Hear me out Opinions

Hear Me Out: There’s No Need To Flip The Table

How toxic masculinity plays on men’s emotions when watching sports

My friend came up to me the other day and started talking to me about her boyfriend’s sports-watching habits. She said that he becomes so violent when his team loses, that he has to take a 30-minute break before being able to have a conversation with her where he will not be verbally aggressive or loud.

How do I respond?

The short answer would be: send him to therapy. The long one is what I’m trying to unpack in this article.

This got me thinking about the culture of sports and how it ties into men and their emotions.

I love the idea of a community coming together to show support for a sports team, which is an important part of our culture and identity as a population.

In a digital age where we tend to not know our neighbour, literally and figuratively, sports can be a way for people to find communities, as they’re linked with territorial identification. Go Habs go, am I right?

But, was I the only one growing up scared of walking in front of a screen hypnotizing a group of men, or worse, to stereotypically ask them if they wanted another beer or more chicken wings in the fear of getting yelled at?

In a study on football hooliganism, six features are identified in the culture of sports and violence: “excitement and pleasurable emotional arousal, hard masculinity, territorial identifications, individual and collective management of reputation, a sense of solidarity and belonging, and representations of sovereignty and autonomy.”

As a sports fan myself, I understand the feeling of your favourite team winning. But I still cringe at the over-the-top reactions from men watching sports — whether it’s getting up from the couch to scream at the screen or making comments out loud on certain athletes’ performances as if they could hear them. Sometimes they even hug, but only because they’ve been made to believe that this is an acceptable time to show physical affection to another man.

If you’re having a hard time picturing what I’m describing, I’ll refer you to this Pepsi and Lay’s 2003 commercial where four men are watching a football game, taking touching each other in the slightest way too much to heart; but after a touchdown, they break into an orgy of hugs, butt slaps and grabs on the couch.

I won’t get into too much of a rant on homoeroticism and men’s sports, but in what other circumstances have you seen heterosexual men grab each other’s butts than in a football league?

In an even surprising yet probable instance, they also cry.

This cleverly goes against the way patriarchy brainwashes boys from a young age to think that their emotions are not valid or, at least, shouldn’t be shown in public.

Even male athletes crying or showing emotions that are deemed too “feminine” is accepted by society as the context of sports somehow gives it a stamp of masculine approval.

I’m not just saying that from personal experience.

In their study, Heather J. MacArthur from the department of psychology at Hamilton College presented participants with different scenarios of men and women crying in different contexts that were stereotypically masculine, such as firefighting and weightlifting, or stereotypically feminine like nursing and figure skating.

The results showed that men who cried during sports or professions that were deemed masculine were perceived as more emotionally appropriate and emotionally strong than the ones who cried in more stereotypically feminine settings.

Now I’m all for men showing their emotions. It’s just sad that they need an entire sports league in order to do so.

It somehow makes sense why men would cry watching sports because it’s something they are taught to care about.

After all, according to Michael Messner’s Televised Sports Manhood Formula, “boys are taught that paying the price, be it one’s bodily health or one’s money, gives one access to the privileges that have been historically linked to hegemonic masculinity — money, power, glory, and women.”

In their study, Messner also identified a link between violence and sports as he states that the stereotype of aggressive players getting the prize, and nice guys finishing last is impacting young boys’ views.

This is what concerns me the most about men watching sports.

Although Professor Daniel Wann attributes sports fan aggression mainly to alcohol consumption, he also points out that a personal identification to the team is an extension of the fan himself.

With that narrative, a sports fan watching their favourite team lose can be seen as a personal failure, or even worse, a personal attack from the winning team.

That is where the violence comes in.

Although I don’t personally feel the need to identify with a team so much that it would define who I am, I understand if that’s what someone else is into (though I might cringe a little).

It’s just frustrating as a woman to always be told that our emotions are uncontrollable, when men will flip a table or be verbally aggressive out of the blue because some other men in uniforms’ bodies did not perform well enough.

So now, what do I tell my friend? That her boyfriend is just another victim of patriarchy and that his handling of his emotions is just a result of that? No, that’s much too academic and pointless to be honest.

However, it’s the real answer that I found in my research. Even though it’s no small task, we need to address the general attitudes on gender dynamics and sports before ever getting to the case of my friend’s boyfriend.


