Sign of the Times

By Jason Menard

Good for the Air Canada Centre! After all, each of us need to do our part to fight the war on terror and violence, and through their due vigilance they were able to wrest a potentially lethal weapon from the grasp of Brody White.

Of course, Brody’s only 10 years old – but kids today are crafty. Think of the damage he could have done to an unsuspecting usher!

Yes, in yet another example of the old adage that states common sense is not so common, the staff of the Air Canada Centre, under a directive from the powers that be in the NBA and NHL league offices to bring in new security measures, deemed Brody’s hand-made sign a threat to the paying patrons at a recent Toronto Maple Leafs game.

And while the sign may have read “No. 1 Leafs fan” chances are young Brody’s willing to give up that title now.

Increasingly the Five Man Electrical Band’s statement of “signs, signs, everywhere a sign,” is become a quaint reminder of a bygone time. The corporate suits who run the game are flexing their muscle more regularly and sterilizing the sporting environment to the point where blind subservience is becoming a commodity to be bartered for a seat in the nosebleed section.

Look no further down the 401 than Detroit, where the Ford family tried to stifle the fan’s displeasure with the Detroit Lions’ general manager by preventing NFL fans from bringing in signs bearing the message “Fire [Mike] Millen.” While they didn’t go so far as to suggest that carrying a placard was tantamount to brandishing a firearm, they did use the lame excuse of how signs could obstruct the view of the other paying customers.

Oddly enough, I’ve been watching football for years and signage has never been a problem in the past. But in today’s sporting environment, we peons are no longer able to question the powers that be.

Honestly, it’s time for franchises to get a sense of perspective. Sports are an enjoyable diversion in our lives – but they don’t define it. This inflated sense of self is akin to the nauseating spectacle of the increased security measures Hollywood took following the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre. As if Al Qaeda’s action that caused thousands to lose their lives and one of the world’s architectural icons to tumble wasn’t enough of a statement – damn it, Julia Roberts may be next! And what would the world do without her proficiency in romantic comedies?

I suppose when your sense of the world extends no further than your nose, it’s understandable that you can lose a sense of perspective. But how far is too far? Was ruining the enjoyment of a sporting event for a 10-year-old boy really worth it? Is the negative publicity gleaned from their actions a fair trade for the elimination of such a miniscule threat to public security?

This is not to undermine the legitimate security issues that are out there. One has to only ask Monica Seles whether or not fans can be a threat to athletes. But a sense of perspective must be deployed.

Otherwise why stop at signs? Why not force everyone to drop their car keys into a giant bowl at the gate? I’ve seen Chinatown! I know what those things can do to someone’s nose! What about people with prosthetic limbs? After all, there’s nothing that precludes someone who uses assistive devices from becoming part of a sleeper cell?

Or maybe, just maybe, we should look at 10 year olds as 10 year olds. Maybe sports franchises should be damn thankful that people are willing to shell out their hard-earned money to sit in the seats and announce to the world their love of a team.

So where do we go from here? As fans, do we continue to subject ourselves to the idiocy of overzealous mall cops who patrol our fields of play? Perhaps Toronto fans should make their displeasure known. If exuberance is cause for security concern, then the next NHL game at the Air Canada Centre should be greeted with absolute silence.

If our hands are a dangerous weapon, let’s comply with the intent of the ACC’s restrictive security policies by sitting on them during the game. No applause for the anthem. Greet the arrival of the teams with stone silence. And let the first goal of the game pass with nary a murmur from the fans.

After all, silence can be deafening – and maybe that way the message will get across.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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