Volume 54 - Issue 10 March 17, 2021 theeyeopener.com @theeyeopener Since 1967
PHOTO / ILLUSTRATION: HARRY CLARKE
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DID SOMEONE SAY ELECTIONS?
I am once again asking you EYELECTIONS FALL 2021 to vote (in RSU elections) So you want to run:
By Heidi Lee When former Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Ram Ganesh allegedly spent over $250,000 of student funds on questionable purchases such as food, liquor, clubs and clothing in 2019, I was just a first-year journalism student nervously stepping into the chaos of student politics. A month after The Eyeopener broke the credit card story, former interim RSU president Maklane deWever, who took over after Ganesh was impeached, told me less than 15 per cent of students voted in the election that put Ganesh in power. “The problem when students don’t vote is people who don’t represent them get elected,” said deWever in an interview in February 2019. “I think what we saw this year [with the credit card scandal] is the RSU’s responsibility, but I hope that it serves as a lesson for students to recognize the importance of democratic participation. When you don’t vote, you cannot shift blame.” A high voter turnout legitimizes the student government. It sends a clear message to the university that this is an accurate representation of what students want. As I filled out my ballot through my.ryerson to vote in the 2019-20 RSU elections, I thought Ryerson students had learned their lesson. That week, Vanessa Henry won the role of president by 1,202 votes, out of 35,051 eligible voters—a 9.8 per cent participation rate. The year after Henry’s term wasn’t much better, with voter turnout hitting an all-time low following the resignation of executive members and Ryerson terminating its operating agreement with the RSU. On Feb. 14, 2020, current RSU president Ali Yousaf came into power by 510 out of 965 ballots cast during last year’s RSU election. Although last year’s paper ballot voting system may have contributed to low turnout, students’ continued disinterest in voting is concerning. The fate of a union that represents over 33,000 undergraduate students was decided by less than 1,000 students. The results were also surprising for some given Yousaf’s track record in student politics. He was involved in the alleged financial mismanagement of 6 Fest, where a portion of the ticket sale refunds went into Yousaf and Harman Singh’s personal bank accounts. Singh was the RSU’s vice-president, student life and events at the time, while Yousaf was a finance committee member. Yousaf later went on to serve as the RSU’s vice-president, operations in 2017-18, sitting on the executive team during the Colonialism 150 dispute. He was also involved in Ganesh’s slate’s campaign.
So you want to vote:
• ALL editorial board posi• Voting takes place April 9 Under Yousaf’s leadership as president this tions are up for election. from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., via year, we saw the RSU lay off five full-time • Nomination forms are due email ballot. staff members, shut down the Good Food by April 7 at 11:59 p.m. • All 2021 masthead memCentre and lay off all staff at the Centre for You must be nominated by 2 bers, as well as any volunSafer Sex and Sexual Violence Support. These currrent masthead members, teer who has contributed at changes were made in the name of restructuras well as self-nominate. least 6 times over the entire ing and lack of student engagement. We saw • Speeches are on April 8 at academic year, are eligible no frosh week, no winter week of welcome 6 p.m., via Google Hangouts. to vote. and no financial transparency as promised • Speeches are 2 minutes maxi• Elections RSVP is on our at the elections debate. Board meetings are mum (5 minutes for editorFacebook page. poorly advertised; they used to be streamed in-chief candidates). • If you have any questions, live on the RSU’s Facebook page, but are now • Photo candidates will present concerns or accessibility nowhere to be found. 3 portfolio images. requests, please email: This year especially, the lack of transparen• Media candidates will firstname.lastname@example.org cy and communication from the RSU makes ent a 30s to 1 minute clip or it difficult to determine whether or not these highlight reel. decisions were made with the students’ best interests at heart and only add on to students’ Volunteers who need less than three declining trust in the RSU. Eligible voters contributions to vote: Samreen Maqsood Let’s be honest, some students don’t even Mariam Nouser Jessica Mazze Zanele Chisholm Edward Djan know the RSU still exists, or they just don’t Donald Higney Sofia Vavaroutsos Zuha Tanweer Gavin Axelrod care because of past controversies. In this Anna Wdowczyk Ivana Vidakovic Julia Mlodzik Armen Zargarian sense, I understand why students may feel apSerena Lopez Naomi Chen Peyton Mott Justin Walters athetic to voting—but that doesn’t mean you Sidra Jafri Justin Walters Aisha Jaffar Thea Gribilas shouldn’t vote. Jimmy Kwan Richard Coffey Sydney Brasil Lesi Yang In January, The Eye interviewed three former Libaan Osman Ben Okazawa Lester Pinlac Emma Moore Connor Thomas Sara Romano RSU presidents to see how we could rebuild the Manuela Vega Rhea Singh Nishat Chowdhury If your name is missReedah Hayder RSU. In this piece, they reflected on the things Zach Roman David Jardine ing from this list, Gavin Axelrod the union has accomplished for students and the Madi Wong Lizzy Sargeant please email editor@ Olivia Wiens impact that they’ve had on campus life. Reedah Hayder Dream Homer theeyeopener.com Alethea Ng In the past, the RSU protested to turn Sarah Tomlinson Vanessa Quon Prapti Bamaniya Gould Street into a pedestrian-friendly street and pushed for a fall reading week. Equity centres under the RSU also advocate on behalf Editor-in-Chief Web Developer of marginalized students—the Trans Collec- Catherine “Still Processing His Height But I’m Farhan “What Do You Think of the Nets” Sami tive introduced all-gender bathrooms, the BIGoing to Fight Will May 1” Abes POC Students’ Collective creates a safe space General Manager for Black, Indigenous and other racialized stuNews Liane “I Still Have That Great Beer-Holder dents, and RyePride fosters a welcoming comCharlize “Toronto’s Star” Alcaraz She Bought For Me 20 Years Ago” McLarty munity for LGBTQ2IA+ students. Alexandra “I’m Sorry You Had To Fact Check Even this year, the RSU has proven that it That Story” Holyk Design Director has the capacity to do some good—COVID-19 Heidi “Should I Send It To the Interns” Lee J.D. “Wasteland” Mowat grants, grants for students impacted by the Neill-Wycik fire, free menstrual products to Photo Advertising Manager be available in the Student Laila “Timezones Are Irrelevant” Amer Christopher “Giftcard Guru” Roberts Campus Centre and food Harry “All About Collages” Clarke boxes for students strugJes “Clown React” Mason Interns gling with food insecurity. Paige “Copy” McInally Every year, The Eye pubOnline Sara “Editing” Alves Fernandes lishes an editorial urging Tyler “Will Has Taken Everything From Me” Alexis “Queens <3” Gutfreund students to vote. And every Griffin year, people who don’t represent students get Kayla “4:34 a.m. EST Edits” Zhu Contributors elected due to low voter participation. Then Miranda “Say It With Your Chest” Black a new academic year comes along, with new Features Prapti “Scholar of Academics” Bamaniya RSU drama, and the cycle begins again. Dhriti “Special Issue Yoda” Gupta David “250 Front Correspondent” Cassels If you’ve been at Ryerson for some time, Michelle “The Pitch + The Photos” Takacs perhaps you’ve watched everything unfold Arts Samreen “Multi-Story-Tasker” Maqsood over the past years and found yourself thinkAbeer “Sicko Mode” Khan Stephanie “Theatre Stan” Davoli ing “someone should do something about Emma “Little Miss Sunshine ILY” Moore this.” If so, you have a few options here: Sports Julia “Caviar Connoisseur” Paolercio You could pin your hopes on student politi- Will “Most Valuable Melon Head” Baldwin Ameena “Cheese Board 2 Cheese String” Pathan cians, hoping they magically fix the RSU. Or you Sarah “Where’s Her Grammy” Tomlinson could blame the school for not cutting ties with Biz and Tech Jessica “Has A Crush On A Florist” Mazze the RSU, even though they tried to (and failed). Aaliyah “Globe Boss” Dasoo Thea “Squeaky Noises” Gribilas You could decide that the RSU doesn’t impact Nishat “Not Having Fun At Work” Chowdhury you, or neglect voting because you’re busy and Communities Mariam “Smiling With A Face Mask” Nouser then angrily complain after another RSU con- Kiernan “Wholesome Zoom Message” Green Jack “Sorry I Missed Like One Text David” Wise troversy. They have your money regardless. Olivia “The Scammys” Wiens Or, maybe, you can actually take back conFun and Satire Matt “Saskatchewan’s Finest” Johnson trol using your ballot, and take advantage of Rochelle “A Little Bit Alexis” Raveendran Daniel “Tolerates Adam And Alex” Centeno this opportunity to elect a students’ union that Dream “Probably At Work” Homer hears you and advocates on your behalf—one Media Tiya “You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Licked that you truly deserve. Parnika “:)” Raj A Pole” Gupta Now go out there and vote. Eli “(:” Savage Norah “Bug Lover” Kim
A high voter turnout legitimizes the student government
WHY SPORT MATTERS
Although far from perfect, sport has been a constant companion in my life Managing editor Will Baldwin talks about reconciling the beauty of loving sport with the reality of where it falls short When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on my own. With two older brothers who had long moved out by the time I started Grade 3, it was largely up to me to entertain myself. Luckily, after growing up following my brothers at their football, basketball and hockey games, as well as at my Dad’s high school games (he was an assistant principal), I already knew what I loved most. My imagination ran wild at those games or at home watching professional ones. From a young age, sports were my greatest passion. Thanks to them, I was never really alone. I would spend hours shooting pucks on the hockey net we had downstairs, playing basketball on our paved alley or even playing catch with a football by myself, imagining myself as one of my favourite Calgary Stampeders. Just a kid with a ball or puck, a stick or net, and endless hours of entertainment. I used to reenact the greatest moments in sports history or imagine my own. My career highlight was the 2026 ‘season’ in which I became the first athlete to win a Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, Grey Cup and the NBA Finals in the same season (obviously being named Most Valuable Player across all of them). It’s not a coincidence that at the start of Grade 2, I gave up cartoons for SportsCentre in the morning. By that point, my sports fixation needed constant stimulation. For those who didn’t grow up around sports, this might sound ridiculous. While many kids pass the
time playing with siblings or hanging out with friends, I was totally happy on my own. That’s one of the great things about sports: it has an exceptional capacity to fill a void in your life that you didn’t even know needed to be filled.