Liking rival teams can be a healthy way to enjoy sports

Being a fan of two rival teams isn’t easy, but it can be fun

Every sports fan has a favourite team. Some even have two or more for the same sport, which helps them follow different conferences or divisions. But how often does it happen that someone likes two rival teams? It’s rare, but not impossible.

Rivalries are one of the most fun parts of sports. It can even get to a point where you’re rooting for a team’s failure and not another team’s success.

If you’re as big of a hockey fan as anyone in Montreal, there is no way that you don’t absolutely despise the Boston Bruins or the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Or maybe there is.

Pia Yared, who has been living in Montreal since 2015, became a Canadiens fan the second she started living in Montreal. That was until last year, when she watched her first Leafs game and it was love at first sight.

“I just loved their energy, and how they played,” she said. “All it took was one game and I became a Leafs fan.”

She said she is now 55 per cent a Leafs fan and 45 per cent a Habs fan, but that it can fluctuate during the year.

Mitch Levis, a Montrealer and Baseball Québec umpire, also mentioned these numbers, but for the MLB.

He is 55 per cent a Cincinnati Reds fan and 45 per cent a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Before that, Levis was a huge Expos fan, but he stopped following MLB altogether after the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals.

However, he got back into it in 2010 when he travelled to Cincinnati and went to a Reds game there, with the Cardinals visiting.

“On the Cards’ roster was Rafael Furcal, a player I had met as a child when he played for Atlanta. But on the Reds was all-star Canadian player Joey Votto,” Levis said, explaining what helped him get back into watching MLB and following these two teams.

Although he doesn’t watch baseball during the regular season due to his busy schedule, Levis watches some games during the preseason and the playoffs. He also follows both teams in the news and on social media to keep up with everything.

He said if he were to watch his two favourite teams against each other, he would probably root for the Reds.

“But I’d also lean more neutral and hope for an exciting pitching matchup,” he said.

Yared also said she doesn’t watch a lot of games during the regular season, but tries to keep up with the news as much as possible.

She mentioned she usually roots for the Leafs over the Canadiens when they face off, but hopes for a fun game, even if it’s not the outcome she expects.

“I try to go into it neutral and see how the game goes,” she said. “And if a team is too disappointing, I’ll cheer for the other one.”

This is exactly what happened in the 2021 playoffs. She went into it rooting for Toronto, but ended up cheering for Montreal the closer they got to winning the series.

At the end of the day, sports are meant to be fun and to bring people together. Everyone has unique sports experiences. You can like one team and be loyal to them until death. You can like a team, then decide you don’t like them anymore, and pick a new one. You can also not have a favourite team, but instead just enjoy a sport.

Or, you can have two favourite teams that have a great rivalry, and enjoy every second of chaos you’ll witness.


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt


The Pros and Cons of Single-Event Sports Betting in Canada

With the approval of Bill C-218 in June, what will the consequences be for Canadian sports fans?

The unpredictability of sport is attractive. 

The sudden turning points at the end of a game entertain the masses and leave them on the edge of their seats. That single unexpected play that turned the game on its head sparks discussion and excitement for hours after the last whistle is blown.

For many, that excitement is usually propelled by external elements. The majority are usually booze-fueled; just intoxicated enough to know what’s going on, but too sloppy to contain themselves with the excitement of a closing play. The minority, however, are fueled by something different: a vice that will now be prevalent in professional sports in North America with the approval of Bill C-218 in June, legalizing single-event sports betting in Canada. That minority might soon become the majority.

Some people find that betting on sports not only provides added excitement, but also keeps those who were once uninterested now glued to the screen. Jack Allen happens to be one of those people. Not being a big sports fan himself, a few single-event side bets on offshore apps like bet365 kept him interested in not only the outcome of the game, but the sport itself. 

“[Betting] gave me a reason to actually care about the sport I was watching,” Allen said. “My friends watched sports and I would watch from time to time but wouldn’t really care, but now that betting is involved, I’m more interested in the outcome.”

As of this upcoming season, sports fans will now have the option of betting on multiple factors in one game — the Super Bowl for example — in real time. 

According to the Canadian Gaming Association, an estimated 10 billion dollars annually has passed through illegal bookmaking operations. Four billion dollars was spent through offshore betting apps while only 500 million dollars passed through legal provincial lottery processes. In theory, this bill will supposedly eradicate black market gambling, create jobs, and protect consumers, all while establishing a safe and legal betting option.

