October 25 2011 12:42PM
Photo uploaded to the Occupy Luongo Facebook Page.
You probably noticed the dudes holding the Occupy Luongo signs at Rogers Arena last week, certainly Greg Wyshynski and Bruce Arthur did. Following up on his rocky performance in the Stanley Cup Finals, Luongo has struggled in the early going this season and Canucks fans have reacted with their own particular brand of impatience. All of this tension came to a boil during a rough third period against the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Towards the end of the game, Luongo was jeered by many of the fans in attendance, and his shaky play led the Vancouver Province to publish an editorial suggesting that Gillis trade Luongo to Tampa for Lecavalier…
The editorial was beyond preposterous, though at least it led to some hilarious fall-out on the Team1040 on Friday afternoon. While columnists from Lambert to Spector deservedly belittled Vancouver’s hockey fans as childish, Canucks fans mocked each other, and their star netminder endlessly on various forms of social media. Amidst the ruckus, these signs stood out as a provocative symbol of Luongo’s increasingly toxic relationship with Canucks fans.
But the signs were also confusing. Was the “Occupy Luongo” sign advocating demonic possession as a possible course of action to improve the play of the Canucks starting goaltender? Was it an attempt to start a grassroots movement aimed at fomenting the public pressure necessary to force Mike Gillis into trading the embattled on-line poker spokesman? Was it satirical?
I noticed during Thursday night’s game that the signs had a “facebook” icon on them, so I did a quick search and found the group that was associated with the sign bearers. It seemed to me that it was a bunch of attention seeking Luongo haters and I didn’t think much else of it. When I was approached by them on twitter and recognized their names from the facebook group, I figured I’d ask for an interview and they agreed.
I spoke with a few colleagues about it and one in particular told me that he was approached by the group earlier in the week and decided “not to give voice to bad ideas” on his blog. Still, I figured I’d do the interview and find out if there was a story there. After all, all I needed was to do an off-beat, slightly aggressive interview with a brash Luongo hater. It probably wouldn't be informative, but it might make for a fun read.
So I called the guy who I’d originally set up the interview with. He’s asked for his name to be omitted, so we’ll call him JC. Earlier in the week JC had been listed publicly on the Occupy Luongo page, but by the time the interview had begun the facebook group's privacy settings had been altered. He didn’t even answer the phone, rather, his friend did and he asked me to call him back so as not to waste JC’s cell-phone minutes. So much for the attention seeking.
I called JC’s friend back, asked if it would be all right if I recorded the conversation, and was ready to begin. That’s when the fellow I was talking to stopped me and asked, “do you think it would be okay if I ask you a couple of questions first?” “Sure.”
He asked me five questions, vetting me before consenting to go on. The exchange went like this: “How long have you been writing about sports?” “For a couple of years” “How long have you been a Canucks fan, and are you a Canucks fan?” “I’m a huge Canucks fan, and my whole life.” “Can I ask what your opinion is on Occupy Wallstreet and Occupy Vancouver” “I’m pretty apolitical...” “What did you think about the Lecavalier article?” “It was what it was, it was pretty stupid...” “What did you think about the Booth trade?” “I’m stoked.”
My answers were satisfactory, I suppose, and we continued with the interview. I asked him if I could use his name in the article and when he said he’d prefer if I didn’t, I asked him if “he’d like a pen name or an alias.” He thought about it for a second before he replied with, “call me the plant.”
My hopes for an obnoxious Luongo hater dashed, I began the conversation with “the Plant” who every now and then, would check in with JC who was also in the room. “The Plant” told me he was a twenty-two year old student, and that the Occupy Luongo idea began, “almost like the Occupy movement did: spontaneously.” Yep, turns out I hadn’t found a Luongo hater, nor had I found a spot of clever local satire, I’d come across some overly serious, precocious college kids.
“I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going with it at the start, I just think the Occupy Movement is quite a spectacle, and that the coverage of Luongo is as well. Once I saw what people were saying on twitter, online and then the editorial in the Province – I began to think about it a little bit more. I think there’s a parallel between the way the media covers a lot of issues, especially when it comes to the Occupy Movement and Luongo. It's just a created spectacle with no critical analysis, no new insight and no nuance. I feel like there’s a lot of knee-jerk reactions, and it’s the same type of knee-jerk reactions I saw in response to my sign. Sure an article about trading Luongo may bring interest, but I think we need more substance and less spectacle when it comes to media coverage.”
I asked him to clarify the name, and asked him what the goal of the signs, facebook page and nascent “movement” were beyond generating discussion, to which “the plant” responded: “we’re still figuring it out. We all have different goals, some of the other members have different opinions of what’s important.”
Next I asked “the plant” if the perception that the Occupy Luongo signs were critical of the Canucks goaltender were in fact, misplaced. “Me I wanted to be critical of the media and the blasé, same old Luongo talk. I see a parallel between that and the coverage of Occupy Vancouver, it’s all about the one-liners, but that’s not as important as the fact that the movement exists. Thousands of people are downtown acting in new ways, forming new relationships and being active in civil society in a way they weren’t before, and that’s valuable to society.”
Photo Tweeted out By the Occupy Luongo Twitter account.
The plant told me that the Rogers Arena staff confiscated their signs on Saturday, though security didn’t try to kick them out of the game, just that “the signs had to go.” I asked them how they planned on getting their message out now and they didn’t seem to have a clear plan of action.
When I asked “the Plant” about some of the sarcastic comments regarding the Occupy movement made by the “Occupy Luongo” user on the group’s facebook page, he told me that some of the group felt that way, but not him. He said he was in New York at Occupy Wall Street “the day after Officer Bellonia pepper sprayed that girl, and I was there when they marched to the police station and talked about police brutality. I was also there the next day when 500 people were arrested at the Brooklyn Bridge.”
When I asked if the movement was satirical, “the plant” gave me a muddled answer, “From my perspective yes, but the rest of the group, well some of them are anti-Luongo. Some of them think he’s more of an important issue than Occupy Vancouver and they don’t think Occupy Vancouver is a big deal. Some of us are disappointed with the contract and the length. One of our members actually tried to get an autograph (audible muttering in the background)
And what is the group’s opinion on Glass-Steagal? Unsurprisingly, “I haven’t made up my opinion yet to be honest.”
So it turns out there isn’t much of a story here, but I did discover that the movement does in some respects represent the city of Vancouver's oftentimes bipolar relationship with Roberto Luongo. Sometimes it really does seem as if Canucks fans can’t decide whether or not we want to run the bloke out of town, or if we’d rather just get his autograph.