chosen activity needs to be forcibly delayed or inconvenienced to enforce the importance of my activity is certainly unethical and selfish.  I am sad to think that not only are there huge numbers of people who think that it is necessary or beneficial to junk up everyone else's life as part of their celebration but also that these attitudes are supported by both the media and the government.  People want others to take part in their celebrations as it is a justification of their own actions.  That desire is not the problem, but the assumption that it is morally acceptable to give others grief when there is absolutely no cost to yourself to avoid doing so is regrettable.

Wanting to have a huge party after watching a hockey game?  Fine.

Deciding to be a jerk to anyone not taking part in your party?  Unethical.

Feeling like this is the most important thing to happen during your generation?  Pathetic.


  1. I have to agree, I personally feel that there is far too much of an infatuation with sports in the world today. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sitting down and watching a game as much as the next guy, especially a Football game. Still, people need to realize that in the grand scheme of things, a bunch of people whom you don't personally know outperforming a bunch of other people you don't know in a purely recreational physical activity does not matter.

    Sure, it's nice when your team wins, makes you feel good about your place in the world (We've got the best team there is!), but comparatively, there are far many things in the world more important that are far too often ignored (Healthcare in the U.S. for example).

    I have to agree that this behavior is disgusting as well.

  2. See, I thought the first 10 minutes were sweet and kind of adorable. They mobbed the intersection, and then, like true Canadians, they ran back out to let a couple lights worth of traffic through, and then ran back in to continue the party. I seriously doubt any of the drivers during that time-frame were at all bothered. But keeping it up for 2 hours?

    I'm super impressed by the cops though. They showed up, realized that emptying the intersection of people was totally futile, and arranged things so that no one would get seriously injured. And joined in the party as far as I could tell.

  3. Enjoying sports isn't about sitting down and watching a game, it's about going out and doing it. I think far too many people live sedentary lives, and if more people engaged in sport (not just as a spectator, but as participants) then I think that we would live in a healthier, better-in-many-ways society.
    A gold medal hockey game means more to those of us that participate in that sport, because we have a more keen appreciation for the skill and physicality that the players possess.
    I for one would have no interest in watching an online equivalent of a gold medal game of WoW, but for some, I'm sure that would be exciting and worthy of celebration in the event that a party that they felt connected with be crowned champion.
    It is a rare occurrence that so many with a shared passion can be brought together to experience such a celebration. To be part of that, which may happen only a handful of times in a lifetime at best, is, I think, worthy of a few minutes of inconvenience for a few others. For those drivers to turn around and take the next block over really couldn't have horribly upset their schedules.

    Would I run out and party in the streets with a bunch of WoW players? Maybe! Would I be pissed because I had to detour a block? Probably not. Would I get some utility from talking about such an rare event afterwards? Definitely.

  4. Some points to Pat:

    I am sure a gold medal hockey game is more important to people who play hockey. This is true for every hobby - those who take part in it for leisure take a keen interest in professional play while others do not. I don't have any issue with celebrating a victory in a game, the issue I have is people deliberately making others' lives difficult as part of their celebration.

    Keep in mind this party at my street corner wasn't done in the street because there was no other venue. It was in the street *because the partiers wanted to get attention*. The easiest way to get attention is to piss people off and act like a jerk so that is what they did. They could have easily had their party in the completely empty plaza directly beside the intersection but they chose not to. They wanted to force everyone else to recognize and take part in their party regardless of what anyone else wanted, which is textbook being a jerk.

    I don't object to people saying "This party was hugely memorable, what a blast!" That is entirely different from insisting on the news that this will be the defining moment of a generation. More defining than 9/11? More defining than the US president saying "We are at war, and you are either with us or against us?" More defining than Y2K, the 2004 Tsunami, the housing and stock crash of 2008? If you want to be purely Canadian, how about the defeat of a new voting system that would have improved Canada's electoral representation just a few years ago? Being emotional and enthusiastic about a sporting event is no problem, but suggesting that it is more defining than anything else that has occurred in the last 25 years is ridiculous.