Entertainment companies have been on the move since the legalization. From Caesars expanding their online betting platform to Ontario, to BetMGM signing Wayne Gretzky in an attempt to expand from coast to coast, one thing is clear: gaming and entertainment companies are competing to become the conglomerate in Canadian sports gambling. However, will repeated exposure and accessibility to sports betting affect people who are most vulnerable? With Ted Leonis, owner of the Washington Capitals in the NHL and Wizards of the NBA  granting betting kiosks inside their arena, and more teams to follow suit potentially in the future, where in entertainment do we draw the line?

Dr. John Sader is a family physician who also sub-specializes in addiction. Having worked with all types of patients with varying addictions, Sader believes that not everyone is susceptible to the exposure of gambling in sports.

According to Dr. Sader, addiction depends on factors like inherited genetics, and how those genetics manage dopamine releases in the brain when performing a pleasurable task. From his experience, he explained that on average, 75 per cent of people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a genetic variant of postsynaptic dopamine receptors in the brain. 

“There are people who are born with hypo-receptive receptors. With the same level of normal stimulation, they feel much less pleasure.” 

In order to feel pleasure, someone who is born with these receptors will ramp up their activity at a higher level than a normal person.

“Addiction has to start somewhere; it starts by liking something too much to the point where you can’t control it anymore,” Dr. Sader said.

The National Council on Problem Gambling released a report before the legalization of single-event betting voicing their concerns over the negative attraction it can have for people, citing that sports betting is twice as likely to occur in comparison to other forms of gambling. With 45 per cent of sports bets conducted online, the rate of exposure and convenience is higher. The report also states that single-event betting offers more betting options on a single game than ever before. The increased speed between bet and reward will also increase the frequency in which people gamble. On top of all this in the age of doing work remotely, people now have more free time on their hands than ever before.

Dr. Sader has personally noticed an uptick in gambling admissions over the course of the pandemic, as people were forced to stay cooped-up inside.  

“They can’t go to the restaurant, they can’t go to the movies, they can’t do anything pleasurable. I can only imagine these hypo-dopamine people are suffering even more. Then you start to advertise gambling, and they can do it from their home, it’s on the internet, they start playing and they have fun and a lot of them will get caught up in gambling,” Dr. Sader said.

It’s still too early to tell what effect single-event sports betting will have on sports in general, and the people who watch them. In a time of mass consumption, the approval of this bill will increase viewership and revenue for sports leagues across North America, but at what cost?

As for now, the main challenge for many fans this upcoming season will be toeing the fine line between entertainment and addiction.


Graphic by James Fay


Colour Commentary: Why do fans put so much stock into prospects?

If you’ve been reading my columns, I think I have made it pretty clear that I am a Montreal Canadiens fan. Like most fans, I love trade rumours – they create fun discussions and make imaginations run wild.

Amid the New Jersey Devils’ horrendous start to the NHL season, Taylor Hall’s name has started to surface in trade rumours. The 28-year-old winger will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and will presumably not be resigning in New Jersey.

I think it is objectively fair to say the Canadiens have one of the top five best prospect pools in the NHL. Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov; the list goes on and on.

Here’s where the two connect: the idea of Taylor Hall being traded to the Habs has caught fire in the Habs-Twitter world. Naturally, when the idea of Suzuki, a first round pick, and another player was thrown around as a hypothetical trade, fans were split in saying either yes or no to that idea.

I understand that Suzuki and the others are exciting prospects. In Suzuki’s case, he has the potential to be a top six centre in the NHL. The operative word in that sentence is potential. If he were to reach that ceiling, it would be amazing. On the other hand, he can very well fall flat and become a 40-point-player.

Hall doesn’t have the potential to be an elite scorer. The former Hart Trophy winner has already proven to be one while playing for two pitiful teams. He is an instant game-changer that is worth taking a one year gamble on.

The fact is, a marquee free agent has never signed with the Canadiens. There are too many factors working against the organization. They need to be creative in how they acquire elite talent.

Potential is nice. But it is just that: potential. Nothing more.

Some fans, and this is not exclusive to Canadiens fans, fall into a trap of overvaluing potential and would not give it up for a tangible asset.

You may have noticed that I excluded Cole Caufield from the list above. That’s where I draw the line. Caufield is considered by many analysts as a “can’t miss” prospect. Other than him, when it comes to acquiring elite talent, potential should not be the determining factor on a possible trade that pushes the needle of a team from being a bubble playoff team to an instant contender.

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