Toronto the Hostile?

Toronto’s reputation as a kind, welcoming city is being tarnished
October 19, 2016

Over the years the image of “Toronto the polite” has been changing. Drive any 400 series highway and witness the threatening aggression and anger exhibited by many, if not most, drivers and you’ll get some idea of the level of hostility that many Torontonians feel towards each other… the kind of threatening aggression they’re only too willing to turn against their fellow drivers. You seriously take your life in your hands driving on any of those roads.

And now it’s seems to be happening in the stadiums of our favourite sports franchises. You might think I’m talking about football or hockey, but I’m not. I’m referring to baseball. Toronto Blue Jays baseball, to be exact. When did baseball become a violent game?

Toronto sports fans have always been enthusiastic, noisy, and boisterous. That’s part of the fan experience. But last year, unruly Blue Jays fans threw beer down from the upper bleachers onto fans in the stands below to protest a questionable call on the field. Then, this season, a fan threw a can of beer onto the field very close to Baltimore Orioles left-fielder Hyun Soo Kim. This out-of-control fan not only committed the dangerous offence in full view of the security cameras, but later had the audacity to deny that he did it, despite clear evidence. So he added cowardice and lying to his crime. As a reward, he has subsequently lost his job, and is up on a charge of dangerous mischief, as well he should be.

Then, the other day, I read about a married couple of Cleveland fans who drove to Toronto to watch their beloved Cleveland Indians take on the Blue Jays in game 3 of the 7 game American League Championship Playoffs series. Despite being nervous about what they’d heard (and seen) on TV about Toronto fans’ behaviour in the past, they still wanted to show support for their team. They had even planned to stay overnight to visit Toronto, and then attend Toronto-hosted game 4. Instead, they ended up leaving town after game 3, vowing never to return because of the way they were treated by some, shall we say, less than welcoming Jays fans.

These Cleveland fans reported to CBC news that, while in the stands at the stadium on Monday evening, they were repeatedly harassed by unruly Jays supporters. Several times during the game they were booed and sworn at by nearby fans, presumably because they dared to wear their white Indians jerseys, and had the nerve to stand and cheer on their team… something ex-pat Jays’ supporters have been doing at stadiums all over the States this season. But when these Cleveland fans did it in our ballpark, Jays fans jeered and yelled at them to go home. Another fan deliberately splashed beer on them. And later, while trying to find the exit to the lot where their car was parked (after the Cleveland win), a Toronto fan extended his hand as if for a handshake, but while doing so leaned in and quietly told the Cleveland fan to f**k off. Really nice, Toronto! That’s sure the way to show American’s that we’re a welcoming town full of good people.

There’s no reason to doubt this story, because we’ve all witnessed this kind of hostile behaviour many times on TV, in the stands, and out on the streets. Once some Toronto fans get a few beers in them, it seems, they become loud, obnoxious animals who make no effort to restrain their angry and violent impulses.

Is this really what Toronto has become? Oh sure, some of you are going to say this is just the kind of typical “friendly” banter exchanged between sporting opponents these days. That may very well be (in some circles), but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable. If my friends and I start telling each other to “f**k off” in jest, then what does that say about us? It says we’re morons… that’s what! And if we start yelling it at strangers, then that’s far worse. Aggression is aggression. Violence is violence. There’s no room for it in civilized public society.

I understand passion and enthusiasm. I understand competition and fan allegiance. I even understand frustration and disappointment. What I don’t understand is wanton, boorish hostility directed toward perfect strangers. Sure, these kinds of feelings can spring up in anyone, but civilized people don’t act on them. I was as upset as any Jays fan that Toronto lost game 3, but I don’t think my wife or kids would have been terribly impressed if I had started screaming obscenities at my TV. Only morons let loose and express their negative emotions this way.

It used to be that the majority of us wouldn’t stand for this kind of unacceptable behaviour amongst our friends. Otherwise they wouldn’t be our friends for long. We would take them aside in a quieter moment and explain that they were out of place. Not any more, it seems. For some reason, people now turn a blind eye to this kind of uncivilized and ignorant behaviour. But ignoring it is just a passive way of sanctioning it. It seems that no one is willing to step in and tell these people that their behaviour won’t be tolerated. Probably because they themselves fear getting sworn at, or even punched in the face. And, if so, then what does that say about our so-called “friends” if we’re that afraid of them? And so the morons go unopposed, feeling empowered, as if they’ve been granted unspoken permission to act this way… as if they’re simply expressing the raw, passionate emotions that everyone else is feeling. And that’s just wrong. Very wrong.

Come on, Toronto. Rudeness and hostility are not acceptable at any time. But if you think they are, then perhaps you’re one of the morons, and you need to re-consider your behaviour, and what it says about your city, and your team. *

I’m just sayin’

* I’m delighted to report that, after this incident went public on CBCnews, the Cleveland couple has received more than 200 Facebook apologies for the rudeness they were subjected to while in Toronto at the game. One Torontonian even offered that, should they consider returning for game 5, he would like to buy them a nice swanky dinner.

Now that’s more like it, Toronto!