When white people riot, they get a musical
A Vancouver-based theatre company is staging a musical based on the 2011 Stanley Cup riots.

Ironically, when Vancouver was met with sports-related protests, not every single person should have been punished to the fullest extent of the law. Bob Whitelaw, an individual who penned over 100 recommendations for British Columbia’s attorney-general and the British Columbia Police Commission after a 1994 Vancouver riot, even considered the word use of “hooligan” as too strong.

“They talk about hooligans….Many of them seemed to be just young people who were out to have some fun and got caught up in it and that’s unfortunate.”

Of course, 2011 was not the first (or last) time people rioted over sports. Alternet compiled a list that included other instances such as, the University of Kentucky Wildcats winning the NCAA Championship in 2012 and the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004, 2007, and 2013. There are also video compilations of news coverage showcasing the differences in vocabulary used when a journalist is describing a white riot versus a black protest.

Making a musical out of the 2011 Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver, while seemingly benign, is in poor taste. It suggests that we should mould an act of mass violence into something silly – perhaps even igniting a few “I remember when I was young and…” moments.

It also signals to us what we can validate and what we always must condemn. Throughout all of this, we must question who it is we are laughing at and who it is we are laughing with. The answers may reveal a truth that most of us do not want to come face to face with.

i need you for one second to remember that almost a year ago the boston marathon was bombed and 6 months later, after having had the greatest collapse in baseball history the previous year, the red sox went on to win their first world series at home since 1918 and if that doesn’t make you cry you have no soul 

Whose narrative?

Abraham Riesman from recently asked me some questions and I gave him my answers. The interview, conducted in the Vulture offices and then in a cab rushing through upper Manhattan, is hopefully a decent chunk of somewhat interesting ideas and stories. 

Abraham’s questions were important – one of them so much that I decided to write this post to illuminate  it further. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but Abraham asked me about gender and racial discrimination.


I’ll begin with some numbers.


An estimated thirty million gathered to bathe on Mauni Amavasya on 10th February 2013 during Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India. 1989: an estimated five to nine million gathered for the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran. In 2004 an estimated three million celebrate Red Sox winning the World Series in Boston. A year before, roughly the same amount of people protest the impending US invasion of Iraq. The protest occurs in Rome.

Meanwhile, three to four thousand of people protest in New York and maybe fifty thousand in Los Angeles.

But three million in Rome.


Over two and a half million more people in Rome than in New York and Los Angeles combined. This defines one core lacking element in the current US climate: that of an organized, peaceful, widespread protest.


What if we are approaching a time – what if we are already in a time – when a peaceful mass protest can change things? Can it ever not? Look at Occupy. For all its failings, it established that Temporary Autonomous Zones can be erected and maintained; it established the now-worldwide narrative of 1% and 99%. Is changing the language, changing the operating system we are using, not enough?


It’s never enough, not until we are all living in a space where we no longer attack one another. But it is a step towards it.


Which leads me to Ferguson.


Are we finally waking up? In the past month there were at least five unarmed black men killed by police. The number of black officers on the Ferguson police force is three. The number of white officers is fifty. St. Louis ranks 15th in a list of the most black-white segregated places in the United States. The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world, now over 2.4 million – an increase of over 500% since 1980. People of color represent 60% of all prisoners. We have 5% of the world’s population but we have 25% of its prisoners.


Mass incarceration became an American business. Predatory capitalism thrives on the disenfranchised. It’s the rule of the stronger – communities weakened by centuries of abuse can’t hold as well as the ones that often benefited from the abuse in the first place. To say that slavery is over is to close our eyes before the facts of mass incarceration in the United States of America.

What we are dealing with is a disproportionate labeling of people of color as criminals. If we go back to 1998 we see CIA acknowledge that the US government allowed in the 1980s for cocaine to be smuggled into our country. Why? This statement alone exposes the “War on Drugs” for the fraud that it is. Why did the Reagan administration escalate the War on Drugs as a response to a crack cocaine crisis that the Administration itself had created by allowing these drugs to flow into our country?


