Friday, June 10, 2011

"The Law is Not for Me, But Thee"

With what looked to be the possibility of the Vancouver Canucks making a clear skate to the Stanley Cup now in question after the Boston Bruins' furious comeback in the last two games, people are wanting to know why. How did the Canucks go from the victories they pulled off in Vancouver to getting drubbed by seven goals in Game 3 and four in Game 4? Is the Stanley Cup going to be paraded through Stanley Park in 2011 after all, or will defeated and dispirited Canucks fans just burn Granville Street to the ground?

That I don't particularly follow hockey is an understatement - for perspective, I only found out this year that the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas eighteen years ago. So it may be that I'm out of touch with the cultural norms of the sport and what people will tolerate from its players. Nevertheless, my question is more along the lines of "how is it that Aaron Rome can give a man a severe concussion and get away with just a four-game suspension?"

This wasn't just a tap. Nathan Horton had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher and straight into an ambulance. If this same thing had happened in, say, Boston Common instead of TD Garden, do you think Rome would have gotten off so easily? Considering that the General Laws of Massachussets define the punishment for assault or assault and battery as "imprisonment for not more than 2 1/2 years in a house of correction or by a fine of not more than $1,000," I somehow doubt it.

Granted, there are circumstances where some laws of that sort are in abeyance - the battlefield, for instance. But no matter how much some of its fans may want to see it that way, hockey isn't war. These are PLAYERS. They were playing a game, separated from the activities of children in the backyard only in size and scope. But no one seems to care. "That's just how the game is played." "That's what they get paid the big bucks for."

Personally, I dislike the notion of people being put above the law, even if only in context and implication.

It reminds me, in some ways, of what's still going on in Toronto, where fallout from the G20 nearly a year ago continues to settle. Report after report of police brutality during that harsh weekend surfaced in the weeks and months after, but in cases such as the alleged police beating of Dorian Barton - no relation, as far as I know - multiple investigations by the SIU, the watchdog organization of Ontario's police forces, were foiled because of non-cooperation. From the police.

In some respects, it's understandable - police officers have difficult, dangerous jobs that civilians can't easily relate to. It's easy to see why police officers support each other so strongly. But when it comes down to a situation where a suspect officer can't be positively identified by any one of eleven police witnesses, including that officer's roommate, things go a bit beyond. What if the shoe was on the other foot? If my roommate beat the shit out of a cop, and the police knew I was his roommate, and yet I was unable to identify him, what do you think might happen to me?

Justice can be a tricky thing. When people outside of very particular contexts start treating it as unequal, it doesn't get any easier to balance.

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