There is a petition in Toronto trying to stop Kanye West from performing at the closing ceremonies at the Pan-Am Games. Yes, the same city that voted in and tolerated Rob Ford for 4 years, can’t tolerate Kanye West for one night. Ughhhh, there is so much incredibly wrong with this, that it hurts my head, and I don’t even know where to start.
Let’s start with some background since my readers who don’t live in Toronto make up approximately half my audience according to WordPress statistics. The other half should already know the story…… The Pan-Am Games are currently being held in Toronto. Never heard of them? I wasn’t too familiar with them either. It sounds mean, but they are basically the red-headed step-child’ of the Olympics. Toronto very badly wanted to host the Summer Olympics, but were beat out by Beijing a few years ago, and we’re just not wintery enough for the Winter Olympics which are better off in other Canadian cities such as Calgary and Vancouver who have hosted in the past. So we got the Pan-Am Games. Cool! Why not, right? I think it’s good for the city, great for the athletes, and shitty for traffic, but not everybody can be a winner. Now you might have sensed that I’m not 100% into the Pan-Am Games as an institution, and the only reason for that is that it’s not the Olympics. In the Olympics, the top athletes in the world compete against each other, making it a must-see spectacle. The Pan-Am Games are a step or two down from that, and while some of the best athletes in the world are here, a lot of them aren’t. It even takes a backseat to the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers in some sports. Plus it’s just North and South America participating. That said, it’s still pretty cool I think. I mean every thing sucks if you compare it to the best thing in the world, right? It’s still a good event worth having.
The sports that I follow are a little disappointing in terms of athlete turn out. I’m a big baseball fan, but it’s baseball season, so the best players have to go to their day-jobs, and we get to watch a mixed bag of minor-league players play for a medal. I’m a big basketball fan. It’s the off-season, so we should be able to have dream teams from each country here, right? No. Pan-Am is not a priority for the basketball community. I only barely recognize 3 or 4 names on the American team who probably have 500 players better than any of the ones we’ll see here. They’re treating it like a game of pickup ball on the driveway. Tennis is a sport I’ve watched a lot of. The three Canadian Men’s tennis players we sent are ranked 308, 459 and 540 in the world. Great opportunity for those guys, don’t get me wrong, but there are about 10-15 professional tournaments held each week all over the world that can draw higher ranked players than that. Pan Am is probably better for gymnastics, swimming, track and field and other sports like that, but I wouldn’t know if the top athletes in those sports are here or not. I don’t want to sound spoiled. It is still a really cool thing, but if people outside of Toronto have no idea this is going on, I wouldn’t be that surprised either.
Now Kanye West….. It was announced yesterday that Kanye West was slated to perform at the closing ceremonies. Cool, right? He’s a global superstar (and sorry to be the one to say it, but as I touched on earlier, I don’t know how many of the athletes here are global superstars, at least in the sports I follow), so we should be happy, right? No. Apparently this is so distressing to Torontonians, that there’s a petition to remove him, and the number of signatures keeps changing, but as I type it was up to 22,000. The news of his performance was only confirmed yesterday. This is mind-boggling to me. That we care so much about this. At a time historically, when inclusion and acceptance seems to be at an all time high, and all eyes are back on Toronto for the first time since the Rob Ford scandal, THIS is what we want to make news about??? We’re so bent out of shape that an artist we don’t like is performing at the closing ceremonies, that we’ll all sign a petition to prevent it? This saddens me somehow, but I think to gain further perspective, we have to do the dirty deed of finding out why people don’t like Kanye West.
1. He’s not Canadian. This is not the real reason, but it was mentioned on the petition, so let’s delve. In an article, they suggested Drake, Walk Of The Earth (I honestly have never heard of this band until today), Feist and Deadmau5 among others. First of all, let’s give the organizers some credit. It probably wasn’t that easy to find someone as prominent as Kanye. Maybe some of these people weren’t available either. Also, Pitbull is not Canadian, but I’ve heard nothing about us wanting him to not perform, so let’s stop pretending it’s about that. It looks to me like they are getting artists from some of the different Pan-Am countries, and I see nothing wrong with that. Why does it have to be an all Canadian affair? So it can be a snooze fest like New Years Eve at Nathan Phillips Square every year? I don’t think that’s what’s bugging people.
