I’m sure that this will come as a surprise to Laura Robinson, but not all hockey fans are troglodytes. I had something she wrote on the Canucks in the playoffs come to my attention after Neate Sager, retweeted it with the comment that “Agree or disagree, Laura Robinson usually has a provocative take…” When I responded that this is also true of Ernst Zundel, Sager asked if I was always this predictable and said “…I knew I’d get some knee-jerk angry-white-male response.”
I don’t have Sager’s circa. 1993 worldview software installed but I do have a decent bullshit detector. And a quick glance at Robinson’s piece made it clear that she was most likely spouting bullshit statistics in support of her theory (her theory, which she’s been peddling since at least the early part of the century, is that sports make men violent. There’s a lot more but it’s never been well supported.) Here’s what caught my attention:
Vancouver police and VANOC knew deeply disturbing behaviour was occurring during the Olympics, despite the report’s multiple glowing references to the contrary. Gangs of young males took over public space in Vancouver’s District 1 — where many sports bars are located. According to the police, District 1 saw an increase of 233.3 per cent in reported sexual offences during the Olympics. Women Against Violence Against Women saw a spike in the number of women they accompanied to hospital for the rape kit in the 24 hours after the gold-medal men’s game — all coming from hockey celebrations. Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services reported an increase in domestic violence of 31 per cent.
During the Stanley Cup playoffs, sexual offences rose 133 per cent in April and 72.2 per cent in May in District 1. By July they had decreased, 68.8 per cent lower than the year before.
Last paragraph first. As a preliminary point, the Canucks were in the playoffs in 2010. Robinson, who appears more interested in having theories than in testing them, ought to explain why this year’s version of the Canucks caused so many more sexual offences in April than last year’s version. The same conditions – a Canucks playoff run – existed. The Canucks, of course, went out early in May in 2010 and played through May this year. So maybe she’s got a point on the 72.2% increase in May (from 11 to 19). After all, that’s an increase, albeit a relatively small one in absolute figures, which tends to lead to alarming swings in percentages.
I assumed that she didn’t mention the June numbers – when the Canucks playoff run ended ignominiously because they were simply to horrible to mention. No Canucks playoff hockey in June 2010 and an awful ending to Canucks’ playoff hockey in June of 2011 must surely have unleashed the “…violent subculture of masculinity fed by hockey, UFC and other activities that define men through violence and (lead them to) start drinking hours before they commit public or private acts of violence.” I’m a brave man with a strong stomach so I looked. 13 reports of sexual offences in District 1 in June of 2010 and…11 this year.
Huh. Guess she didn’t see that page. Oversight, I’m sure. She just went April, May, July. Whoops.
As for the Olympics, the 233.3% increase in reported sexual offences in District 1 sounds horrifying. Until you realize that this meant that it spiked from 10 to 3 between February 12 and March 1 and remember that that was basically 18 Fridays or Saturdays in a row, about a 200% increase in the normal number of Fridays and Saturdays in an 18 day period. Curious how those numbers match up.
That leaves two pieces of data: the increase in rape kit requests and the increase in domestic violence of 31%. On the information presented, we have no way of gauging how significant that might be. In another piece that Robinson wrote, she wrote: “Women Against Violence Against Women, reported they normally hear from five to six women a month who ask to be accompanied to the hospital for the gathering from their bodies evidence of rape. In the 24 hours after the men’s Olympic gold-medal hockey game, four contacted them, all from hockey celebrations.”
Is four an unusual number for one 24 hour period? Sounds like it. Did WAVAW have a bigger presence during the Olympics? Do four calls in a 24 hour period happen on other occasions? We have no way of evaluating this? The same goes for the 31% increase in domestic violence. I’d trust Robinson to present the data fairly except…well, re-read everything up to this point if you don’t know why I don’t trust her.
“Provocative” does not always mean “insightful.” And when someone is citing percentages that imply a “3″ in the denominator, you should be suspicious that they are citing data on relatively rare events in which large swings in percentage might not be uncommon. This is also true for when they skip a month in talking about the increases in sexual offences wrought by a playoff run.
Does Laura Robinson have a point? I’ve got no idea. I’m pretty sure that the data doesn’t support her case though and if you want to make a provocative case, you’d best have facts to support it. She doesn’t.