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An eye for an eye is lousy payback

On March 20, fans of the Montreal Canadiens registered their disapproval of our government’s actions in Iraq by booing our national anthem before a game against the New York Islanders. That’s a stupid, mean spirited thing to do. It makes the team look bad and makes the fans look bad.

Then, on April 2, the Canadiens came to Tampa. Initially, O’ Canada was booed, but then the boos were drowned out by applause. That’s refreshing, but it still bothers me that people are booing each other’s national anthems. That’s so petty, no matter which country it is.

Hockey is a sport, a game, for crying out loud. There’s no need to politicize it. Politics is seeping into everything these days, and it’s getting out of hand. What the fans in Montreal did was wrong, and the relatively few fans who did it here in Tampa were wrong to reciprocate. Maybe the Lightning fans thought they were getting a measure of revenge. Everyone knew what the Canadiens’ fans did was stupid. Instead of rising above it and showing we were better, we sunk to their level. In some ways, we went lower. We knew how mad we were when the Star Spangled Banner was derided; there was no reason to do the same to O’ Canada.

Booing the Canadian anthem is disrespectful to all Canadians, even those who might agree with the actions in Iraq. Esteemed Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry said, “The true Canadians do not feel the way they do in Quebec there. Believe me, the majority of the people in Canada love the United States. We know you’d be there to help us and don’t think too bad of us.” He also explained (on the Jim Rome Show) why this happened where it happened: “You have to realize it’s Quebec, and it’s French Canadians.”

Freedom Canadians, Don.

What the Montreal fans did was to drum up an imagined conflict between Canada and America. A small segment of Lightning fans bought into it. There’s no reason for it to have gone as far as it did. There’s this thing called the “moral high ground.” Ignoring what happened in Montreal would have been all that was necessary to claim it, but apparently that was too much for some people.

Hockey is a game, and it should be treated as a game. It’s a form of escapism. Going to see a sporting event of any kind should allow us to check our problems at the door. You cheer for your team and yell at the opponents; that’s how it works. You shouldn’t go to a game looking to make a statement about international policy. There are better and less insulting ways to do it. But sporting events are sort of a departure from the real world. Case in point: the average salary for most professional leagues. Boo the other team when the lineups are being read, boo a player when he touches the puck, but leave the national anthems alone, for crying out loud.

I don’t see what happened as a free speech issue. I see it as a lack of politeness on behalf of everyone involved. Everyone is free to express an opinion (even in Canada), but there is a time and a place to do it.

This anthem booing makes both sides look bad. Going back and forth is childish and needs to stop. It doesn’t matter to me who started it; I just want to see it end permanently. Sporting events are not the place to make political statements. You can do it pretty much anywhere else. Political disagreements have nothing to do with hockey or any other sport.

Chris Ricketts is a senior majoring in