When sport culture falls short, it has major consequences To some, sport provides a community of friends and like-minded individuals with one passion in common. It allows them to escape into a world where, at least for a couple of hours, nothing matters but the game they’re playing or watching. Sport can also open a person up to a realm of new possibilities. From scholarships to universities, to professional opportunities, to the unification of millions for one big game, it has the ability to be so much more than just a boredombuster or casual hobby. Sport has a transcendent gift for touching the lives of each fan in a unique way. I think this widespread ability to impact people’s lives is why it’s so popular around the world. But as Uncle Ben says (SpiderMan was also critical in my upbringing), with great power comes great responsibility. When sport culture falls short, it has major consequences. Opportunities still vary drastically across genders, sexualities, races and
Managing Editor Will Baldwin
Editor-in-Chief Catherine Abes Special Advisors Libaan Osman Peter Ash Dhriti Gupta
Farhan Sami Charlize Alcaraz Aaliyah Dasoo
more, and that isn’t acceptable. For example, it took until 2019 for TSN and Sportsnet to offer a significant amount of Women’s National Basketball League games and neither showed any of the National Women’s Hockey League games in their bubble a couple of months ago. There are also significant issues with the hiring of marginalized folks to positions of power across the major sports world, very little Paralympic coverage outside of an Olympic year and wage inequalities in comparable positions like the US men’s and women’s soccer teams. So while sport can mean the world and more for some, it also mirrors society in many of the worst ways for others. Across the sports world, athletes and fans from marginalized communities are consistently left behind by exclusionary and antiquated cultures that need to change. All of these things are what this special issue attempts to encapsulate. In recognizing its widespread impact, this year’s sports issue celebrates sport for what it is while also asking it to do better in areas where it falls short. If our greatest athletes taught me anything, it’s that there’s always room for improvement. To really understand why sport matters, we need to talk about the deep psychological, social and personal impacts it can have on both ends of the spectrum, good and bad. Through all these years of loving sports, I’ve seen what’s possible when it’s at its best. Whether it be
Riley Fussell Marin Scotten Joseph Casciaro Adam Floujeh Donald Higney Justin Walters Alex Baumgartner Ben Okazawa Richard Coffey Thea Gribilas Gavin Axelrod Armen Zargarian Donald Higney Abeer Khan
PHOTO COURTESY SHEILA RANDLE
the walk-on who gets a scholarship, the athlete who came from nothing and fulfills a dream or the team like the Raptors in 2019 that brings a whole country together, it can truly change lives for the better.
Sport has an exceptional capacity to ﬁll a void in your life I want everyone to be able to find the beauty I see in sport and what makes it so special. Right now, we aren’t there yet. This edition is as much a celebration of a lifelong passion of mine as it is a call for that thing I care so much
Tyler Grifﬁn Kayla Zhu Rochelle Raveendran
Prapti Bamaniya Mariam Nouser Olivia Wiens Jennifer Nguyen Kiernan Green Alexandra Holyk Emma Moore
ILLUSTRATION: HEIDI LEE
about to improve. Not everyone gets the opportunity to fall in love with it the way I did and until that’s possible, I’ll always advocate for it to be better. While it’s been a long time since I hit the buzzer-beater to win the NBA Finals days after getting a shutout in game seven of the Stanley Cup final, in many ways, I’m still the same kid with a love of sport that’s never satisfied. To this day, when I’m by myself, I can still turn on the TV, watch a game and return to that place of imagination and wonder I was in all those years ago. I may currently live by myself in a studio apartment, in the middle of a lockdown, in a pandemic. But thanks to sports, I’m still not alone—and I know I never will be.
Jes Mason Harry Clarke Laila Amer Norah Kim Heidi Lee Sheila Randle
WHY SPORT MATTERS
The Jersey: Connecting pro athletes and fans Jerseys are more than a piece of apparel. They have meaning, emotional connections and act as badges of honour
ILLUSTRATION: LAILA AMER
By Adam Floujeh The new-age blue and white maple leaf with Auston Matthews’ number 34 on the back. The 1995 expansion Toronto Raptors’ purple threads, brought together with the iconic red raptor. The century-old Bleu Blanc et Rouge of the Montreal Canadiens. A symbol of fandom: the jersey. Whether it’s hockey, baseball, basketball or even golf, it’s not difficult to see the passion within Toronto’s sports fandoms. On the TTC, the GO Train or even during a stroll around the city, fans can be seen wearing the
names of their favourite players and former member of the Montreal teams on their backs. Canadiens training staff, said jerseys help form a bridge between the fans and the athletes they love. “The moment my “It’s the connection between the team wins, I wear that fans and the team,” he said. “That’s jersey like a medal” shown with the logo, but they often go a step further and form an attachFor many fans, these jerseys are ment to certain players. That’s the more than just an accessory; they name and number on the back.” represent an emotional connection, a Reroux spoke about the respect sense of loyalty to the franchise, a spe- fans have, not only for current playcial connection to their favourite play- ers but also for the greats of the past. er and a way to show their gratitude. “To this day, I still see the number Marty Reroux, a hockey memo- 4 for monsieur [Jean] Béliveau on rabilia collector from Montreal and Habs jerseys at games, the same with
Maurice Richard’s number 9, decades after their playing careers have ended and both have unfortunately passed away,” Reroux said. “It’s special and it speaks to the amount of passion and appreciation fans have.” Béliveau and Richard are known Habs legends, having scored 1,051 goals and 2,185 points between them. They played together from 1950 to 1960, winning six Stanley Cups during that time. For other fans, the jersey is less about the player and more about the team as a whole—many forego a number or name on the back. Ethan Mackay, a second-year computer science student and dedicated Toronto Raptors fan, said he owns six jerseys, none of which have a name on them. “The jersey is my bond with the team,” said Mackay. “I don’t need a number or name. It’s a pride thing for the team above everything else.’’ He added that forming attachments to individual players on the team isn’t important to him. “Guys will come and go from the organization, but the team...is always there for us.” While it’s typical to see an arena filled with fans rocking the home team’s threads at an actual game, jerseys have made their way into everyday fashion, allowing fans to make a statement.
“I think of it as bragging rights,” said Danika Rochi, a first-year psychology student and an avid Toronto Blue Jays fan. “The moment my team wins, I wear that jersey like a medal.”
“Having a special bond with a player is what being a fan is all about” “I can’t explain why, but you just get so invested into the team,” she continued. “When the Jays win, and it’s a little embarrassing when I say it out loud, but I feel proud of them and wearing my jersey is a way of showing that.” Rochi talked about falling for the players and the memory that made her a forever fan. “I don’t really get how some people don’t have ‘their guy,’ how they don’t have that one member of the team who means something to them. Everyone knows about the bat flip,” she said, referencing former Blue Jay José Bautista’s goahead home run during the Jays’ 2015 playoff run. “I still miss Bautista on the Jays, and that moment is why,” said Rochi. “Having a special bond with a player is what being a fan is all about.”
