Monday, June 09, 2008

Pity poor Leah McLaren

This should probably just be ignored.

But, it's so hard to ignore such hackery from the Globe and Mail's queen of nepotism. Apparently Leah McLaren had her pretty nice little Saturday interrupted by some boisterous TFC fans last week and decided that it would make a good jumping off point to write an article painting all of its fans as knuckle dragging buffoons hellbent on recreating a scene from the Real Football Factories.

Forgetting for a moment the utter stupidity of labeling TFC fans as hooligans, wannabe or otherwise. She's not the first North American journalist looking for the sensational angle on what's happening at BMO Field to make that jump. I'll repeat what anyone with two minutes available to do some research should know--hooliganism is organized. It's rooted in class politics and it feeds off of the type of hopelessness and poverty that has thankfully never been a part of Canadian society. When two guys get into a fight at a TFC game they aren't hooligans--they're idiots. Just in the same way that two guys fighting at a NFL game--a far more frequent occurrence it must be said--are idiots.

Let's also put aside the soccer basing aspect of this trite. That's as old as it is boring. Although if you'd like to read soccer fans calling McLaren a four letter word that rhymes with Billy Beane's least favourite offensive strategy, there are plenty of places to do so.

What is really irritating about it is its dripping in condescension tone. Like most arts reporters (But, thankfully not all) McLaren is dismissive of the idea that people--reasonable, well bred people anyway--could possibly care about sports. "Why it's not important," they scoff. "A distraction for the unwashed, uneducated masses." From time to time they may partake--a sort of slumming exercise, like when they go out for a beer at a country and western bar as a lark--but, they would never lower themselves to really stand and cheer.

Of course they can write about a self-indulgent festival flick like it's fluckin Shakespeare and the latest fashion line is clearly of the utmost importance. Their distractions are art after all. Sports is just ugly and dirty.

What McLaren and her ilk don't get is that sports do matter. Sure, it has its ugly side, but at its best it can provide inspiration, amazement and a tremendous sense of community. It gives many people something to look forward to at the end of a long, crap day and it can provide joy in otherwise joyless times.

It connects fathers to sons, grandfathers to grandchildren and, thankfully, in recent times it has started to do the same thing for mothers and grandmothers. It keeps troubled boys in school and it gives shy girls self-confidence. It makes us healthier and ignites passion within us.

From sport we gain lifelong friendships and are forever connected to our roots.

And if Leah doesn't get that she's--to use a word that the admitted Anglophile will understand--a wanker.


Tim Drodge said...

I am proud to know you Duane. This is far and away the best response I have seen to the vapid words from Leah McLaren, that are as frankly insulting to me as they should be to any true fan of ANY sport.

John Olerud said...

I used to work customer service and dealing with Leah McLaren in person led me to utterly lose any interest in anything she might have to say. She just reeks of arrogant pretension and snobbery. I'm hardly shocked that she looks down on sports fans.

Rick Groen on the other hand seems like a decent guy. No clue what his take on sports might be, but there are certainly other decent folk employed at the Globe.

GoGades said...

While I agree with most of Duane's commentary (the "their distractions are art after all"), am I the only one that wasn't particularly offended by the original article ? Really, it's mostly vapid and weakly throws the word hooligan around, but I didn't really see the wide-brush painting I expected...

Anonymous said...

I foudn the original article to be offensive, unresearched, ignorant of problems within Canada while taking broad swipes at English culture (or apparent lack there of).

I'm sooooo sorry her friends beer was upset by some guys that had drank a little too much. Like that's never happened in Canada before TFC? Like 'holliganism' as she likes to bandy around doesn't happen in Canada...because, of course, torching police cars in Montreal, riots in Vancouver and murdering hockey Dad's are entirely different - yet uniquely Canadian way to do things.

I didn't realise the nepotism angle. Ah well, we can all relish in the fact that her medium is dying and that this hack journalist will need to find another gig before long enough...


dr said...

