Haunted by a Conversation

Let’s go way back to 1984. I was living in Hamilton, Ontario and our football team, the Tiger-Cats, had made the Eastern division finals against rivals the Toronto Argonauts, winner to play in the national football championship, the Grey Cup.

There was no domed stadium, this was sitting on a cold bench, outdoors, in November in Canada. Our section of the sold-out stadium was one of only three allocated to our fans but we made up for it by being louder and more boisterous than all the Argoes fans present.

Somehow, against odds, our team won.

After the victory (in double over time), the Ti-Cats came to our end of the field and cheered us! (Later, my family said that the TV commentators also talked about how loud and energetic we were).

The Ti-Cats were going on to the Grey Cup backed by fans like us!

And we were going home, an hour or so drive once traffic dispersed.

On the way out of the stadium we were shouting and being arrogant. We’d won, we had the bragging rights. A lot of Argo fans weren’t happy, but this is Canada, no guns (I’m looking at you USA) and no violence over stupid stuff like football games (I’m looking at you England).

One Argo fan, a woman about my age (say 20) came up to me and tried to reason with me. Statistically, she argued, the Argoes were a far superior team. Don’t you think it would’ve been better if the Argoes had won? The Ti-Cats can’t beat the western champs. Only the Argoes have a real chance. Don’t you want the Eastern conference to have the title?

I didn’t argue that if they couldn’t beat us, how could they promise to beat whoever won the western championship. I didn’t argue that we had earned it and they hadn’t. Nope. Instead I gloated. I told her that I didn’t care, that denying Toronto the chance to play for the cup was enough.

She walked away.

I’m much older (36 years older) than I was in November 1984. I think about that short exchange a lot, especially with the way politics is going.

For so many now, winning isn’t as important as denying your opponent the chance to win.

So much of what led to Donald Trump’s ascendancy wasn’t about him winning, it was about punishing people you didn’t like. It was about denying someone else something, not because you wanted it, but because they did.

Of course there was a lot of vilification and vitriol stirred in with that movement but at it’s core it was summed up by t-shirts that said, “Trump 2016 Fuck Your Feelings”. The intent was to derive joy from someone else’s frustration or pain.

And that’s what I felt, way back in 1984.