Turning a hobby into a career: Sport media members explain By Joseph Casciaro
she said. “But the fact that I’m here now and that door’s been opened, Many young kids dream of one it’s not only a privilege, but it’s one day winning a Stanley Cup, World of the best things that could have Series or other pro-sports titles. happened in the pandemic.” Unfortunately, these dreams only For Zainab, Dishes and Dimes come true for a select few. But for serves a greater purpose of creating those who love sports so much that space for other women that may be they look beyond athletics to get intimidated to get into the sports their foot in the door, success can field. She said this is the most mobe more attainable. tivating part of her job and she conNoor Zainab is the host of popular siders her platform a privilege. basketball podcast Dishes and Dimes. “Now that I have this platform and For her, the love of sport started at a I have been given a seat at the table, young age. I’m looking to see “Since I was that there are a born, like out “This has essentially lot of empty seats of the womb, gone from my hobby that could also be my parents put taken by womto my job” me in front of en,” said Zainab. the TV and my “I’m seeing womdad was a huge wrestling fan. So en really talk about what they know I always grew up in a competitive and they’re analyzing sports, and that sporty environment,” she said. has been so eye-opening and inviting Though sports was a key part of for people like me.” her upbringing, Zainab never conMichael Chandler, a senior news sidered working in sport media until editor at The Score, also grew up on she made some new friends through sports culture. He said it isn’t surprisTwitter earlier this year. ing that he went into sport media. “We just created a podcast out of “I grew up reading a lot of this Twitter platform. I didn’t real- baseball writing from the likes ize that this was something that I of Roger Angell while devouring wanted to do or I was even good at box scores in the newspaper preor I could even pursue in any way,” functional internet era, so perhaps
Nick Baldwin, Noor Zainab and Michael Chandler all work in the sport media industry. | ILLUSTRATION: HARRY CLARKE
the seed was planted long before I knew,” he said. Chandler said he follows sports for the personalities as much as anything else, in the hopes of uplifting individual athletes’ stories. He recently covered stories about COVID-19 concerns in the NBA and player’s feelings about being left off the all-star team. One of his latest pieces was about Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics and how he doesn’t feel like an all-star. “Over time, I’ve become more a fan of the individual athletes than the teams,” said Chandler. “I’m in-
terested in sharing tales of unique people with compelling stories, in particular athletes that break antiquated moulds used to define what an athlete should and should not be.” Nick Baldwin, a mixed martial arts (MMA) editor at The Score, is also taking a unique approach to sports media. He doesn’t describe himself as a traditional sports fan; rather, he fell in love with MMA a long time ago and has never let go. “Some sports fans watch everything and love it all, it consumes their whole life, I wouldn’t say that’s me,” said Baldwin, a third-
year Ryerson journalism student. “I fell in love with MMA and that’s kinda where it stops. I’m not a diehard sports fan, I just really love one sport.” Pursuing a specific sports beat has led to success for him and is something up-and-coming journalists can look to do as they begin their careers. “This has gone from essentially my hobby to my job. I still love what I do, I still love writing about MMA five days a week,” said Baldwin. “Just the fact that I love it, that’s motivation in itself.”
More than a game: Why we love
From fans to athletes to media members, a look at what makes us love sports
he crowd inside the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) roared as the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team took to the ice to open their season. Homecoming had been promoted as a marquee event and most of the plastic blue seats were filled with fans decked in the university’s blue and yellow colours. It was the first time that then-first-year creative industries student Maya AbouJalala had ever been to a hockey game. The glimmer of the freshly cleaned ice caught her eye, and as the lights in the arena faded to black, she felt a rush of nervous excitement building in her stomach.
Weeks earlier, Abou-Jalala had moved to Toronto from Doha, Qatar. The atmosphere inside the MAC, which she compared to a full-scale production, was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. Although she didn’t know the rules of the
game, being in the arena and wearing her yellow Ryerson Rams shirt made her feel like she belonged. Being a part of a community is one of her favourite things about sports, she says. “It was even more exciting that it was people from the university playing and it was like, ‘I’m on a team here.’” While this was her first hockey game, AbouJalala fell in love with sports at a young age. She often played spirited soccer matches against neighbouring children in the backyard of her housing compound back home. When she was older she got into playing netball, a sport similar to basketball but without the dribbling. Abou-Jalala had been to plenty of sporting events in Qatar, but she quickly discovered the culture around hockey in her new home was an entirely different beast. She’d never seen so many people come together for a nonchampionship game. The impact of being at the MAC that night is something she said she’ll cherish forever. It was an exciting moment for the 17-year-old, and it opened her eyes to how sport can unite people from all walks of life. “It’s just crazy how the sports culture here literally brings everyone together, from students to adults and even an entire country,” she said. For Abou-Jalala, going to her first hockey game helped her feel immersed in Canadian sports culture and connect with the university community. She recalled that when she moved to Canada, it was important to her to experience the culture, and this game was the perfect start. Many people who aren’t already fans or
words by gavin axelrod visuals by jes mason layout by dhriti gupta
athletes see sports solely as games with wins and losses, but to some Ryerson students, sports are so much more. According to a 2016 research paper on the role of personal, social and collective identity in team sports, people may join a sports team or fandom to feel a sense of inclusion and acceptance. Participating in sports also has the ability to bring meaning to people’s lives and increase their self-esteem, showing that sports are more than just the analytics, games and highlights. Sports are a place for self-expression— somewhere people can find a social and personal identity.
s p o r t s
or some, finding community comes in the world of traditional sports, but for others, it’s computers, controllers and consoles. New York’s iconic Arthur Ashe Stadium, a place where tennis legends like Serena Williams and Roger Federer usually take centre stage, hosted the 2019 Fortnite World Cup. That year, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf, better known as “Bugha” in gaming circles, made national headlines by winning the solo tournament and taking home a $3 million cash prize. According to the developer behind Fortnite, Epic Games, 19,000 fans turned out for the three-day tournament in New York City. In addition, viewership peaked at 2.3 million across platforms like YouTube and Twitch. “[People were saying,] ‘this kid won all this
money and all he did was play Fortnite? Oh my god, maybe we should be paying attention to this,’” said TSN Digital SportsCentre host and avid esports supporter Marissa Roberto. You don’t need to be able to lift weights, run fast or hit home runs to pick up a controller. Streaming platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitch make it as easy as the click of a button to go online and interact with thousands of like-minded fans for free. Through esports, those who grew up outside the realm of physical sports due to alienation or disinterest are still able to engage with all the traditional tenets of sports culture, including the community. Going to an esports event is much like going to watch your favourite sports team— right down to the part where you buy a stadium beverage and later ask yourself why you paid $10 for a Coke. It’s the familiar smells of hotdogs, popcorn and cotton candy too. Even though everything you’re watching is on a screen, there are duelling chants between fans and beach balls flying through the crowd. You might even strike up a conversation with the person next to you, not because you know them, but because you both love what you’re watching. Esports is bleeding into mainstream culture, with professional sports leagues starting to get involved. The NBA became the only one of the big four North American sports entities to create its own gaming offshoot in 2018, and 23 of 30 franchises are represented in its NBA 2K League. The Toronto Raptors
why we <3 sports have a team called Raptors Uprising Gaming. Despite the stereotypes about gamers—being basement dwellers or having neckbeards, or being lazy—the reality is there are millions of people who’d rather battle in Pokemon Stadium than get tackled on a football field. “I still want people to learn that esports is something valuable,” said Roberto. “If you follow any of these scenes on [social media,]—like Call of Duty, CS:GO, the Smash Bros. community—they’re all so unique and they offer something very special. You just have to take the time to get to know them.”
