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The Durant drama happened - and Canada needs to own it

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Thursday, June 13, 2019 – Page B13


Americans have finally found something they can all agree on with Canadians - Toronto is awful.

That's what they're saying. Toronto fans booed a guy who injured himself in a sporting contest. Presumably, The Hague is gathering evidence and writs of extradition are being processed.

It's important that we stare into the face of evil and show it that any sort of booing will not be tolerated in our civil society.

I'm not sure how the Kevin Durant situation became a Moment of Moral Reckoning in this country. The guy pulled up lame after taking an awkward step in a charged game. He didn't get hit across the head with a canoe paddle during a session of Parliament and begin gushing blood.

After Durant hurt himself, he hopped around for a bit and fell down on his bum. Fans, not having any idea what was happening, whooped it up. Enemy down! When it became clear Durant was seriously harmed - around the time they began dragging him off the court - the noise changed into one of those fauxsupportive claps that accompanies injured players off the field of the play.

All in all, I'd call that on par for the occasion - sports, which is a simulation of battle. And especially playoff sports, which are like urban warfare.

Understandably, the Golden State Warriors didn't appreciate it much. Plus, they're still smarting from an incident in Game 3 in which the team's part-owner gave Toronto's Kyle Lowry a mean-spirited shove at courtside.

Here was a gilded chance to portray the other side as the actual bad guys - another favourite war tactic.

"I've always witnessed Canadians being the nicest people that I've ever encountered," Draymond Green said. "That was classless."

Oh man, this guy is good. He knows how to get us where it hurts.

Since Canadians are absolute suckers in this regard, they fell for it. A bunch of them got on the internet to rend their garments, beg forgiveness and rubbish their fellow citizens.

I can't wait for the real war. All Canada's invaders have to do is wonder aloud why so many nice people are shooting back at them. Then the terms of surrender can be negotiated.

Was it wrong of Toronto to cheer Durant's injury? Yes and no.

Yes, it is wrong to delight in the misfortune of others. It would be very wrong to see someone get hit by a car on your way to work, then run to stand over them, laughing.

But no, it's not wrong to work out your raging id at a sports contest, even when that's a bit ugly. That's why they have sports in the first place. So that you can do that sort of thing in a consequence-free environment, one that doesn't lend itself directly to violence in the streets.

Do we really think the Warriors are sitting around the locker room holding hands and quietly weeping about the cruelty of Canadians?

No, they're thinking, "Here's an opportunity to find some small mental advantage."

Though unrelated specifically, this is why Golden State's general manager goes out on a podium and cries over the whole thing.

He's not crying for Durant. He's crying for himself. He just got fired, though it'll take a couple of months before his key card stops working.

Ripping Toronto is a cynical calculation by the Warriors - the team that got Durant catastrophically injured in the first place, it should be noted. And they are perfectly right to take advantage of it. Kudos to them.

The flip-side of this delightful non-story (the best sort of one) is the U.S. national soccer team and its 13-0 dismantling of Thailand at the Women's World Cup.

American veteran Megan Rapinoe - a World Cup winner, an Olympic gold medalist - scored the ninth goal. She celebrated it like it was the first tally in the history of soccer. She ran over to the bench and lolled about, kicking up her legs and shouting and doing a whole bit. Her teammates followed a step behind, clearly embarrassed on her behalf.

Is that cool? No, it isn't. Rapinoe looks like a complete idiot.

The Americans, as a group, look awful.

But - and I want to emphasize this point - this is why they play sports and why we watch them.

To occasionally be idiots.

If you want to obey a moral system that rigidly proscribes your behaviour and the behaviour of others, find your community at a place of worship. I'm not being facetious. Do that. It would be an aggregate good. Every one of us needs a code.

Fields of play and the stands that surround them have the opposite function. That's where people go to work out the bile.

Not always. Not even usually.

But when the emotions are running hot - say, during a World Cup or an NBA Finals - people lose control and do or say things they otherwise wouldn't. That doesn't make them bad. It makes them human.

This is not to say that putting your hands on others in anger or cursing them profanely is allowed, because those things are illegal. Sports do not provide protection from the law.

But showing poor impulse control? Bad taste? Being - the most charged word in English just at the moment - disrespectful? That's all okay. Understandable, even. I'll go one step further - laudable.

You know where they discourage this sort of thing? In countries where actual violence is a part of everyday life. Because they're worried phony outrage will morph into real outrage that will in turn sow the seeds of the revolution.

Nobody should be proud of jeering an injured man. It's hardly a mark of sophistication. But nor should they be beating themselves up over it. It happened. Own it.

Embrace your dark side. At sports. And then leave it there.

On Tuesday, Golden State handed out a photo of a bouquet sent to Durant by some anonymous Canadian.

It read, in part: "I apologize on behalf of Canada."

Nice people. Nice gesture. As regards that nice gesture I say, apologize on your own behalf, pal.

As a fellow human, I wish Kevin Durant all the best in his recovery.

But as a Torontonian, I ain't apologizing for nothing.

Associated Graphic

Toronto Raptors centre Serge Ibaka gestures to the crowd as Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is escorted off the court with an Achilles injury on Monday. Nobody should be proud of jeering an injured man, Cathal Kelly writes, but we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it - own it.


Huh? How did I get here?
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