I'm with gogades. I'm no apologist for McLaren, but this wasn't a particularly offensive column. (It wasn't particularly well done either, but that's another story.) It is getting a bit tiring to have Canadian soccer fans (and TFC fans in particular) overreact to every perceived slight in the media. The overwrought reaction to all of these columns or commentaries from radio hosts is really unbecoming. It's almost as predictable and as silly as the professional wrestling fans getting upset when the heel comes out and makes fun of whatever city he's in.

Anonymous said...

Leah's lost a lot of stock at the Globe in the past two years. Her writing contributions outside of her column that no one reads anymore went way, way down while she was writing The Continuity Girl. She was basically hung out to dry. Her book got a lot of negative reviews too. And she's been working on a TV project for the CBC, so there you go, she's got the Toronto downtown wannabe-hipster tag attached to her now.

You have to understand: this is a woman who once said - I kid you not - that there are no classes in Toronto. I find that amazing. For someone who went to Trent, she has blinders on something fierce. All you have to do is go to Yorkville in the morning and Scarborough in the afternoon to know what a load of bullocks that kind of comment is.

Leah's also got some serious issues with the British. She wrote a very nasty column when she was working in England a few years ago where she tore apart British men and their dating habits. She really made a lot of enemies over there because of her writings. There might be an explanation as to why she came down so hard on the TFC people there - anything that reminds her of British men seems to get her riled up.

My point: people who read Leah's columns and articles aren't the kind of people you want at a TFC game anyway. You mostly have to feel sorry for people like that - they're so consumed with their own precious lifestyles they can't have any moments of pure joy.

It's kind of ironic she'd be getting all pissy over drunk guys at BMO Field - she's known to knock them back pretty hard too.

Duane Rollins said...


Read what I wrote. I'm not reacting to a slight against soccer or TFC. My piece is in reaction to the contempt and dismissal of all sports that is all-too evident in her piece.

I agree that soccer fans need to reign it in sometimes when it comes to perceived criticism in the media,. I'm made that very argument to soccer fans in places where it wasn't all that well received.

The one area where I am going to suggest that you are giving McLaren too much of a free pass is her use of the word hooligan. Go to a TFC game and observe how much police attention there is--it's insane and a utter waste of resources. And, it's because the public has an image that soccer fans are bigger trouble makers than fans of other sports. Articles like this do nothing to debunk that incredibly flawed idea.

Also, as Al points out, she's pretty damn condescending towards British working class culture in that piece as well. Leah's England drinks team not lager. That type of class crap doesn't belong in a newspaper in this country.

To state the obvious, McLaren--who is a good writer but crap journalist--would have benefited greatly by having to go out and actually earn the job that she has. A year writing for the Upper Armpit Journal-Times--and rubbing elbows with its readers--would have done her a world of good.

Duane Rollins said...

*drinks tea

dr said...


I did read it. And I read it again. Then I read McLaren's piece again. I don't really see this anti-sports bias that you are writing about, and I stand by my professional wrestling comparison. You took the bait.

It's clear McLaren isn't a subscriber to Setanta Sports, but we probably knew that already. I thought the article was more about the differences between Canada and England - and, of course, herself.

Also, what type of poverty and hopelessness has never been a part of Canadian society? Doesn't the fact that you keep mentioning the nepotism that got McLaren her job and the tone of the column (and the whole Saturday Globe Style section, for that matter) suggest that there are clear class distinctions in this country?

sager said...

There are class distinctions in Canada, but Britain's permanent underclass (thank you, Maggie Thatcher) is peculiar to that country... granted, when you consider the challenges we have in our First Nations, there are similarities.

I'm not a sociologist and I have a relatively privileged middle-class existence, so I'll shut up now.

Duane Rollins said...


I, like many people that work/have worked in media in this country, was likely a little to eager to rip on McLaren. That's likely true. She's a damn easy target.

I'll say it again: I actually don't mind her prose. I just think that she could have done a hell of a lot more as a journalist with the opportunity she was given.