s a child, the basketball court with the lowered hoop in his friend’s driveway became a space of unlimited creativity for Cabbie Richards. Before Richards rose to Canadian sports television fame, best known for his time on SportsCentre and The Score, he was soaring through the air with his tongue out like Michael Jordan and dunking with his eyes covered like Dee Brown. Richards believes sports are tethered to a person’s identity and that some people’s livelihoods depend on the performance of their favourite teams. One example of identity within sports fandom is the Chicago Cubs, also known as the “loveable losers,” he said. In 2016, the Cubs won the World Series, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) championship, for the first time in 108 years. The team had come close to winning many times during their more-than-a-century long drought, but they could never quite get the job done. Finally, on Nov. 2, 2016, they defeated Cleveland in a marathon-like seventh game, which required an extra 10th inning and had a 17-minute rain delay. “Could you imagine that ‘Finally we won!’ The euphoria was probably amplified because the team was unsuccessful for so long,” said Richards. “The pride those fans felt because their team won, it’s ingrained in their DNA.” An estimated crowd of five million people turned out for the Cubs’ championship parade in Chicago days later. “Everybody wants to feel a part of something and there are literally millions of people who hold part of their identity in their favourite sports team,” said Richards. “That’s where they find community, that’s where they find value.” According to a 2016 study in the European Sport Management Quarterly on the role of rivalry in sport, being part of a fan group can help fulfill two basic needs: group belonging and distinctiveness from others. Since there are different sports teams to cheer on across a number of leagues, fans are able to fulfill both needs by joining contrasting fan groups. Finding an identity isn’t limited to sports fan communities though, it’s also found through being an athlete. Former Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) player Jessica Platt knows firsthand what it’s like to find yourself within sport, even if it didn’t previously make room for you. She became the first transgender professional women’s hockey player in North America after publicly coming out via Instagram in 2018. The 31-year-old never intended to come out publicly, but she soon realized her platform as a professional athlete could bring about needed social change. Being a role model is something she considers an honour. “I’m happy to be able to speak for people
who don’t have a voice or can’t speak up because of their circumstances,” said Platt. “I always want to make the future better for people who are going through similar experiences as me. I just want them to see that they can do it too.” Platt fell in love with hockey on the backyard rink in her hometown of Sarnia, Ont. She played until the end of high school, but during that time she began to feel differently than everybody else in the locker room and it became an unsafe space. She recalled how the only openly gay man at her high school was made fun of maliciously at hockey practices even though he wasn’t involved with any teams. At a time when most of her teammates were trying to find a way to extend their careers through junior or college hockey, she stepped away from the game. Her days of skating freely through the cool arena air might have ended, but stepping away from hockey is what helped Platt realize what she had to do to make herself happy. “Anyone seen as different was made fun of,” said Platt. Platt’s hiatus from the game lasted until 2016. She wanted to explore her options within women’s hockey first by joining a recreational league, then working her way up to apply for the CWHL draft. Platt was selected 61st overall by the Toronto Furies that year. Two years later, Platt found herself in the locker room before practice with a script in hand, ready to tell her teammates her truth. She’d already come out to the league and her coaches, but she worried telling her teammates would once again make her the outcast. Platt recalled how nervous she was as she read her script, stepping out of the locker room to let her teammates digest the information when she was done. Soon after, her teammates found her in the hall. “Alright, so you coming to practice?” one asked. Platt could finally silence the voice of doubt in her head that kept asking “what happens if someone finds out you’re transgender?”
“It was the hugest relief ever, I didn’t know how they were gonna react and to get the positive reaction, to know that nothing had changed, was everything I had wanted,” said Platt. “I felt super relieved and unburdened.” The CWHL shut down in 2019, but it hasn’t stopped Platt from continuing to fight for equity in hockey. She hopes to see a day where the sport can be truly for everyone, as it often claims to be. “There’s too much racist, homophobic, transphobic [and] just overall negative language in hockey, that needs an overhaul.” In order for athletes to really find themselves in sport, the right environment has to be cultivated by coaching staff and management. Sport Manitoba interim president and CEO Janet McMahon has been a prominent face in youth sport for decades. She’s coached players in basketball, soccer and volleyball from when they’re just learning how to play all the way
into their late teens. McMahon, a former basketball player at the collegiate level, is quick to dispute the notion that every athlete can become a good coach. She recalled how she didn’t really understand how even the smallest of word choices could affect an athlete until she became a parent. “I was never a ‘win at all cost’ coach. It’s way more important for kids to have a positive experience, to build confidence rather than becoming a phenomenal athlete winning every single game,” said McMahon. Part of McMahon’s role in her current position is to consider how to change the way sports are taught. Her tip for aspiring “bench bosses” is to think about something a coach of theirs did that they didn’t like and how they’d act to make sure the cycle doesn’t repeat itself. “We need to build a positive culture where we’re creating better people and not just winning medals,” said McMahon.
esearch shows that developing a strong athletic identity can be beneficial to one’s sense of self and translate into other aspects of an athlete’s life. A 2019 article for Frontiers in Sports and Living found scholarathletes dedication to their sport translated into achievement in academics and the workplace, stating “academics and athletics are complementary and mutually supportive endeavours.” “An Athlete diligently practices the skills needed to obtain the physical and mental ‘knowledge’ required to maximize performance in sport,” the study reads. “Much like the traits of a Scholar, the Athlete finds their identity in their daily routine, which includes multiple periods of time set aside to train, practice or compete in their chosen sport. Just as Scholars are careful in how they systematically approach a topic of study, so too does an Athlete carefully consider and study behavioural aspects, such as diet, nutrition, hydration, exercise and performance.” Further, a 2020 study from the Journal of Adolescent Health found that maintaining an athletic identity through the pandemic in spite of the cancellation of sports was beneficial to college athletes’ wellbeing. While interruptions in routine and major life changes, like COVID-19, can be threats to a person’s sense of identity, the studies’ findings aligned with “research demonstrating that maintaining positive social group memberships following major life events can buffer against declines in well-being,” the study reads. Social connectedness and social support from teammates were key factors in allowing athletes to maintain feelings of belonging and reaffirm their identification as athletes. According to the study, “student-athletes who felt more supported by their teammates during COVID-19 tended to experience identity gains, and in turn, tended to report greater psychological well-being as well as lower depressive symptoms.” For Ryerson Rams men’s basketball guard Tyler Sagl, dedicating himself to his athletic identity has given him the motivation to never stop improving. On the court, he can shoot the lights out in a gym and dazzle you with dribble moves, but off the court, he’s his own fiercest competition. “You’re never perfect, there’s always something to improve on,” said Sagl. “You have something to chase forever, in a sense.” The second-year guard has always consid-
7 ered himself to be a hard worker, but meeting NBA legend Scottie Pippen in 2018 injected him with a boost of motivation that’s fuelled him ever since.
At the time, Sagl played for a club team called UPlay Canada. They made the trip to sunny Los Angeles for a series of Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) games. The EYBL is made up of elite club teams across North America. The amount of future basketball stars on display makes college coaches and scouts salivate. During the trip, Sagl’s team faced the Oakland Soldiers, where Pippen watched his own son play from the sidelines. Sagl remembers the intensity of the game and how it was a dogfight right until the end when his team squeezed out a three-point victory. Pippen has seen thousands of basketball games in his lifetime, but on that day it was the young star from Burlington, Ont. who caught his attention. The basketball Hall of Famer approached a sweat-drenched Sagl after the game to offer him words of encouragement. “He came up to me and said that I have a lot of potential…it just gave me a lot of motivation to work even harder than I already was because of who he is,” said Sagl. The chase for perfection is a shared bond between Sagl and his close friend and Rams teammate Marcus Upshaw. Upshaw knows what it’s like not to be the first, second or even third option on a team. In fact, growing up he was often the last guy to come off the bench. It can be hard to get minutes on the court when you’re a late bloomer playing on a team with 2018 thirdoverall NBA Draft pick RJ Barrett. Coming out of high school, Upshaw only had two scholarship offers, but three years later, he finds himself playing for the Rams, one of the best programs in the country. It’d be easy to get comfortable in his current position, but like Sagl, he knows the chase never ends. For both players, sports gave them an avenue for personal growth and development. Finding themselves on the court remains the motivation to keep growing off it. “It’s an imperfect game that people try to make perfect…you’re never really at a standstill in basketball,” said Upshaw.
or some, sports are part of their personal identity. They can be a place of belonging, or a platform to take a stand. People can find themselves within their teams, within their athletic journey or even in the community of fans. The highs of sport pull us together and its lows pull us apart, but when the whistle blows and the buzzer sounds, it will always keep people coming back for more. That’s why we love sports.
WHY SPORT MATTERS graphic communications management student and member of the Ryerson women’s volleyball team, has always struggled with her body image—a feeling she says that other women also know too well.