2. Canadians like polite people. Kanye isn’t that. He’s as arrogant as they come. If you aren’t really into his music, then it’s easy to dislike him for his shenanigans. It’s all very calculated if you ask me. He’s extremely self-aware. Just for a second I’ll compare him to Muhammed Ali. Most won’t like this comparison, because in hind sight, we only like to remember Ali as being the most entertaining boxer of all time (some say the greatest), and for what he contributed to the Civil Rights movement. Kanye so far doesn’t seem to have the same redeeming features. Ali was the master of selling a fight though, and he went to some pretty crazy extremes to keep people talking and interested. If it seemed to make sense to Ali that he would need to behave like a complete asshole leading up to a fight, he had no problem doing that. He could be super arrogant too, and at the time, not everybody liked it, but they also may not have understood what he was doing which was generating excitement. He was definitely ahead of his time. I’m not sure Kanye will ever be looked back on with the same forgiveness and adoration despite his misdoings, but make no mistake, Kanye IS DOING ALL OF THIS ON PURPOSE, and it’s working. You hate it because you know it’s true.
3. As much as most of his other antics are forgivable, people get really mad when he cuts of an acceptance speech at award shows. I’m with the general public on this. It’s just too much. I choose to ignore it, but some can’t. I will say this though. Beck was not hurt by that in any way, and I would argue that some people unfamiliar with his music probably gave him a listen after that. Oh and Taylor Swift??? Yeah, things worked out OK for her.
4. His music. I’m not buying this argument either. I know a lot about Hip Hop music, and I also know a lot about other forms of music. The people that question Kanye’s talent and artistry are simply people who do not know Hip Hop music. I know he’s an easy guy to hate, and there’s a lot of crap you can bring up, but as Hip Hop artists go, he’s just about as good as they get. He’s a phenomenal producer, and a compelling rapper. Self made as well. He got into the game as a producer making other people look good before his own career took off. The general public attacks this guy way more than the manufactured American Idol pop music that everybody seems OK with. It’s wrong. Say what you want about him being a douche, but if you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say that you are a knowledgable Hip Hop fan, than you shouldn’t judge him because he doesn’t play a guitar or whatever. People need to talk about what they know about. Listen, I’m not a huge fan of Rush even though I’m Canadian. I’m just not that into Progressive Rock, but I would never bad mouth them, or question their talent, or dismissively say ‘they suck’, because I wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. Rush is awesome, they’re just not for me. Kanye is awesome, he just might not be for you.
5. He married Kim Kardashian. So you take the prime ego-maniac of our generation, and marry him with the queen of reality television. That bothers people. Why? I know almost nothing about the Kardashians. I hear a lot of people say ‘That show is so annoying’. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never seen it. If you’re tired of celebrity gossip, then maybe you need to stop watching and reading celebrity gossip. It’s a choice. If you know too much about Kimye, it’s because you’ve chosen to. You are the problem. When I think of Kanye West, I try to think of him as an artist only. I could care less if he punches paparazzi or not. I know very little about his wife. That’s also no reason to not let a guy into your city.
So now we understand why Torontonians seem to dislike Kanye, and I’m OK with all of these reasons, but where you get off trying to tell organizers who shouldn’t play at events in this city? This is going to sound bad, but 95% of Torontonians wouldn’t give a shit about the Pan-Am Games if they weren’t here at this exact moment. Will you watch again in 4 years in some other city? Nope. While it’s great that you passionately support amateur athletics for a couple of weeks every 4 years, you really only do it so that you can feel good about your country when they win a medal. When these games aren’t on, it’s business as usual for 95% of you unless you have a relative or friend who is an amateur athlete with dreams of competing in something like this. You’re just enjoying the good times in your city while they last, because someone else went and did all the hard work to organize something great, and all you have to do is sit there and enjoy it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even go see an event, but what a privilege it is for you to be able to, and after all those people went through all that trouble, you’re going to sit there on your couch and criticize their choice about who’s going to entertain you at the big party they’re throwing for you? Get off your high horse people!!! You’re embarrassing yourself and your city!