By Jason Menard
To quote one of Canada’s finest bands, Sloan, “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” And though you’ll likely never get them to agree to it, supporters of sports and the arts are often two sides of the same obnoxious coin.
First, an admission of guilt. I was once an arts’ snob: I judged certain music, literature, and art forms as somehow less worthy than others. I was at the same time an obnoxious sporto, judging people by the teams they supported.
All that to say that I’m now reformed (almost. I still think you Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans need to go get help). This leaves me in a unique position to see the best of both groups. Sadly, I’m more often exposed to the worst that both groups have to offer.
Over the past few years, I’ve embraced the fact that — again, to quote Sloan — “if it feels good do it.” If you enjoy something, then it shouldn’t matter what others’ think about it.
That’s why I can sing the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ theme song with equal aplomb as selections from Jesus Christ Superstar. The last book I (re)read was Danté’s Inferno; before that it was the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel. I know what Rosebud was and who Luke’s father is. I know Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and I know Honey Boo Boo Child.
But I seem to be in the minority. I have the pleasure of keeping one foot in the sports’ world and the other in that of the arts. And it can get ugly at times.
We all know those pretentious theatre snobs — the ones who try to delight you with their witty wordplay, impress you with their depth of knowledge in a self-limited field, and, of course, generally act all supercilious towards those who aren’t intimately familiar with that absolutely delightful play by some obscure — but under-appreciated playwright.
On the other side, there are those who give appreciation of sports a bad — and often monosyllabic — name. About a month ago, I was attending a play with my wife. At intermission we joined the crowd outside (small theatre, awfully stuffy), and within minutes we were greeted by a car speeding down the street with someone leaning out the window shouting, “Arts Suck!”
Many were upset; I was merely amused. These same people taking offense were earlier criticising others’ TV-viewing habits and other quote-unquote lower-class theatre performances.
Whether you’re dragging your knuckles or keeping your nose in the air, in the end the greatest disservice you’re doing is to yourself. There’s a lot of great entertainment out there just waiting for you to enjoy it.
I never thought I’d enjoy dance, but thanks to my daughter’s interest, I’ve become a fan — and I’m proud to share my appreciation. It doesn’t mean I enjoy hockey any less.
There are no right or wrongs in entertainment. Don’t forget, Shakespeare during his time was considered lower-class art. You could say Lady Macbeth was their Honey Boo Boo.
I’ve appropriated a phrase that an old friend of mine used to use: “I like all the meats in our cultural stew,” he’d say. And I think it’s a way of life we can all embrace. Love and hate things because you love and hate them — it’s something I’m trying to teach my daughter, who is trying to navigate a love for bubblegum pop in a world that tells her it’s not good enough.
Hell, when I was younger I had all the Smurfs’ albums (think mini-pops, but blue) — that didn’t define who I was, but it helped set me on a path of music appreciation that has taken me through Memphis, Detroit, England, and more. I can equally enjoy The Bicycle Thief and the latest Spider-Man film. If you want to define me by what I’m reading, listening to, or watching at that moment, that’s your choice.
But you’ll miss out on so much more of me.
Theatre and orchestra snobs need to understand their elitist attitude is suicidal. If they don’t engage the younger generation in a manner that speaks to them, then their beloved arts will die a slow death. Sports fans — especially men — need to understand that enjoying a piece of musical theatre does not bring one’s sexuality into question. And an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure baseball stats is impressive, but perhaps some of that time could better be spent in broadening their horizons.
Oh, and the girls? Chances are they can kick your barstool-riding butt if you both laced ‘em up.
We could probably play amateur psychiatrist and examine why people need to be pretentious and establish their elitism in various disciplines, but the fact is that they all got involved with their art form or sport because of love.
To deny others the chance to enjoy their passions because you don’t approve? That’s certainly paints a very ugly — and not very sporting — picture, doesn’t it?