“I’m going to give you no choice but to let me be here because I’m that good”
ILLUSTRATION: JES MASON
Paving their own way: Women in sport are
n the sweltering heat of the Montreal summer, Casey Dobson was standing in the endzone of the football field at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium. As it approached halftime, the Montreal Alouettes were losing to their division rivals, the Hamilton TigerCats, during a Canadian Football League (CFL) game. It was the summer of 2019 and Dobson was an intern for the Alouettes as a press box runner. This job was Dobson’s dream; a chance for her to finally work in an industry she had long felt passionate about: football. Her job consisted of keeping the press box in perfect condition by making sure it was clean and well-stocked. Dobson also ran around interacting with broadcasters and updating them with the latest stats as the game progressed. As part of her job, Dobson was standing on the sidelines waiting to escort the game’s halftime performer to his different interviews and keep him on schedule. Wearing her Alouettes polo shirt and employee lanyard around her neck, she was standing alongside a female CFL broadcaster when a short, beer-bellied man stopped in his tracks in front of them. He proceeded to shoot them both a judgemental look, his narrow gaze raking their bodies up and down. “You’re not cheerleaders?” he asked while waving his arms in a mocking manner. The woman next to Dobson pulled out her TSN-branded microphone and said “No.” The man proceeded to check them out once again and walked away, but not before saying, “Well, you should be.”
Words by Abeer Khan and Donald Higney Stigma and long-standing biases often keep women from being taken as seriously as their male counterparts in sports. There’s a perception that their place in sports is isolated to only cheering on men from the sidelines with their pompoms and that they have no knowledge of sports beyond that. This stems from the lack of representation for women in the field of play and in sports media. However, that hasn’t stopped women like Dobson from working to pave their own way in the industry. Dobson’s commitment to sports media has been unwavering. She’s currently a first-year sport media student studying to pursue her dream fulltime, but that incident has stuck with her throughout her life. “In that moment, I realized that I was voluntarily entering a space where people only perceive women as cheerleaders.”
omen make up 50 per cent of the population and they’re still absent in sports media workplaces,” says Laurel Walzak, an associate professor at the RTA School of Media and the director of the Global Experiential Sport (GXS) Lab at Ryerson University. Walzak notes that while this culture is changing and inclusion is on the rise, there’s still work to be done. In a male-dominated workplace, some women may still feel as if they aren’t being championed internally or given opportunities, which can hin-
der their retention in these fields or their ability to move up the ranks. According to the 2011 International Sports Press Survey, which looked at 80 newspapers across 22 countries, only eight per cent of sports articles were written by female journalists. Eight years later, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found in their own study that there’s still a noticeable gap in achieving gender equality in sports media. “The number of women who enter into sports journalism is still relatively low, and this particular area of reporting remains a predominantly male-dominated specialty in countries all over the world,” the study says. Female athletes also experience heightened levels of mistreatment and entrenched disadvantage in sports in comparison to men, says Alison Doherty, a professor of sport management at Western University. She says that one of the biggest problems that still persists in sport is the distinct differentiation between sports based on gender. “There’s men’s sport, and there’s women’s sport,” says Doherty. But whether it’s men’s or women’s sports, parasports or children’s sports, they should all be valued and respected equally, she adds. UNESCO has also found that women make up 40 per cent of athletes in professional sports, but only receive four per cent of coverage by sport media outlets around the world. Shireen Ahmed, a freelance sports journalist and podcaster, says that in sport media people have been made to feel like they have to share
crumbs in a competitive industry; especially marginalized folks. But in reality, there’s more than enough space for everyone to thrive. “The biggest disservice is making us think that there’s not room for us. That’s the biggest travesty,” she says.
“Society is changing and sport media has to as well” Whether a woman is covering a sport or playing the game, gender inequality is evident at all levels of the industry. Without gender representation, women feel like they don’t belong in sports as the industry isn’t built for them, and continues to grow without them in mind. Without equal representation, sports will continue to be a maledominated industry that women will have to fight tooth and nail to be a part of. So, these Ryerson women took matters into their own hands.
n the eighth grade, Jyoti Ruparell was changing in the locker room in her first year of club volleyball when she realized how aware she had become about the way she looked. At 13 years old, insecurity began to make its way into the back of her mind as she compared herself to her other teammates. Ruparell, now a second-year
“I think every woman, whether you’re in sport or not, can relate to having these insecurities about your body and your body image,” says Ruparell. She says there is constant pressure for women to look a certain way, which is amplified by social media trends and societal expectations. Doherty says women may experience heightened vulnerability and insecurity based on the clothing and uniforms they’re expected to wear. Women’s volleyball uniforms typically consist of spandex shorts and a jersey top that almost feels like a second skin. Ruparell says that she has to unconsciously adjust her uniform during her games. It’s only after, when she studies film replays, that she notices how many times she tugs at her outfit. “All I want to do is just play volleyball...just have a good time with my team and win and be competitive [and] be in that very high-intensity environment,” she says. “But in the back of my mind, I would always be thinking, ‘Oh, like, do I have to adjust my shorts, I have to adjust my jersey.’” According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Eating Disorders on body image among Italian university students, most women perceive themselves to be slightly overweight and wish to be thinner. “Body self-esteem is strongly related to overall self-esteem, which is not surprising because the media in Western societies presents images of the ideal body,” the study explains. It “wields pressure for women to have a very thin body and men to have a big and muscular body.” Ruparell describes herself as not fitting the norms of a stereotypical volleyball player to those that watch her play. Standing at five foot six inches with a broader frame, she isn’t as tall as people expect a volleyball player to be. Although she’s now content with her appearance, this hasn’t stopped occasional snide remarks coming off the lips of teammates and coaches in the past. She was always confused when former coaches would question her height and ask her if she had lost weight. “Why do I have to look a certain way to play a sport that I love?” she asks. A 2011 study published in the Sports Journal found that 24.2 per cent of Division I female athletes and 30.7 per cent of Division II female athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) were either very or mostly dissatisfied with their overall appearance.
WHY SPORT MATTERS The study says that while female athletes encounter the same societal expectations of body image, the pressure is amplified by sports. It also adds that coaches, sponsors and families all play a role in influencing an athlete’s weight and shape. Ruparell says that women in sports shouldn’t have to feel insecure about their bodies and instead, people should pay attention to the sport itself. “When you are a woman, everyone likes to drag everything in and they talk about everything else but the sport itself. It’s just really frustrating.” Doherty says that when it comes to body image, a woman’s athleticism can call into question traditional ideas of femininity. There was a point in history when women had to be the essence of femininity, but sports flips that notion on its head, and she says this is a barrier to break down. Female athletes are powerful, strong and energetic. But as their athleticism is on full display, their femininity is called into question, she says. “We are tough, we’re competitive, we’re fierce, or muscular, or powerful, we’re strong. But we’re still feminine,” she says.
hen she started playing club, Ruparell began to realize that very few other girls at competitions looked like her. To Ruparell, a stereotypical volleyball player is someone who is tall, lean and white—all characteristics she didn’t possess. As a South Asian woman playing volleyball, she felt othered. While she didn’t experience overt racism due to the colour of her skin, she felt the weight of the cultural differences between her and her teammates. Ruparell had distinct priorities—school first, then volleyball. While the rest of her teammates were fixated on playing volleyball at high levels, school was always Ruparell’s top priority. In South Asian households, getting an education and giving back to your community is important, says Ruparell. “The values and beliefs that we hold in our culture are different. The way that we go about doing things is different and I don’t think a lot of people [in sport] understand that.” Ruparell says that South Asian women playing sports is rare enough as is and it’s even more unlikely for them to play sports at such a high level. “The lack of representation growing up made me feel like an outsider.” According to the NCAA Race and Gender Demographics Database, in the 2018-19 academic year, 44 per cent of varsity athletes were female. Of that number, only 11 per cent of athletes were Black, and no single statistic could be found about the number of Asian athletes because the NCAA combines them with Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in their race and ethnicity totals. According to a 2017 report on
sports psychology, systemic discrimination has negative impacts on mental health and those climates directly impact athletes who represent two or more different oppressed or underrepresented intersections, such as race, ethnicity or gender identity. Environments within sports need to be intentionally created with the purpose of inclusion, the report concluded. Ahmed says that women weren’t always seen in sports and there is still a lack of representation, which matters. “There’s just something so viscerally important about seeing your own possibility manifest somewhere.” “When young girls, particularly racialized girls... Black, Indigenous, young girls of colour, see themselves in positions of sports, it makes all the difference in the world.” Ruparell says she hopes to see more people of colour playing sports and especially playing volleyball. “When you see people doing big things and being successful and those people look like you, you have a little more belief in yourself that you can achieve the same things.”
rowing up, everything Dobson did was in pursuit of her childhood dream: to follow in her parents’ footsteps and work in a restaurant. Her first two jobs were in kitchens when she was 16 and she even appeared on Chopped Canada Teen, a televised cooking competition. Although Dobson was set on her dream, her parents on the other hand wanted her to explore other career options because they knew the pitfalls of the industry all too well; working in the restaurant industry means long hours at night and missing family time. “I think both my parents were very surprised that I could ever want that kind of life,” says Dobson.
