Beer-toss not weak mo­ment

Should we feel sorry for Hamil­ton man?

The Hamilton Spectator - - COM­MENT - HEATHER MALLICK Heather Mallick’s com­men­tary ap­pears in Torstar news­pa­pers.

Now Pa­gan, 42, has fi­nally de­cided to try to ex­plain him­self. But what he de­cided to do with a pa­tient and gen­er­ous CBC in­ter­viewer is sad.

Feel­ing sorry for peo­ple is what I do, and what an ex­haust­ing business it is. A con­trar­ian mind­set makes things worse, in that I tend to leap to the de­fence of the per­son who seems to be most in the soup at any given time. Wretched­ness at­tracts me.

Those I feel sorry for: Kellyanne Con­way, peo­ple who buy in­flat­able sex dolls, me, moose (big and hap­less), ants (small and earnest).

Those I don’t feel sorry for: that Peter­bor­ough home­buyer com­plain­ing that her new drive­way is too short for her pickup truck, men with slicked-back pom­padours (Scara­mucci, Eric Trump, Don Trump Jr., you see the pat­tern here), Ken Pa­gan.

Pa­gan, an al­leged vic­tim, is the ex-Post­media copy edi­tor and Hamil­ton man who threw a can of beer at then-Bal­ti­more Ori­oles’ out­fielder Hyun Soo Kim at a Blue Jays game in Toronto last Oc­to­ber. When team­mate Adam Jones ex­pressed his shock, both he and Kim were hit with racist abuse from Toronto fans, at the game it­self and on so­cial me­dia. They faced a sta­dium. “N----r thinks it’s a can of Colt 45,” one fan shouted at Jones. “Go back to your coun­try, Kim,” an­other called out. There was more ac­cord­ing to tweets from the game, as Pa­gan qui­etly slipped out. Kim was stoic about the weapon, and brave about the racism, as was Jones. “It’s the first time for me and hope­fully the last,” Kim said through an in­ter­preter.

Now Pa­gan, 42, has fi­nally de­cided to try to ex­plain him­self. But what he de­cided to do with a pa­tient and gen­er­ous CBC in­ter­viewer is sad. Yes, he’s sorry. But he is un­able or un­will­ing to ex­plain why he chose Kim as his tar­get, has no apol­ogy for Jones, and does not dis­cuss the last­ing ef­fect his rage had on play­ers whose brief ca­reers de­pend on ev­ery mo­ment in ev­ery game they’re in.

Po­lice can’t say what Pa­gan’s blood-al­co­hol level was be­cause he didn’t even phone them un­til late the next day. They could not test him. “I just had a weak mo­ment,” Pa­gan says. That’s not what I would call it. He had “a few beers” at a nearby restau­rant with his brother and some old friends, he told the CBC, “and kept up that pace through the evening.” Then he dam­aged Toronto’s rep­u­ta­tion, let a young woman sit­ting near him be blamed and tar­geted on­line, and helped start a racist on­slaught. Even hor­ror writer Stephen King was ap­palled that night as he watched. “Hey, what­ever hap­pened to po­lite Cana­di­ans?”

Af­ter Pa­gan was fi­nally iden­ti­fied and charged, he lost his job at the Post­media edit­ing op­er­a­tion in Hamil­ton, although be­cause of a nondis­clo­sure agree­ment, he is un­will­ing to say whether he was told to leave or re­signed out of hu­man de­cency. Why not defy the clause and say hon­estly what hap­pened? Peo­ple who start bar fights are not hav­ing weak mo­ments, they are be­hav­ing mon­strously. When they ac­knowl­edge it and try to stop drink­ing, I ad­mire their hu­mil­ity.

But then women have a dif­fer­ent view of male drunks than men do. Men are phys­i­cally stronger and more ag­gres­sive. What they do when they drink has blood­ier con­se­quences. Men may dis­like drunks. I fear them. Watching sports is pas­sive but still en­tranc­ing. Booz­ing en­hances the game, just as it does with book clubs. It of­fers flow, the feel­ing of be­ing caught up in some­thing so grip­ping that one for­gets one’s job in a sink­ing in­dus­try, the dol­drums of mid­dle age and the short­ness of one’s drive­way.

There’s some­thing re­pel­lent about the sloppy sen­ti­men­tal­iz­ing of sport, as ab­surd as that thank­fully now-fad­ing fash­ion for cock­tails among drinkers with­out ca­pac­ity for hard liquor. You’re not a mixol­o­gist, you’re a bar­tender. You’re not a sports fan, you’re drunk, and I say that as some­one who is hope­less af­ter one glass of white.

“I have to re­spect the game. I do re­spect the game,” Pa­gan says. What does that even mean?

There’s noth­ing to re­spect in a puck or a ball, a stick or a bat. Re­spect the hu­man be­ing play­ing the game.

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