Letters – McGill Students Dislike the Colour Red, Maybe…

A response to “Considering the harms of sports culture: Why sports culture doesn’t matter at McGill,” McGill Tribune – Oct 22, 2013

Guest submission by Alex Rohrbach

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I’m grateful we have students at McGill who have the courage to speak up and share controversial opinions. I came north of the border to surround myself with thoughtful students from international backgrounds and to challenge myself with varying viewpoints. Mr. Michaels, I sincerely thank you for sharing your thoughts about the negative effects of sports culture, but as to the premises of your argument, I find fault.

Here’s why.

Central to your reasoning is a poorly developed “culture of exclusion,” supposedly perpetuated by athletes the world over. I am one of those athletes. You know, the kind of jock—your word, not mine— who asks for tutoring when it looks like he might get an “A-” and rereads “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in the downtime before his semi-final game.

With twelve years experience playing on organized sports teams, I find exclusivity runs contradictory to the organizations for which I have played, including McGill Athletics.

I notice you write, “I don’t think that anywhere on earth there exists a positive ‘strong culture of athletics.’” That is a blanket statement, but your opinion nonetheless. I could point out to you that the city of Boston rallied around the Red Sox after the horrific Boston bombing, or that New Orleans found communal strength from their football team after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I could bring up heartwarming Olympic stories, or, for an example closer to home, I could start talking about Right to Play – and I think we both know it would be game, set, and match—but then again, I really don’t have to.

Semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit

“The necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.” By hiding behind the powerful word maybe and infinite possibilities that spring from the word, anyone can provide a long list of reasons why McGill students might stay away from sporting events. Maybe McGill students don’t want to walk up to Molson Stadium. Maybe McGill students find ticket prices too expensive. Maybe McGill students dislike the colour red. Endless are the reasons, each one more plausible than the next, but where is the evidence to support these claims?

From a handful of extreme cases dealing with aggressive homophobes and high school bullies, you characterize the worldwide institution of athletics as oppressive and exclusionary, not to mention racist, sexist, and homophobic. You go on to label athletics at McGill as conducive to binge drinking – interesting because my team, and I imagine other McGill teams, has a 24-hour no-drinking policy before games. Finally, you claim McGill Athletics has both hurt and alienated students on campus.

You identify problems endemic to society, not to athletics. Take away football games, and students are still going to binge drink, probably even more so. Someone is just as likely to run into a homophobe waiting in the queue outside the Bell Centre, no matter if the line is for a Habs’ game or a music concert.

I completely agree with you in saying, “I only want a strong culture of athletics here if it’s going to be inclusive, positive, and non-oppressive.” Beyond athletics, this is a student culture each and every McGill student should strive to make possible.

In that spirit of inclusivity, I welcome you to come watch the McGill Redmen lacrosse team defend the national championship in Molson Stadium, November 2.

Alex Rohrbach is a U3 finance major and economics minor. He is co-captain of the McGill Redmen lacrosse team.

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