The narrative of the War on Drugs helped engineer the disproportionate labeling of people of color as criminals by generating officers who often genuinely believe that people of color are to blame for our government’s scheme. The narrative of the War on Drugs helped create a system where many people of all colors and beliefs believe that African Americans are to blame for the availability of certain illegal substances in our country. From there the narrative goes further, creating paralyzing fear that infects and twists our perception of the entire community into a horror image that does not reflect the truth of the matter.


I recently watched ‘The Unknown Known,’ a documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, who served as the United States Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush. The first time the director catches Rumsfeld lying is around the 17th minute. Later on, Rumsfeld says something that connects with this.


“You know a narrative gets built up out there over time.”

But then there’s another quote, from a different source–


“If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.”

When Don Draper, the protagonist of Mad Men, says this, we can read his statement in a few different ways. The reading I am interested in has to do with changing the narrative that gets built up out there over time.


Mad Men is a TV show that masterfully dissects many elements of the 1960’s. We follow the relative progress of women’s rights. It’s heartening to see certain aspects changing as others stay in close proximity to the Ice Age era. The pay gap today means women are paid roughly 77% of what men are paid. The pay gap is even worse for women of color, who make about 53% of white men’s earning. The pay gap grows with age and women face it in nearly every occupation.


How many of these facts were you aware of before reading this? I propose we begin with self education. If you haven’t read the New Jim Crow, that’s one book to read. If you haven’t read Sex Discrimination in the Workplace, there’s another. If you’re still waiting to see The Wire, watch it.


What else is there to do? Learn the system. Understand it. Spread the word about it. And don’t perpetuate the systems of abuse. This means we have to identify the root causes of these systems.


What do we require? To imagine systems that do not discriminate, to co-create these systems by becoming our own best examples, to work together, as a community.


What do I do to make sure I don’t discriminate? I am learning. I am telling you about this. I am examining my white male privilege. I am protesting, peacefully, and I am figuring out where my tax dollars go and how I can change that flow to make sure every single cent goes to the policies I believe in. Does it feel like enough? Not nearly. But it’s a start.


In order to affect deep change we require clarity and that can come only after we admit that the system does not work. What happens after we admit this?

We let some structures die so new ones can grow. 

We see what needs fixing. 

We require education reform. We require a military-prison complex reform. We require a complete dismantling of the War on Drugs. We require de-privatization of the prison system. We require total demilitarization of the police. We require peace, not violence, and definitely not indifference, which is just another way of allowing violence to happen. I say “we” but what I really mean is “I” because I am not here to speak for you. But if you don’t like what’s being said?

Change the conversation.

On June 2, 1935, George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr retired from baseball.

Over a 22-season Major League Baseball career, Ruth helped win 10 World Series with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, and batted 714 home runs, a record that he held until 1974. Two of his other records - slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging - still stand today.

In retirement, Ruth was still immensely popular, playing golf exhibition tournaments in front of crowds of thousands, and taking part in campaigns to support the troops during World War II. The baseball star also toured the country with his autobiography, “The Babe Ruth Story.” Shortly before his death in 1948, he visited Yale University and presented a manuscript of it to future-President George H.W. Bush, as seen here. His remains were laid out in Yankee Stadium and an estimated 77,000 people came to pay their respects.

Image: “George Bush, captain of the Yale baseball team, receives Babe Ruth’s manuscript of his autobiography which he was donating to Yale, 1948.


Number 44 up for the pitch! This is the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

But would you believe this is only half the project? This is part one of a double commission! The next one is the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2013.

This one took about 110 hours and was created with chalk and charcoal on 16x20 Strathmore paper.

Dylan's baseball fantasy

Dylan with the Boston Red Sox hat he would be wearing when he died, and which was found next to his body.

It’s too bad that Dylan didn’t stick around to see his beloved Boston Red Sox finally win the World Series in 2004, after 86 years of disappointment, but the asshole had to go and off himself–and take along a bunch of other people with him.  Fucker.

(Yes, that last paragraph is very much tongue-in-cheek.)

