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Friday Night Football

October 19, 2013

The first thing you’ll think of as you are cycling down Tower Street on a mid-October balmy Friday night in the south end of Halifax is that you are on the movie set of Pleasantville.

All of the streets in the neighbourhood are tree-lined – often canopied – by massive hardwoods 70-100 years old, and the houses are beautiful Italian inspired 100-year-old works of Victorian art.

And what with the warm breeze, and a near full moon sliding in and out of the clouds – the smell of earth rich and intoxicating after yesterday’s rain.

I am on my way to Point Pleasant – to cycle through the 200 acre urban forest that covers the Harbour penninsula…in the near dark of a Halifax night.

I cross Inglis to the roar of a Friday night football game; and through the back entrance to Huskies Stadium, I see people jumping like fireworks from their seats as everyone tries to do the wave.

Huskies Stadium on a Friday night. Eight minutes left in the game and the home team down by 5. But the Huskies have their opponents backed up on their own 5 yard line and there’s still plenty of time on the clock. The crowd roars optimistically when the enemy fails to do anything and has to punt the ball away. Big banks of light gleam in the dark.

This south-end Halifax neighborhood is pure postcard middle-class. Big trees. Huge old homes. Trim lawns and the latest landscape architectural designs. There is a high-end private school right across the street, two universities, and the Atlantic School of Theology are all in the neighbourhood. Solid middle-class money and dreams live here. The demographics are like 93% white (even higher if you don’t count St. Mary’s foreign student population.)

The only blacks I see are either playing football for St. Mary’s, or working gate security. A quick clip of hip-hop blares out of big stadium speakers between plays on the field. The crowd roars its approval. 

Take from that what you will.

Mount Allison’s team – on the other hand – is so white they remind me of Vikings.

The only college football game I have ever been to was a Michigan State home game back in 1980. This is no MSU game. There are, at most, 500 people here tonight. MSU Stadium in Lansing Michigan, and its 105,000+ packed to the rafters screaming crazies, create a noise that buzzed in my head for two days after. The pre-game tailgate party took up the entire parking lot.

University ball in Canada is more of a Texas high school brand – tier III – Friday Night kind of football.

But even that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve been to Texas. They take their high school football as seriously as does small town Canada takes its provincial midget hockey finals.    

Anyway, on this night the home team’s quarterback throws two picks in the last five minutes and that’s the ballgame. No hometown heroes tonight. Just some character building.

The Vikings are happy as they leave the field, are all hot and sweaty, and look ready for some cold beer.

But this isn’t Pleasantville. The Blacks really do play sports and work security here. People of color and women in hijabs still get called out on the streets of Halifax. Too many locals are still openly racist. Islam-aphobia is off the charts.

Just this week another prominent gay young man was stabbed and left for dead. He was a concert pianist. He was stabbed in the back. His spinal cord was severed, and now he is left to live his life in a wheelchair. A nineteen year old-young man has been charged.

This year’s Saint Mary’s freshmen sang one of those pledge songs that freshmen participate in as part of their happy initiation rites. The song they sang got posted to the web. In the video you see young men and women happily singing along with their pledge masters (Saint Mary’s Student Union representatives). The beat is fun, rhythmic, and easy to follow – just as you’d expect from some harmless student union-approved freshmen initiation fun. The lyrics everyone was chanting were about how much fun it would be to have non-consensual sex with under age girls. (Once it hit the news, it was colloquially known as the ‘rape chant’).

When Saint Mary’s Student Union President, one Jared Perry, a fine young Republican wanna-be if I ever saw one, tried to defend the actions of the students, and the union, by telling the press that no one ever actually listened to the lyrics. It had a great rhythm and was just a fun to song to sing along to. And, mr. Perry reminded everyone, the song had, in fact, been used for the last ten years, and so no one thought anything of it.

This, in turn, shawn the media spotlight on Saint Mary’s University Administration, who immediately began to wring their hands, and asked Jared Perry to resign. They assured everyone that new freshmen policies would be in place by next year. (To my knowledge, no one from Saint Mary’s Administration was asked to resign.)

But tonight, that’s all last week’s news. Tonight it is about football, warm fall evenings, friends and families, and a stadium full of twenty-something hormones.

Tonight we live in Pleasantville.



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