“Why do I have to look a certain way to play a sport I love?” Alongside this childhood dream, Dobson also had a steadfast passion for sports. This became clear one night while watching the Montreal Canadiens play the Boston Bruins in overtime in her basement. When the camera panned over to a closeup of Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, Dobson instinctively said his name like an announcer, voice bellowing with authority through the room, which caught her dad by surprise. He questioned why she wanted to follow in his footsteps when she had a clear passion and talent for sports. “That was always something I was good at,” says Dobson. “I could name players and new stats off the top of my head.” After that conversation, she realized that her passion truly did
lie in sports. As one of the few women in her classroom, Dobson understands that the industry wasn’t built for her. “Being a woman in sports media is having to accept the fact that being good enough isn’t enough,” she says. “I know for a fact that I can walk into a room, I can be the most qualified person in the room, and I still won’t get the job.” Ahmed, who is currently getting her master’s in media production from Ryerson, says that the way classrooms and academia are structured also matters when it comes to representation in sports media. “If 80 per cent of your class is white young guys, who’s going to grow up to be people in the media in those jobs?” she says. “It’s going to be the same thing over again. Society is changing and sports media has to also.” She adds that sports media is not what it was 10, five or even just three years ago. “It’s shifting,” she says. Ahmed, who hosts Burn It All Down, a feminist sports podcast, alongside four other women, says that when they started the show four years ago, they created space for themselves for something they loved and were passionate about. The podcast has grown with over one million downloads on streaming platforms and over nine thousand followers on Twitter. “Because we’re not getting opportunities in the mainstream…we created our own thing. I think this is beautiful. And it’s powerful. And it’s where the media is shifting; it’s where journalism is going,” she says. “Women don’t have to wait. They’re being industrious. They’re being creative. They’re being intelligent. They’re looking at what is out there, what the needs are and they’re meeting those needs.” Dobson understands that the inclusion of women in sports still has a long way to go, but that won’t stop her from trailblazing forward. “I don’t think there’s ever been something where I’ve genuinely considered like, maybe I don’t want to do this,” she says. “I think once I committed to this career path, I’ve never really looked back.” With a dedicated motivation to continue to prove herself alongside other women in sports media, Dobson started Unbenched Sports in August 2020. What was once a personal website for herself has now expanded into a sports media outlet, where fellow female sport media students can share their work. “[Unbenched] is showing people that we’re going to make our own chances. We can do this just as well, if not better than the guys that are doing the same thing.” Even though women have trouble breaking into the sports industry and their enthusiasm is seldom reciprocated, that hasn’t stopped Dobson. “For me, it’s motivation, it’s ‘I’m here to prove that you might not want me here but I’m going to give you no choice but to let me be here because I’m that good.’”
Marin Scotten says the As a member of the women’s bas- changes come new interests and a ketball team at Ryerson, I’ll never shift in perspective. By my second forget seeing our three seniors, year, my love for the game had Bronwyn Williams, Emma Fra- changed; basketball was no longer ser and Hayley Robertson walking the main priority in my life, nor into a fully-decorated team room was it the driving force behind my last year, almost all of us with tears goals for the future. I was experiin our eyes while the song “Closing encing some mental health issues Time” by Semisonic played in the at the time, impacting my perbackground. Blue and gold balloons spective on the sport. littered the floor, each of the seniors’ This shift in values was diflockers decorated with streamers. A ficult for me to come to terms poster-sized collage of pictures from with. Something that was such their four years at Ryerson was a big part of my pre-university hung up below. identity was no longer super imWhen the seniors finally entered portant to me. That being said, the team room after hours of us pre- one thing that never wavered paring and decorating, the feeling was my love for the people that was bittersweet. They opened their basketball brought into my life. gifts and we all hugged but there To this day, I have met many of was an underlying tone of sadness, the most important people in my knowing we only had a couple of life through Ryerson athletics. weeks left with these girls as a part Ryerson only has eight varsity of our team. Having played with teams, so it’s a tight-knit commuthem for the last three years, we nity. Pretty much all of my best had all become so close–it wouldn’t friends are either my teammates be the same without or play on anoththem. Nonetheless, er varsity team. we started getting When my love “It isn’t the ready for our last for the game bewins and losses gan to falter, it home game of the season. was the people I remember This is one of here who got me most; it’s the many special mothrough. The ments I remem- time spent with friendships and ber off the court. connections I had my friends in Although I came built with my between” to Ryerson for its teammates and athletics program, other athletes ran it’s these kinds of so much deeper memories that I’ll cherish most than just our time spent in the gym. when I look back at my time here. Looking back at my time at RyWhile choosing which uni- erson, it isn’t the wins and losses versity I would go to at age 17, I remember most; it’s the time I ultimately landed on Ryerson spent with my friends in between. solely for the quality of the basThe endless laughs and late ketball program. At the time, nights with my roommates, who basketball was one of the most are also my teammates, hangimportant things in my life and ing out in the Mattamy Athletic I was determined to be the best I Centre for hours before practice, could be. As Ryerson was located trying to get homework done but in Toronto, arguably the epi- really just chatting with friends, centre of Canadian basketball, I going to a trampoline park on the thought it would offer the most morning of a game and rushing opportunity for growth in the home after it’s done to get ready sport. I also loved the coaching for a night out with other teams; staff and facilities, and the wom- these are the memories that stick en’s basketball team had become out to me when I think of my one of the top teams in the coun- athletic career at Ryerson. These try in recent years. are the moments I miss most as However, what I didn’t real- we’re all stuck in lockdown. ize at such a young age was that I came to Ryerson because I throughout my time at university, wanted to accomplish my basketmy love for basketball would wa- ball goals but I gained so much ver. I assumed basketball would more than points and awards always give me the same sense of could have given me. I gained accomplishment, fulfillment and four years of memories and some joy it had given me throughout of the best friends I’ll ever have. most of my life. I’m so grateful for the people As most university students I’ve met through Ryerson athletknow, you change a lot in your four ics and I know they’ll be a part of years of undergrad and with those my life long after basketball isn’t.
WHY SPORT MATTERS
Support, Stability, Soccer: How one student’s love of the game sustains his mental health Pandemic or not, physical activity is essential to students’ mental wellbeing, Thea Gribilas reports we need to make sure that people feel that they have a trusted and safe place to land with us.”
CONTENT WARNING: This article contains discussions of depression.
