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The Marxist Analysis of 'the Wave' in Sports Stadia

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The author, at a Jays game, stuck in the Yankees section.

Maclean's magazine once said that the Toronto Maple Leafs -- which should be called the Maple Leaves, but never mind -- were "English Canada's team." This is hooey. Back in the days of the six-team NHL, English Canada's team was the Montreal Canadiens. (This was true even if the coach didn't speak English, by the way -- but never mind that either.)

Leastways, where I grew up in B.C., we all loved the Habs and we all hated the Leafs. Maybe it had something to do with Toronto, but we didn't think about it. It was just a law of nature -- or, maybe, a matter of historical inevitability, something like that. Anyway, the only English-speaking Canadians who loved the Leafs in those days, it needs to be said, lived in Toronto.

So, as Perfesser Dave's Questioner might ask, why do I like those Blue Jays? That's a good question, if I do say so myself, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the demise of the unlamented Montreal Expos.

Rather, I just happened to be living in Toronto in 1977, during the Jays' first season, and I used to go and sit in that old football stadium and watch their games for a red two-dollar bill (or maybe it was two red two-dollar bills, whatever) and the modest price of a wobbly plastic cup full of Labatt's Blue beer. Heaven!

Je digresse, but a word of warning: if you're a Blue Jays guy and you go see them in that new stadium (the one that's 22 years old now) and you're from out of town, they'll sit you with the Yankees fans, or, worse, with the Red Sox fans. I'm not making this up. It happened to me! For god's sake, hide your light blue cap!

So where was I? Oh yeah, it was back in 1977 when I came up with "the Marxist Analysis of 'the Wave' in Sports Stadia."

Now, I have to digress again for a moment. I didn't actually do very well in my university Marxism class, plus it was more than 40 years ago, so what little I understood I've forgotten. I never did get that dialectical materialism bit down right, but for the sense that with communism, the future may be certain but the past can be pretty dodgy.

Still, it's great to have an opportunity to use words like "Karl Marx" and "Marxist" in a 21st century blog post because it will just send the blogging Tories and their ideological ilk rangy-tang, or, as we used to say back in the days when there was still a self-identifying proletariat, "apeshit."

Bring it on, fellas! I'm signed in to Twitter right now!

Also, I just said "stadia" instead of "stadiums" because I'm a smart-ass.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, this is about the Blue Jays, and "the Wave," and the working class, and the rich toffs. And more, as you'll see if you stick with me...

Because, see, this is really about the Edmonton mainstream media, and their extremely crappy coverage of the NDP leadership candidates when they come to town. Actually, it's not right to call their coverage "crappy," because they don't provide any coverage at all. Their political reporters are too busy filling their steno pads with transcriptions of what our Conservative premier, and her Conservative finance minister and all the other little Conservatives have to say about what a wonderful and fulfilling year 2012 is going to be, if you happen to be a Conservative. Plus all the murders here in Edmonton, of course.

So it's, like, a metaphor. But you're going to have to wait for the metaphor part too because I have to finish talking about the Wave first.

See, the Wave always started out back in the furthest reaches of the cheap football seats at Exhibition Stadium -- hard wooden benches so far to the northeast that you were actually looking at the distant backs of the fielders. This is where the working class sat.

So, a couple of little foul-mouthed proletarians would start the Wave way off in the corner and it would ripple down through the cheap seats into the middling seats and peter out when it got to the rich toffs who sat behind home plate and didn't send text messages to each other because nobody sent text messages in those days.

Everybody in the cheap seats would then boo, and yell entertaining things like "F**k you! You rich f**king l**yers! Too f**king important to do the f**king Wave, huh? …A**h**es!" (Why lawyers got all the abuse, I'll never know. Surely there were deserving accountants and physicians and MBAs all sitting down there with them too.)

I think this was the first time I had ever heard extended, sustained, prolonged profanity in a public place and I was so shocked it took me a couple of ripples before I got into the spirit of the thing.

Anyway, the next ripple of the Wave would go a little farther (same response), and the one after that a little farther still (same response, only louder, and more profane), and finally a Wave would half-heartedly ripple through the best seats and be picked up on the other side.

At that point everyone in the cheap seats would laugh derisively at how we'd made the rich lawyers bend to our proletarian will (not in those words, exactly, of course) and go back to drinking our beer. (Of course, the joke was really on us among the 99 per cent, as the 1 per cent all drove home in their pre-ABS satnav-free BMWs, while we took the streetcar, but you've got to get your satisfaction where you can.)

Anyway, that's what the Wave was all about -- holding the well-shod feet of the wealthy to the fire when you had the rare chance, sort of like Occupy Exhibition Stadium -- and if that's not a Marxist analysis, I don't know what the heck is!

Nowadays, of course, proletarians can't afford to go the Domed Stadium, or whatever the heck it's called, but once or twice a decade, unless they're selling hot dogs. If they ever do the Wave in there it's sanitized, done in colourful shirts with Polo labels and washed down with Coors Lite. (Yuk!)

OK, so here comes the metaphor part: Not one single professional media reporter in Edmonton could be bothered to cover Brian Topp or Peggy Nash when they spoke to well-attended public meetings in Edmonton.

Either one of those folks could be the next leader of Canada's Official Opposition and it is not outside the realm of possibility one of them could be the next prime minister of our country.

But the Edmonton media couldn't write three graphs about what they had to say, or even that they were going to say it, or send out a shabby guy with a camera to take a picture of one of them.

This is a disgrace. It's worse than a disgrace, actually, but I can't really describe it without resorting to the kind of language I used to hear at Exhibition Stadium, and I'm just too much of a gentleman for that.

Well, two more NDP leadership candidates are coming to Edmonton, and I think we need to do a version of the Exhibition Stadium Wave on our local media, especially the Edmonton Journal, which purports to be the region's paper of record, if such a thing can be said to exist any more.

Journalists need to be reminded -- by phone call, by email, by occasional derisive blog posts -- that this is an important story and their few remaining readers (even some on the right, I'd wager) expect them to get off their sorry duffs and cover it. Some TV cameras would be nice, too.

Thomas Mulclair will be at the Strathcona Community Hall, 10139 – 87th Ave., on Friday Jan. 6, 2012, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Niki Ashton will be at the City Arts Centre, second floor drama room, 10943 – 84th Ave. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, from 7:15 to 9:15 p.m.

Be there or be square, Mr. and Ms. Media. You'll be mocked either way. But it's better to endure it and do the right thing.

And if you're not there? Well, of course your dereliction of duty will be noted, and a few more of your readers will say, "Nuts to you!"

Oh, and nuts to the Leafs, too.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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