Saturday, May 19, 2007

Moralizing pinheads

Manny Castillo update archive:
Fri. May 11
Sat. May 12
Mon. May 14
Tue. May 15
Wed. May 16

[Updated below.]

As expected, more moralizing pinheads are coming out of the woodwork to sermonize about the Manny Castillo tragedy, rush to judgment and score cheap political points.

This time Laura Robinson wastes trees pontificating in the Ottawa Citizen, ignoring facts and running with scissors second-and-third-hand hearsay to condemn, among other things, Canada's hockey mentality and male abuse of women.

The needless death last week of 15-year-old Manny Castillo, a Grade 10 junior rugby player at Lorne Park Secondary School, is just one more example of a long list of near fatal and fatal injuries boys and young men have suffered while acting out their part in the passion play that is aggressive male sport. Mr. Castillo was killed during the last seconds of the game by an opposing player police say picked him up and, away from the playing area, drilled him into the ground.

This senseless act of violence is eerily reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi's hit on Steve Moore in 2005 that broke Mr. Moore's neck and has prevented him from playing or even having the kind of life a healthy man in his 20s, hockey player or not, should expect. [...]

I wasn't surprised that there was no national coverage of Dr. Graham Pollett, medical officer and CEO for Middlesex-London in Ontario, and his report on the relationship between the eye-for-an-eye violence that occurs in the NHL, Canadian Hockey League, and younger leagues, and male violence against women and children, earlier this month. Despite how big and strong adolescent athletes may look, they are still children.

Dr. Pollett is adamant and wonders why officials did not make the correlation his report made decades ago. With the death of Manny Castillo, Dr. Pollett's warning is made so very real: "This form of vigilante justice is accepted even by the referees who only intercede after one player has clearly beaten the other or both players fall to the ice" he writes. ...

The Ottawa Citizen identifies Laura Robinson as the author of "Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport," and "Black Tights: Women, Sport and Sexuality." She is a Nordic skiing and cycling coach.

Memo to Nordic skiing and cycling coaches who think they understand the sport of rugby, and the impulses that drive boys and girls to play the game:

I know cyclists and tri-athletes. Some of these competitive athletes have broken their cheek-bones, arms, and collar-bones doing face-plants after accidents down steep descents. I suspect Ms. Robinson knows cyclists who have crashed and injured themselves as well.

  • What part of those cyclists' accidents had anything to do with "acting out their part in the passion play that is aggressive male sport"?
  • How many of these accidents were "senseless acts of violence eerily reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi"?
  • And, what percentage of those accidents had anything to do with "vigilante justice" and a pattern of "male violence against women and children"?

  • My older sister was hospitalized after falling off a horse and landing on her head in an equestrian competition. It was an accident. A friend in high school had the misfortune of being a baseball pitcher who let one get away and drilled a batter in the face. It was an accident. I had a friend in high school who died after getting whacked by a pick-up truck on his motorcycle. Again, it was an accident.

    Can anybody prove that horse, that pitcher, that pick-up driver weren't channeling Todd Bertuzzi?

    There may - read: may - have been malice and violence involved in the Manny Castillo death. But we simply don't know that.

    The facts as they have been presented to us via the media have been thin and dubious. You'd think it common sense to err on the side of caution, perhaps exercise a little skepticism until more facts are revealed to the public. But to read Laura Robinson ~ pffff, why wait to let facts get in the way of a good story when a rugby tragedy is a terrific opportunity to sermonize about evil hockey players and the nasty things they do to women and children, huh?

    We don't know jack about how Manny Castillo died, other than that his head presumably came into contact with something hard. Maybe a knee. Maybe the ground... We don't know because we have not yet heard the referee's report. We did hear from one eye-witness - an unnamed "mother" - whose grasp of the sport of rugby is dubious, saying the tragedy was an act of violence. But other witnesses - who go on the public record using their actual names -- dispute this version.

    Witnesses who saw the play Wednesday said it looked harmless.

    "They both had each other in a lock," said Brendan O'Brien, 16, a friend of both students. "He (Manny) fell kind of awkwardly. They weren't mad at each other."

    O'Brien said he assumed his friend would get up and walk off the field.

    "It is a sport," said Jordan Posocco, 15, a close friend who played football with Manny and was at the game. "Stuff gets heated ... It wasn't out of control."
    We also just learned that Castillo suffered a concussion last month that may-or-may-not have impacted his death. Alas, these are trifling matters of no concern to moralists like Ms. Robinson who eagerly rush to judgment looking to score cheap political points.

    Clue for the clueless: the thing that my cyclist friends, my equestrian sister, and even teenagers who swim a little too far from the shoreline have in common, is that accidents happen ~ and people who generally participate in risky activities generally understand that there are risks involved.

    I suspect there's even been the occasional Nordic skier who has suffered things like fatigue and frostbite, which can lead to impaired judgment, accidents, and possibly even physical harm. It's almost certain those skiers would be safer and better served by instead lounging around a library in a comfy chair. C'est la vie. Ms. Robinson is in a better position to comment about the passions, desires and risks of Nordic skiers than I am.

    But until Ms. Robinson and her clueless cohorts get the real facts, she should cease-and-desist from opportunistic political mud-slinging and passing judgments about a sport she doesn't understand.

    End o' rant.


    The above photo of a high school girls soccer game, shot by Kitchener-Waterloo Record photographer David Beebe, appeared in yesterdays edition.

    The caption reads:

    Irene Sonnenburg (top) of the Cameron Heights Golden Gaels collides with Bluevale Knights goalkeeper Ainsley Wheldon, yesterday during the second half of the Waterloo County senior girls soccer final at Jacob Hespeler High School in Cambridge. Wheldon left the game and was taken to hospital.
    Colour me curious wunderin' if those girls were acting out their part in the passion play that is aggressive male sport, channeling a senseless act of violence eerily reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi, and exhibiting vigilante justice that flowers into violence against women and children...?

    Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.

    Shut up!

    Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

    Bloody peasant!

    Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about. Did you see him repressing me? You saw it, didn't you?


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