Allow me, if you will, to make this a Rob Ford story, while he plays a cameo in it, the familiar part of “former Toronto mayor…allegedly smoking crack” (Allegedly? The man’s admitted it already!), there are, admittedly, much bigger, wider, deeper issues at play.
“Courting controversy: Push for public basketball courts runs up against misguided fears,” is the last in a 4 part series in the Globe and Mail “examining support programs and services for lower-income residents in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon – the cities and towns of Peel Region more known for their affluent middle and upper classes than a growing population who live in poverty.” Once more we are faced with our “veiled racism”, as a young Tristen Mason generously sees it in the article, in continuing opposition to building and operating basketball courts throughout the GTA.
“Veiled racism”? What’s the kid talking about? What’s racist about opposing basketball courts?
Let me ask you this.
When I say, Fill in the blank in the following statement: Basketball is a game played mostly by _______, what’s your first response?
Yeah. Exactly. And then follow that through with the usual equating of basketball to drugs and gangs and gun play. Like I said. Mr. Mason’s talk of ‘veiled racism’ is generous indeed.
Such sentiments are ham-fistedly stoked by local knuckleheads like longtime Ward 7 York West city councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti, who features prominently in Dakshana Bascaramurty’s piece. “We don’t welcome the concept, at all, of gang bangers…selling drugs on outdoor basketball courts,” he once said. Basketball courts, and all their yelling and screaming and fights and guns! Having changed one over to a place for ball hockey instead, I mean, what’s more Canadian white bread than ball hockey, Mammoliti claimed police told him crime dropped ‘dramatically’. Of course, the police claimed no such thing.
The councillor was at it again, late last municipal campaign where, probably not coincidentally one of his opponents, Keegan Henry-Mathieu, just so happened to be black. When Mammoliti was asked about his dim view of basketball courts, he pretty much replayed the dog whistle tune. “For one reason or another, [basketball hoops] seem to attract the wrong crowd outside. What I’ve heard loud and clear is that nobody is playing outdoor basketball any more, they seem to be selling drugs.”
That’s always a distinct possibility when you actively neglect a public space into dereliction.
Which brings me back to the subject of Rob Ford.
One of the dilapidated basketball courts that went untended and disregarded had originally been built with the proceeds from a foundation of one-time Toronto Raptor superstar, Vince Carter. The “Rolls-Royce of outdoor basketball courts,” the Globe and Mail called it. Now?
These days, the backboards are rusted. One rim has no net; the other is torn-up and ratty: like a once-voluminous coif thinned to a comb-over. Empty water bottles, McDonald’s cups and even an old 3.8-litre bleach container are scattered over the grass around the court. For a stretch, even the rims were taken down, effectively rendering the city-owned court useless.
Here’s the kicker.
Our friend over at Marshall’s Musings, Sean Marshall, pointed out that this one time ‘Rolls Royce of outdoor basketball courts’ is located right smack dab in Ward 2 Etobicoke North, fiefdom of the Ford clan, Rob-then Doug-then Rob again. Of course it is. Irony or poetic injustice demands it.
While serving as councillors/mayors, rarely was any opportunity passed up by the brothers Ford to squawk about private section participation in the running of the city. Want to build a subway? (And who doesn’t?) The private sector’ll pay for it. (Still waiting.) Want to host a splashy international event? (Don’t we all?) Corporate sponorship’ll foot the bill. (Honest.) Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie. Blah, blah, blah.
Here we have a perfect example of such a model. The private sector, through a private donation, builds the ‘Rolls Royce of outdoor basketball courts’ for the city, serving it up on a platter for the Boys of Ward 2 to make political hay with, and what happens? They let it go to shit. “Nobody has done more for black people than me,” Rob Ford crowed during the 2010 mayoral race. And by ‘more’, obviously he meant more, as in, more to promote drugs, guns and violence through underfunding services and programs and undermining the marginalized community he’s represented, in one way or another, for more than a decade now.
This is the absolute and abysmal hollowness that forms the core of the Ford brand of fake populism. Talk a big game about looking out for the little guy, assure them there are easy ways to serve their best interests and when the chips are down, when it comes to putting money where their mouths are? M.I.A.
Worse yet, go missing and then blame the failure on everybody else. Bloated and misdirected spending at City Hall. The suburbs never getting anything. Thugs that they don’t hug.
What we really ought to do is post signs around the abandoned basketball court, pointing out the reality of continuing to fall for the politics of the Fords. This basketball court, brought to you by Vince Carter. This basketball court, destroyed by Rob and Doug Ford.
— suggestingly submitted by Cityslikr