After many months, I have finished reading Beartown by Fredrik Backman. This novel was a pretty intense read and covers topics relevant to society today – peer pressure, homophobia, rape, integrity, etc.
To sum it up, Beartown is a small community who lives, eats, and breathes their junior hockey team. The team could potentially give this town recognition, sponsorship money, and opportunities for players to get into the NHL. As an important game approaches, one of the star players comes under fire when he is accused of leaving a young girl traumatized. People of the town become divided and readers witness how society can quickly brush disturbing events under a rug when it comes to protecting the reputation of a town rather than a value of a single person.
The ending left me confused as hell (I won’t give away any spoilers), but it’s a good confusion. I’m constantly reflecting back on EVERYTHING that has happened and if you are a super sleuth you can probably figure it all out, but I haven’t, yet. All of this won’t make sense if you haven’t read the novel, but I’m looking forward to the sequel “We Are Against You” which should be published in the summer of 2018? Maybe? I was reading forums about the book (to see if they can answer some of my Q’s, but it only made me scratch me head more) and stumbled upon this question:
“In the course of the novel, we see that playing on a sports team teaches young people values like loyalty, responsibility, and commitment. But we also see instances of exclusion, aggression, and entitlement. Are their certain behaviors that are rewarded in a sports competition but considered inappropriate in daily life?”
When you play in a competitive sport, you’re taught that the other team is the enemy and you must win because winning means you’re better (entitlement). So, we often dehumanize the enemy because your only goal is to beat them, which can lead to fights (aggression). When a player on your team falls short, you cuss them out or sit them on the bench (exclusion). Yes, there are behaviors that are rewarded in sports competitions and considered inappropriate in daily life, but I think coaches have a huge impact on how their players view the competition. As much as coaches should teach proper skill sets for the game, there should also be proper sportsmanship training.
Growing up as an athlete myself, the emotional side of sports were often brushed to the side. Sometimes I didn’t know how to handle loses so I’d blame myself or lashed out at teammates when they didn’t pick up their weight. Sport competitions are emotional as they are physical. Perhaps high school, university, and junior teams should hire a sports psychologists to provide positive reinforcement, teach athletes how to deal with anxiety and develop communication skills. Everyone would benefit. Having a sports psychologist on every competitive team could potentially be a solution to control the inappropriate behaviour outside of the game. Right?
In any case, here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
“Success is never a coincidence. Luck can give you money, but never success.”
“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”
“When are you going to admit that is isn’t ‘hockey’ that raises these boys, it’s YOU LOT?…Fucking men! You’re the problem! Religion doesn’t fight, guns don’t kill, and you need to be very fucking clear that hockey has never raped anyone! But do you know who do? Fight and kill and rape?…MEN! It’s always fucking men!”
“There are no women’s teams here, so they learn that hockey only belongs to them, and their coaches teach them that girls are a ‘distraction.’ So they learn that girls only exist for fucking. She wants to point out how all the old men in this town praise them for ‘fighting’ and ‘not backing down,’ but not one single person tells them that when a girl says no, it means NO.”
“Another morning comes. It always does. Time always moves at the same rate, only feelings have different speeds. Every day can mark a whole lifetime or a single heartbeat, depending on who you spend it with.”