    If everyone in Toronto was driving a car and could easily detour around this intersection things would be a little different, but that is not the case. I saw huge numbers of buses stuck in traffic, going nowhere. The bus drivers were all wisely refusing to try to push through the intersection, so what exactly are people without vehicles going to do? Cabs are expensive and not particularly available given the confusion and demand, so everyone without a vehicle should just walk home? When you say "I want to party right here, right now, and I am willing to make other people miss appointments and be late to have my party" you are being a jerk. You have the choice to party in your home, party in the plaza, party in the bar, or party in the park. If you choose to party in the absolute worst place for everyone who isn't you (breaking the law while doing so, mind) then your behaviour is unethical. It may be worth it to you, but so is shoplifting, and that isn't acceptable either.

  5. One point that I forgot to mention is that I watched the game online after it happened. I think that since the game finished for me around 9pm, I incorrectly assumed when I read your post that the game was over late evening/early morning in EST, when in reality it was probably early evening?
    In my head I was picturing a midnight-ish party, when I assume the streets are probably a little more deserted, and it would be easier for fewer vehicles to detour. But now that I think about it, it was likely at rush hour, albeit on a Sunday. When you mentioned people being unable to make appointments, I was wondering what sort of pressing engagements could the average joe possibly have at that time of night? You might argue that it shouldn't matter, it's the principal of the thing. Unfortunately, I don't think that anyone thinks that way. I think that EVERYONE will rationalize some perceived inconvenience for others when they stand to profit great reward (which I think such a rare occasion is/was for many people that embrace the sport).

    Besides, I do have to ask the question; what self-respecting Canadian would have made an appointment anywhere near game time?
    Haha, just kidding, don't respond to that.

    As for defining a generation, that is obviously a ridiculous statement.

    I also think that comparing this event to shoplifting is a little ridiculous as well. Shoplifting and holding up traffic are both unethical, sure. But there are more contrasts than similarities here. Maybe both are illegal, certainly to vastly differing degrees. Shoplifting is stealing, which I assume could lead to jail time, while it sounds mostly like these folks were, from a legality standpoint, jaywalking at most (public disturbance maybe? is that a thing?)... which is punishable only by fine as far as I know. That must say something about the degree of ethicality, beyond what contrast we know to be true by our ingrained social code of conduct.
    What does the Bible say about how these two transgressions (stealing and being a jerk) are treated? Are they punished in a similar fashion? Are jerks ever rewarded? Is our social code of ethics, and therefore laws, not based on this Book? Let's examine this angle...

  6. The game finished at something like 6 oclock here in Toronto. The streets were packed with traffic and though people obviously aren't going to dentist appointments, there are plenty of activities that take place in that timeframe. Examples: Sports league, yoga, family dinners, movies, etc. People do work on Sundays too unfortunately so you are going to catch people on their way home from work.

    The comparison to shoplifting is a bit of a stretch, but it was to make the point that breaking the law and justifying with "I got a lot out of it, and someone else didn't suffer too much, so it is okay" is not an argument our society generally accepts. That situation is exactly the same with shoplifting. It is illegal, and if you steal a CD you may well get more utility out of it than the shopkeeper lost but we don't feel that it is right except under some truly bizarre set of circumstances.

    The Bible says many things. Mostly specific transgressions are not assigned specific punishments, but you could expect anything from a 'fine' to death for stealing if you are going by Biblical example. Being a jerk would be rewarded along the spectrum of 'crowned king and exalted by all' to 'killed, buried in an unmarked grave and reviled forever'. So says the Bible.

  7. You must not love Canada. Go back to Russia you commi-natzi.

    I think that this was more defining than Y2K. That's probably about it though. Good on ya for bringing up the proportional representation vote. An excellent opportunity that passed us by because too many people were saying "I don't know what that thing is all about" as they walk past tables of volunteers explain proportional representation..... Yeesh.

    On an interesting note, I listen to a few american sports (basketball) podcasts but during the olympics they made mention of some of the goings on of the games, and the gold medal hockey game in particular. Americans (who watched the game) all seem to agree on a few things:
    1)It was a really compelling game.
    2)The commentators were really good.
    3)They couldn't really decide who to root for. They kinda felt like they should root for the Americans but were worried that if Canada lost we would take it pretty hard. They seemed to view winter sports as a curiosity where their main goal was to see if anything interesting happened and to try to not offend anyone in the process. Really interesting that they know how much many Canadians care about the outcome and worried that our feelings would be hurt if we lost.