In the Twitter and Facebook era, meaningful debate seems to have become a lost art. Emboldened by the ability to say whatever they want whenever they want, social media users have helped destroy the ability for two sides to talk over an issue, and maybe, just maybe, come to a consensus that satisfies both. Instead it’s endless ‘you’re an idiot’, ‘no you’re a bigger idiot.’ That’s certainly been the case in the ‘debate’ over CalgaryNEXT.
Any talk over how public money is used gets the blood boiling on either side of any issue, but the battle over public money for millionaire athletes and their billionaire owners, or for a facility that’s good for the whole city (depending on which side you’re on) seems to pour a uniquely high-octane brand of gas onto the fire.
Enter Brian Burke, listed as President, hockey operations on the Flames’ website. For some reason he took the art of one sided debate out of the 140-character universe to the rubber chicken circuit Wednesday in a speech to the Canadian club. Here’s a few talking points that’ll dig opponents of any public money for an arena project into their positions deeper than the German Army on the Hindenburg line:
“Frankly, when we put out CalgaryNEXT I was personally amazed that the city didn’t say thank you let’s do it.”
“It’s discouraging when other venues cheerfully, willingly construct venues, hockey rinks in Manitoba, football stadiums in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, hockey arenas in Alberta. But our little city’s a little smarter than all those people and we’re not gonna do it.”
“Quebec, let’s see….oh yeah they have a brand new building that meets NHL standards.”
Burke’s tone was so combative Calgary Sports and Entertainment felt compelled to put out a statement with Ken King’s name on it saying Burke doesn’t speak for the organization on a new events centre.
In my mind, this isn’t the kind of message to send to a city divided both over the need for new facilities, and the method of paying for them, leaving aside the fact said city is run by a Mayor who doesn’t react well to having his positions or intelligence questioned. Verbal grenade throwing makes for good theatre, not good debate.