On the other hand, that also means that Dylan didn’t have to see his hero Roger Clemens turn into the laughingstock of Major League Baseball for that whole PED (Performing Enhancing Drugs) scandal.  He may have been acquitted of perjury but nobody believes he wasn’t doping up!  He’ll make the Baseball Hall of Fame when Barry Bonds and Pete Rose do, i.e., never.

From the Denver Post story “Life and death of a follower” from May 2, 1999:

“Roger Clemens.” The words bounced off the walls of Chad Laughlin’s basement, launching Dylan Klebold on his usual semi-comic rant. For the second straight year, someone else had selected his favorite player in the Columbine Fantasy Baseball League, and he playfully protested the unfairness of it all.
It was Sunday, March 7, and more than a dozen people had gathered for the annual draft, in which team “owners” selected players whose statistics they would track religiously throughout the summer. Klebold picked near the end of the first round and took Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace Kevin Brown, then Dodgers’ reliever Jeff Shaw.
“He knew what he was doing,” says Laughlin, the league commissioner who used to trade baseball cards with Klebold in elementary school.
As draft-day hunger set in, Klebold suggested pizza. A part-time cook at the local Blackjack, he could swing an employee discount: five larges for $22. But he also insisted that for procuring a discount, he shouldn’t have to pony up any cash.
As the pizza disappeared, the kids’ interest in the draft’s late rounds dissolved into boredom. Most of the others left, but Klebold stayed to the end, meticulously filling out each space on his team’s roster with a carefully calculated selection.
Like any fantasy league aficionado, Klebold coveted slugger Mark McGwire and regularly tried to convince rival owner Chris Hooker to trade him. It was a lost cause, but Klebold persisted. The discussions were part of the ongoing baseball dialogue that came to define their friendship.
“His life was baseball, just like mine,” Hooker says. “He wasn’t an athlete, but that’s not a put-down. He didn’t seem interested in playing but he loved to watch the sport and keep up with it.”
Klebold worked all the angles. He knew Laughlin was taking a correspondence math course, and offered to help him prepare for the final exam if Laughlin would waive his $30 fantasy league entry fee. It was a tempting offer, given Klebold’s whiz-kid reputation for math.
“He was kind of joking, but kind of serious,” says Laughlin.
The week before the Columbine rampage, Klebold saw fit to make a fantasy roster move. He informed Laughlin that he was adding rookie pitcher Freddy Garcia of the Seattle Mariners to his lineup. He discussed possible trades with other kids as recently as the day before he and Eric Harris stormed the school in a suicidal fusillade of bullets and bombs.
Klebold was in first place when he died.
“I liked him,” says Tim Kastle, a Columbine student and fantasy league rival who, days earlier, had looked down the barrel of Klebold’s gun before the shooter chose to spare him. “He was shy, more than anything. I had never seen him get in a fight or any real big arguments with anybody, ever. He really was a pretty normal and a pretty nice guy.
"We’re all thinking it was some kind of double life.”

From Tim Kastle’s statement to police, about the night before the shootings (JC-001-003419):

Kastle described himself as being a friend of Dylan Klebold’s.  He stated that he had talked to him the previous evening and were talking about some trades involving their fantasy baseball teams.  He recalled that Klebold talked about working a trade with Adam Sands for player Roger Clemons.  Kastle characterized the conversation as being very normal, as was Klebold’s mood and demeanor.

Side note: I think the reason why Josh Young (as Dylan) does not have a Boston Red Sox logo on his cap in Zero Hour: Massacre at Columbine High is because you actually need the permission of Major League Baseball (the corporate entity that runs major league baseball) to use team logos and stuff in movies and TV shows.  With movie like Moneyball or even one where somebody is wearing a team T-shirt with the logo on it, there’s a note in the credits to the effect of “MLB trademarks and logos used with permission from Major League Baseball.”  US copyright law is such a pain in the ass, and MLB is zealous about guarding its “intellectual property”!  Mind, if it were a strict news piece or a documentary with actual footage included, that would be “fair use” but since Zero Hour is a “recreation” they would have to get some sort of permission from MLB.  I wish I were kidding about this…