rowing up, Linus Roberts* remembers watching his family friends play in soccer leagues. Unable to afford organized leagues, he played in the street with his neighbours and friends, wherever and whenever he could. When Roberts got to middle school, he was finally able to play soccer whenever he wanted in the large field behind his school. During these years his love for soccer grew stronger. The transition to high school was tough for Roberts. In Grade 9 he struggled academically and found that it was challenging to keep up with his workload. Having always ILLUSTRATION: CATHERINE ABES thrived in school, this was something he had never experienced before. But when Roberts joined the cial interaction, something enschool soccer team, his days began to tirely out of character for him. have structure and consistency again. Roberts also had no interest in any “Moving the ball around at practice form of athletic activity—even just was one thing I always looked for- the idea of it exhausted him. ward to and got “I noticed that me through every when I was at “In university, it was my most stable day,” he said. His grades be- all just academics all states, I was dogan to improve ing a lot of things the time and that’s and he was able at once,” he said. where it all started to maintain a 90 “In high school, to decline” per cent average playing soccer for the remainand getting good der of high school. He didn’t worry grades was enough for me to just be much about the outcome of exams, in a normal operating place. Then confident in his abilities. in university, it was all just academThe activities that he participat- ics all the time and that’s where it ed in disciplined him. Knowing he all started to decline.” had a set time to complete each task forced him to maintain a routine. “I would have soccer right after school until 6 p.m., then I would come home and then six to nine I would know it was time to do homework.” However, Roberts hit another atherine Sabiston is the road bump when he started his director of the Mental first year in Ryerson’s computer Health & Physical Activity engineering program in 2016. He Research Centre, the Canada Refound himself caring more about his search Chair in physical activity marks, losing confidence in his abil- and mental health and a professor ities and finding less and less time of exercise and exercise psychology for the sports he grew to love and at the University of Toronto. had provided him with a routine. She identifies the simple symp“[In high school] I wouldn’t care toms of depression as a lack of about the outcome of exams; the motivation, apathy, low mood and emphasis was on the effort not the a lack of desire to engage in activioutcome,” he said. “Since university, ties—which she says is a traditional it has been a lot more about the out- barrier to being physically active. come and that’s stressful.” Dedicating yourself to exercise is Following this shift in mind- never easy, but a study by the Lanset, Roberts began experiencing cet Psychiatry Journal from 2018 depressive episodes. He found found that “individuals who exerhimself not having time for the cised had 43.2 per cent fewer days things he used to enjoy and even of poor mental health in the past losing interest in them entirely. month than individuals who did He couldn’t eat or sleep and found not exercise.” himself apathetic towards any soAccording to Sabiston, post-
“The schedule of school and life... When you’re on the ﬁeld all those things go away”
secondary students are especially being at Ryerson (RU Rec), says at risk, often because they feel they he finds that students get into the don’t have the time to exercise or mindset of “study, study, study.” that their time could be better However, he notes that when you spent elsewhere, typically studying exercise “you think more clearly, or working. more creatively” and that exercise However, Sabiston suggested may actually be additive to the that engaging in physical activity work that is being completed. would actually improve the outIn a non-pandemic year, RU come of the work that students are Rec offers competitive and social prioritizing over exercise. leagues for students where there She added that although there are no coaches or team tryouts are benefits to exercising in a group along with group fitness and insetting, exercising alone could also structional programs. give you a sense of belonging as if Pettit said the clubs have seen you’re part of a social movement strong student participation. But during pandemic restrictions. he knows that for some people, But Sabiston says we need to sport and physical activity has actubegin to redefine physical activ- ally excluded them in the past. He ity to make it more accessible and says to counter these experiences, doable for everyone, regardless of RU Rec looks to help “build back their situation. bridges with people so that they “Physical activity doesn’t need can have that healthy connection to to be defined as running, biking, their bodies and to their commuswimming or weights,” says Sabi- nity through physical activity.” son. “There’s so many ways we can A 2011 study by Egale Canada build muscle and engage in move- Human Rights Trust found that ment and get our heart rates up in 48.8 per cent of LGBTQ+ and 30.1 the comfort of our home.” per cent of non-LGBTQ+ high She suggests walking outside school students identified gymnasior getting a peum change rooms dometer to track “Once [physical as being unsafe. your movement These were the activity’s] rede- highest reported around your house. Opting for fined, the benefits feelings of unthe stairs when safety in all areas certainly outpossible, trying a of the schools that weigh any costs” were surveyed. virtual workout class and starting Pettit says that the day with stretches are also ac- these feelings of unsafety are likely cessible ways to stay active. carried over into post-secondary “We have to be able to redefine and dissuade students from particiwhat physical activity is in order to pating in activities. see the benefits, but once that’s re“We need to be cognisant of how defined, the benefits certainly out- sport has differently impacted and weigh any costs.” welcomed people across their lives Andrew Pettit, the director of up to the day they come to Ryerson recreation, equity and active well- for the first time,” said Pettit. “And
“We have an opportunity at Ryerson to really capture the attention of young people or people of any age who haven’t had a positive experience to say: ‘Wait, this isn’t gym class,’” he said. RU Rec also offers Zoom group fitness classes with a live instructor. They plan on continuing these online activities even once school reopens. Pettit says that this decision is so that “we are ready to meet students where they’re at.” As well, they recently developed Movement Breaks, which gives Ryerson students access to activities of three different lengths—up to three minutes, up to six minutes and over six minutes. Pettit says that integrating these quick activities into a daily routine, even during a quick Zoom class break, would relax students’ minds, even just a little bit.
t one of his lowest points ever, sometime last year during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roberts couldn’t get soccer off his mind no matter how hard he tried. He ultimately gave in to the longing, grabbed his old soccer shoes and a ball and went to an empty field near his house. For a time the only thing that mattered to Roberts was him and the net. And he played. This was the first time in as long as Roberts could remember that he felt OK. He wasn’t stressed about school, he wasn’t concerned about life, he could breathe again. To Roberts, there’s no need to think while on the field, and that’s what he loves about it. “It’s like a sort of freedom,” he said. “The rigidity and the schedule of school and life…When you’re on the field all those things go away.” *Name has been changed to protect sources’ privacy
WHY SPORT MATTERS
How sports help new Canadians feel at home Sports are a universal language that can bring together people from all walks of life
ILLUSTRATION: HEIDI LEE
By Ben Okazawa The first day of high school is a stressful time for any kid. They’re not only in a new place and surrounded by unfamiliar faces, but they’re also taking that next step to adulthood, a prospect that’s just as terrifying as it is exciting. In 2014, Zhi Feng Wang was not only new to Oakville Trafalgar High School but also relatively new to Canada. Wang, who goes by Tony in Canada, had moved here from Wuxi, China with his family just a year prior. Understandably nervous at his new school, he sat alone at first, but when a boy approached him to compliment his LeBron 15 sneakers, some of that anxiety faded away. The boy settled into the seat beside him, and the conversation soon switched from his shoes to clothing, hobbies, TV and other sports. The two are still friends today, with Wang citing basketball as a gateway into their friendship.
“When you’re trying to make friends with someone, you need similar hobbies,” said Wang, now a second-year sport media student. “That’s how basketball helped me…it’s how I got my first friend [in high school].” For many new Canadians, sports can act as a bridge; an instant connection to an unfamiliar community. The accessibility and simplicity of sports make it easy to connect over and bring people together.
“You’ll make friends with the kids on your block...just through playing sports” According to Ryerson contract lecturer Stephen Sheps, who teaches Sociology of Sports, sport is a “universal language” that can transcend barriers of age, language, colour or religion. He says that while barriers of access and inclusion do exist within sports, they still have the
potential to be a powerful tool for unity and community building. “If you’re a kid, you’ll make friends with the kids on your block…just through playing sports,” said Sheps. “If you’re an adult and you’re trying to integrate into a new workplace… especially if you feel marginalized by virtue of being new or having a language barrier, sport can be an easy way in.” A study published by the Journal of Leisure Research that interviewed 30 first-generation American immigrants found that sports and other forms of exercise allowed them to connect with their new communities. Sports “helped them establish friendships with mainstream Americans, maintain business-related contacts and solidify their position within the local community,” the study reads. Jean-Paul Rocke’s relationship with sports is different from the simple fun of street hockey or water cooler conversations that many Canadians grew up with. The fourth-
year engineering student played cricket competitively for years in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago before coming to Ryerson. He had only been to Canada once to visit campuses before moving to Toronto. It was a tough transition being so far from home and the stark contrast from Caribbean weather didn’t help. “That first winter really opened my eyes…it was a tough one to get accustomed to,” Rocke recalled. Rocke eventually established a home with Ryerson’s cricket team. He found it easy to build relationships on the team in part due to the shared experiences he had with other international students on the team, particularly Richard Perkins and Zachary Nowell, who both grew up in Barbados, an island that neighbours Trinidad and Tobago. Rocke said it also helped that half of the 18-man cricket squad in 2019 studied engineering. That made it only natural for the sense of community that the team found on the field to continue in the classroom. “Engineering is not that easy,” he chuckled. “Every time [the cricket team] would go on tour, we all used to help each other out. That’s when I actually came to appreciate the Ryerson culture.” The Institute for Canadian Citizenship explored the effect of sports on immigrant integration when they surveyed more than 3,000 new Canadians for a 2014 study. 53 per cent of respondents said integrating into Canadian society was an important part of why they chose to participate in sports. 69 per cent mentioned that sports helped them learn about Canadian culture during their first three years in the country, either through their own participa-
tion or their children’s. Sport has provided opportunities for many new Canadians to feel at home. Although it’s not a perfect system, given the cost and other accessibility barriers that can bar immigrants from participating in organized sports, they have made a difference in many lives.
“When you’re trying to make friends with someone, you need similar hobbies” Minutes after telling me the story about his first day of high school, Wang, who travelled back to China in January to visit his family, stands up in his Wuxi home and momentarily leaves the frame of our Zoom meeting. He returns seconds later holding his NBA magazine collection and sits, flipping through cover after cover. Through the screen, I see LeBron James in his old Miami Heat uniform, Kevin Durant from his Oklahoma City days and even Dwyane Wade makes an appearance. The list and conversation goes on. Wang and I differ in opinion on the classic basketball argument— LeBron versus Michael Jordan. I shouldn’t be too surprised, as the two of us grew up with entirely different sports experiences thanks to the time difference (NBA games aired during school hours in China) than by cultural barriers. Wang had to catch highlights and read magazines to consume NBA content while I watched the games in real time. Despite our differences, as we sat there on our Zoom call thousands of kilometres apart, I realized once again how easy it is for two people to connect, thanks to sports.
