If only the CFL would hire referees who don’t need guide dogs!

by Gerry Bowler

In fact, there are a lot of things that get up my nose in no time at all. Here is a short list of what has had steam coming out of my ears lately:

  • Terrorists.
  • Telemarketers.
  • Cats that come into my yard.
  • CFL referees recruited from the School for the Blind who, encumbered by their white canes, manage to miss every thuggish act of pass interference on Roughrider receivers but who can, nonetheless, detect to a micron’s width any violation of the five-yard restraining zone on punts by Saskatchewan would-be tacklers.
  • Any threats to my children.
  • Cats that, while not actually in my yard, live nearby with crazy Cat People and that could come into my yard while I wasn’t looking.
  • Don Cherry, for his many crimes against fashion and sportsmanship
  • People who don’t signal lane changes.
  • University students who bring their 15-page essays to class and hand them to me with a cheery “You got a stapler?” No, I don’t got a stapler. What I have now is a pile of hundreds of unstapled pages, thank you very much.
  • The cruel actions of the government of North Korea. Also the actions of the governments of Pakistan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Manitoba.
  • People who think using an apostrophe makes noun’s nouns plural.
  • People who think “it begs the question” means “it leads me to ask…” when, in fact to beg the question is to commit a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed in the premise.
  • Grammar snobs.
  • The criminal justice system’s self-defeating leniency with young offenders.
  • Baseball’s designated hitter rule.
  • Potty-mouthed Members of Parliament whose mothers should have washed their mouths out with soap at an early age. Yes, Pat Martin, I’m talking about you. And you too, Justin Trudeau – don’t think that hiding behind that ridiculous goatee makes you any less visible.
  • Professional grievance mongers in the war against Christmas.
  • Christians for whom other Christians are never Christian enough.

That’s a not-inconsiderable list, compiled quickly off the top of my head. And it begs the question leads me to ask: does all of this anger make me a badperson? Is this something I should be struggling with?

If one were to consult the Good Book (as one should) one would find that there is certainly an awful lot of anger in the Bible and much of it comes from the top down. “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child,” says God in Exodus 22. “If thou afflict them at all, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot.”

And along with the wrath comes the smiting. In Deuteronomy 28, God gets quite specific about what will happen to those who vex him: “The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods [hemorrhoids], and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.”

No need to go on, Lord; you had me at “the botch of Egypt.”

We can see in the New Testament that God the Son can wax pretty wrathful too, if the cursed fig tree, bruised Temple moneychangers and embarrassed disciples who were asked to stay awake for just one hour, for crying out loud, are anything to go by.

But, that’s kind of comforting, in a way; isn’t it? Don’t these examples of the anger of the Almighty let me, a lowly mortal blessed with no great measure of self-control and maturity, off the hook?

If I light up the occasional candle, aren’t I allowed the occasional curse?

Well, as my teachers used to say: not so fast, Bowler. There may yet be something to learn from the differences between the wrath emitting from the Creator of the Universe and that which comes shrieking out of the quick temper of a middle-aged historian who has just been cut off by a non-signaling driver with a cat lying on the dashboard and an “I ♥ Don Cherry” banner obscuring her rear window to the extent that she can’t see the interesting and helpful gestures I am making as a commentary on her driving skills.

What is it that makes our God angry? Let’s check that famous book again. Injustice, theft, adultery, disrespect to one’s elders, hypocrisy, greed, sloth, envy, swollen pride, persecuting the poor and the helpless.

Lying ticks God off. Also idolatry, betrayal, deceit, gossip, slander, malice, child sacrifice and those without pity. You could build a civilization around the virtues that God’s anger is meant to protect and whose violations he has promised to punish.

And how does my list compare to that? If I am honest, I will admit that the aggregation of what makes Gerry angry looks petty and foolish alongside the wisdom of the Great Judge.

I think I get marks for hating religious violence and oppression of the innocent — but cats and referees? A hockey commentator’s collars and gormless students who know not their right hands from their left? Like Jonah I look pretty lame defending my anger over small things and ignoring what it is that my Master says I should be concerned about.

Even worse, the things that I should get mad at are the things that I can do the least about. I can’t defeat al Qaeda or the Taliban. I can’t topple the madman in charge of North Korea, nor can I invent a machine that would whisk me back in time to administer a richly-deserved oral cleansing to the infant who will grow up to be the Honourable Member for Winnipeg Centre when he drops his first f-bomb in kindergarten.

Perhaps, instead of clinging to the notion of righteous anger as something which I am entitled to exercise, instead of cultivating my already-enormous powers of bleak judgment on the errors of my fellow citizens, instead of wishing the botch of Egypt (and the hemorrhoids, and the scabs and the itch) on those whose understanding of the Highway Code, Parliamentary decorum or the rules of grammar may fall somewhat short of mine, I should concentrate on my failings that provoke those around me to wrath.

I should make an effort to be a milder driver and a kindlier professor, a more longsuffering spouse and neighbour. Perhaps if I cultivate the meekness, self-abnegation, humility and patience which are recommended to the followers of Jesus I might reduce the sum of anger in the world and lower my blood pressure during trips in the car and watching football on television.

But still, would it kill the CFL to hire officials who can make it to the stadium without seeing-eye dogs?


Gerry Bowler is a cultural historian, a very witty and jolly fellow who teaches at the University of Manitoba. He is, among other things, the author of Santa Claus: A Biography and The World Encyclopedia of Christmas.