(Disabled) Sports

Skimming through my twitter feed, as I do before bed most evenings, I was a little disheartened to discover the following story from the local Metro Newspaper’s twitter feed, entitled: “Canada advances to World (Sledge) Hockey final.”

Why the brackets? I’m guessing it is supposed to be a joke, although I’m not exactly sure why it would be funny. At best, the individual controlling the Metro twitter feed1 felt that perhaps more people would read the story this way because the deployment of brackets helps to separate it from other tweets about “Canada” and “hockey,” of which there are many. But at the same time this delineation is exactly what makes this tweet so problematic — we still feel the need to segregate the achievement of Paralympic athletes from those of presumptively “real” athletes; athletes who aren’t disabled at all, but rather, are the pinnacle of human physical achievement. Coverage of disabled sports is often wrapped in this sort of “gold star for effort” coverage, where the subconscious objective of the article is more to celebrate an individual being an athlete despite being disabled rather than merely celebrating athletic achievement. Of course, sports journalism has always had its narratives, perhaps none more overwrought than the underdog triumph fable, but the division of “real” sports and “disabled” sports is a relatively new trope caused by sports media realizing they could no longer ignore Paralympic/Special Olympic sport (largely because of the advocacy of my two favourite Joshs–Josh Vander Vies and Josh Cassidy 2 ) while at the same time not knowing exactly how to cover these stories. After all, if it’s about disability than it’s gotta be different. Sports journalism isn’t the only culprit here, as there is always the desire to temper achievements with the addendum of disability: Stephen Hawking isn’t a scientist…he’s a disabled Scientist!

Ultimately, how we cover disabled sports, specifically this seemingly innocent tweet by the London Metro team, helps to elucidate the oft non-apparent fault lines in our acceptance of disability. We talk so much about acceptance and inclusion in Canada, yet even in covering a story we can all understand and empathize with (athletic achievement) we still must keep a healthy distance (pun intended) between “us” and “them.” Only once we are ready to grant disability access into the realm of “normal,” understanding that people truly do come in all shapes and sizes, will we finally be able to talk about sledge hockey without the addendum.

  1. Note: I’ve been contacted by the local Metro and it was, in fact, not done locally but was tweeted by someone at the national office. The headline was apparently taken from the article pushed out on the wire by the Canadian Press, also picked up by Sportsnet here sans brackets.
  2. Although note that both of these fine gentleman brand themselves on their websites with terms like “motivators” and “leader,” unlike most mainstream athletes who wrap themselves in more traditional terms around athletic performance. I’d argue here that the Joshs feel the pressure to be more than just an athlete…they must also be inspirations

Why We Shouldn’t Learn Science from Kirk Cameron

Photo of stephen hawking
Satan Enthusiast

In a recent interview, Stephen Hawking made the claim that heaven exists only in fairy tale to comfort those afraid of death. This shouldn’t be a surprising revelation given his past comments that God doesn’t exist nor did he create the universe. We have unconfirmed reports that he did not consider the Chocolate Lab Paradox before making this claim.

Perhaps in a bid to become relevant again, Kirk Cameron (former actor and village idiot) decided to throw off his actors clothes and put on his scientist smocks, claiming that Hawking was wrong because “he cannot provide evidence for his unscientific belief that out of nothing, everything came.” Cameron then went on to roll out all of his scientific evidence that God created everything and heaven exists. Just kidding, he has nothing. So it appeared as though we were on our way to the academic battle of the century, which makes sense because of how their educational histories are so comparable. In Hawking we have one of the most important scientific minds in human history and in Cameron we have someone who was a sitcom shill until he drank the kool-aid and tumbled down the evangelical rabbit hole.

Unfortunately, though, there will not be an intellectual throw-down because Cameron doesn’t think it would be a fair to pick on a cripple (via E! Online). Yep, Kirk Cameron actually said to E! News:

“To say anything negative about Stephen Hawking is like bullying a blind man. He has an unfair disadvantage, and that gives him a free pass on some of his absurd ideas. Professor Hawking is heralded as ‘the genius of Britain,’ yet he believes in the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything and that life sprang from non-life.”

Photo of Kirk Cameron
Cripple Defender

To be fair, Kirk, I think it’s actually a bit more like bullying a man in a wheelchair. It’s fun to snicker at the “He has no proof, and therefore, my proofless claim is more true” statement, but I am truly astonished that more people aren’t piling on this horrifying example of ablism. It is offensive and wrong to denigrate all the work Hawking has done by implying he has only been able to do what he has done because no one will question him because of his disability. I have no doubt in my mind, largely because of the huge amount of evidence, that Hawking’s work has gone through the same rigorous scrutiny that other scientists go through. Further, to belittle his ideas simply because he’s in a chair is flabbergasting.

But maybe Cameron is right. Maybe us crips do get a free pass for some absurd ideas. Therefore, I submit to you the following list of truths which you are not allowed to question because I’m in a wheelchair:

  1. Gravity is the physical manifestation of the Earth’s sexual attraction to humanity. If the Earth discovers we are cheating on it with Mars, we are sure to be jettisoned into space.
  2. Nuclear Power Plants generate power by forcing Giants to rub their feet on a giant piece of carpet and then touching a wire that blasts the power to our home.
  3. Windmills are warping our brains and killing us with super sonic sounds.
  4. Mayor Joe Fontana is actually a robot sent from the future to save us from death by taxation.
  5. Rain is just God’s pee. You don’t want to know what snow is.