So, you’ve decided to become a sports fan... Your guide to understanding sports culture, from picking a team to chirping to loyalty
By Justin Walters So, you’ve decided to become a sports fan—congratulations! There’s a ton to look forward to in the exciting and diverse world of sports. How about we go over some of the basics of what you should expect in this new adventure. First off, it’s essential to pick the right sport and team that you’ll be cheering for. Sure, you can follow more than one sport and one team, but let’s just start with one for a new fan such as yourself. Maybe you align yourself with a team that a family member or friend cheers for in the hopes of joining the fun, or perhaps it’s as straightforward
as choosing the team with the most appealing logo and jersey. It doesn’t really matter, but make sure you’re certain, because this is a big decision. Once you have your team, whichever one you chose, try and stick with it. Loyalty is a massive part of sports. You shouldn’t jump ship because your team doesn’t win a championship; losing together, being disappointed but keeping the faith, is all part of the experience. Trust me, I’m a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Do you think the past 15 years have been easy on me? Not a chance. Regardless, I’ve never jumped ship, which will make it so much better when they finally win a championship (someday).
Now that you’re committed to your team of choice, it’s time to get to know your new ‘family.’ I don’t mean this literally: your family is fellow fans of that team. You don’t know them and you’ll likely never meet all of them, but they’re along for this journey with you. Look at the replies to your team’s tweets, most of them are fellow passionate fans. An important rule of thumb is that family sticks up for each other, which leads us into the next lesson: chirping. A tradition as old as sports themselves, fans love to take jabs at other fans’ favourite teams and players. Poking fun at your rivals when your team beats them is both expected and encouraged when done respectfully.
The key is to remember that it’s all in good fun. Don’t take chirps too personally. If someone says a joke about your favourite team, laugh it off and try to think of a witty comeback. Eventually, this will become second nature to you, and it’ll feel normal to engage in friendly chirps (as a Leafs fan, I’ve heard jokes about them not winning a Stanley Cup since 1967 probably about 1,967 times). The last thing you should know— and this one might be the best part of the experience—is that the stronger your bond with your team becomes, the more they will be integrated into your life. If they make a big trade, you’ll find yourself refreshing Twitter ev-
ery 10 seconds to read an analysis about the transaction. When a big game day rolls around, you’ll wake up and be both excited and nervous for the game all day long. When your team wins, your whole mood will improve; if they lose, likely the opposite. Their highs are your highs, and their lows are your lows. The emotional attachment is inevitable and all part of the experience. Now you’re ready to begin your journey as a sports fan. This is just the start, and you’ll quickly learn all the ins-and-outs of what you’ve signed up for as you go along. Good luck to you and your team, and I hope they find success...unless it’s against the Leafs.
WHY SPORT MATTERS
For the last year I’ve been dreaming of the day I can get back to enjoying what I love most: Sports 4. Game nights Watching the Super Bowl with just my parents was an odd experience—still very fun, but definitely not comparable to what it was like before the pandemic with friends. Once we can get back together in groups, it doesn’t matter what the sport is, I’ll be buying all the snacks and will be putting on a big game night with the homies. I miss the banter, picking teams, inventing drinking games and cheering against your friends, lording over them if your team wins or pretending you never cared when your team loses. Regardless of the outcome, having friends around for the big games is an unparalleled feeling.
By Riley Fussell A year ago, Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert touched every journalists’ microphone during a media availability and subsequently contracted COVID-19 later that same week. Soon after, the sports world shut down and ruined what was going to be a great year for sports—on an international scale as well as right at Ryerson. It’s been over one year without intramurals, dedicated gym time and weekends at the Mattamy Athletic Centre watching the Rams. Here’s a list of things that I will be doing when things get back to normal post-pandemic. 1. Compete with my friends By far the best part of sports is friendships you make. So many of my close friends became like family to me through sports. Pre-pandemic, when I would come back to my hometown from university, my high school friends and I would always get together for friendly games of all kinds including basketball, soccer and volleyball. You name it and we’ve probably done it. Once it’s permitted, you better believe I’ll be out playing with my friends immediately.
ILLUSTRATION: LAILA AMER
Canadian stadiums, I will be among the first to go to a live sporting event. Some of my best memories from living in Toronto have been watching live games; whether it be the Toronto Raptors or even the Canadian men’s soccer national team. They became something I would look forward to once or 2. See a game in person twice every semester and without When fans are allowed back in them, it feels like the semesters
have been dragging on. The atmosphere, the singing, the cheering, the chanting and even the occasional booing at the referees always makes for an unforgettable experience; something I truly miss.
that helps my overall wellness is going for a workout at the gym. Without it, I find myself being less productive, less confident and far less energetic. An hour or two at a gym, lifting weights with music in my ears, by myself yet simultane3. Hit the gym ously surrounded by other people As a student, it’s difficult to take with similar mindsets, is somecare of your health sometimes, be thing I often self-prescribe to cure it physical or mental. One thing the mid-semester blues.
5. Intramurals Intramurals were one of the best ways for me to meet people on campus and feel comfortable in a big city after moving across the country from a small town. Playing basketball or futsal in the gym was where I felt the most comfortable and safe. It was something to look forward to every week and the connections that you can make through intramurals are something that makes your university experience so much better. As soon as intramurals are available, I’ll be signing up for as many as I can!
From Queen to Drake, update your game day playlist with songs you’ll recognize from the court or in the arena, including suggestions from Jaden “DJ For The People” Burton By Justin Walters Looking to up your sports soundtrack game? We’ve got you covered. Check out our playlist for some must-add songs to your game day soundtracks, and keep reading to see why they’re perfect for sports. “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project Have you watched The Last Dance on Netflix? If you have, this song needs no introduction; it’s the classic Chicago Bulls introduction song at their home games. The song has now earned the reputation of being one of the best openings for sporting events. Hearing your name called out as part of the starting lineup while this song is on would send chills down your back. “Levels” by Avicii An absolute masterpiece by the late and great Avicii, “Levels” is a great song to play during warmups. Everyone in the sports world knows how to bop their head to the beat of this iconic EDM song. “Twilight Zone” by 2 Unlimited This might not be the song you’re thinking of; that “Twilight Zone” is by Golden Earring,
a classic rock song from the early ‘80s. This song, by 2 Unlimited, just screams ‘90s sports. The lyrics aren’t what make this song, but rather the ‘90s electronic beat that really gives it that energetic feel. Search up the song, and you’ll recognize it from countless sports highlight packs and promo videos.
should be fun and that no matter what team you cheer for, sport unites us all.
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem You don’t have to like rap music to like this song. The opening verse might be one of the most often sung verses in all of rap music. If you need your team to get hyped and come “Turbulence” by Steve Aoki and together in unity at halftime or in an Laidback Luke (feat. Lil Jon) intermission, play this song. Maybe classic rock and hip-hop aren’t your things. Perhaps you just “Kickstart My Heart” by want to blast the speakers in your Mötley Crüe car or headphones on the way to the This song will wake up any game and hear some great beat drops crowd and get their blood pumpand minimal words. If so, this is the ing. The electric guitar riff is a song for you: it’s loud and makes you staple at sporting events, especially feel like you’re in a club, but it also before the game begins. It’s a suregets the blood flowing and is super fire way to get the crowd and your catchy. Play this song loud enough team extra motivated. and you’ll be ready to play. “Seven Nation Army” by “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” The White Stripes / “The Hockey Song” by Albert This song is most recognizable Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth / not by its title but by its legendary Stompin’ Tom Connors bass line and guitar riff. Play this These songs aren’t meant to get song at any sporting event, you’ll you screaming at the top of your see someone bobbing their head lungs for competition, but for the and humming along. love of the game. They’re the staples in their respective sports, sung “Work REMIX” by A$AP Ferg at most significant games. They’ve This is a great song to listen to come to be reminders that sports with your headphones on while in
COLLAGE: HARRY CLARKE
the gym getting a great workout in. Or, you could just blast them on the speakers so the whole gym can hear it. Either way, this song will get you ready to get a sweat going.
songs in recent memory. Listening to this song will make you want to run through a wall. “WIN” by Jay Rock This song is to be played when you…well, win. A perfect hype celebration song to get you feeling energized heading home from a game. You can jump around, or just sit and scream the lyrics. You and your team just won, so get hyped.
“Trophies” by Young Money (feat. Drake) This song is perfect before game seven or a must-win game. It not only gets you pumped up but reminds you and your teammates of what’s at stake, what you’re playing for and what could be on the other “We are the Champions” side of a victory. by Queen If your team goes all the way “Forever” by Drake, Kanye West, and wins the championship, is Lil Wayne, Eminem there a better song to play for the Four of the greatest rappers of our post-game celebration? It litergeneration came together to cre- ally says exactly what you and your ate one of the most iconic hip-hop team are: champions.