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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Brazeau agonistes

I wrote a few weeks ago about a surprise birthday present from my partner: two tickets to the Fight for the Cure fundraiser in Ottawa featuring a celebrity boxing match between Justin Trudeau and Patrick Brazeau. I'm back from Ottawa with, I have to admit, some grudging respect for Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau embodies the quintessential Liberal characteristics that drive many Conservatives (including myself) around the bend: the urban hipster latte-swilling attitude, the faux outrage about attacks on "Canadian" [read "Liberal"] values, the patronizing air of "we know what's best for you" superiority and the smug condescension towards those grubby Bible-thumping gun-owning hicks who don't live in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Plus, for Conservatives my age he inevitably conjures up memories of his father ... enough said.

So, it was with some anticipation that we got dressed up and headed out to the Hampton Inn Convention Centre in Ottawa's east end to see Trudeau climb into the ring to fight 37 year old Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, the handsome Algonquin native from Maniwaki, Quebec who has a black belt in karate and is built like an armoured personnel carrier. Watching him pound Trudeau into submission with his bulging tattooed arms was going to be the cathartic moment that released decades of suppressed rage, and I'm sure the many Conservatives who gathered that night felt the same.

We arrived at the convention centre for cocktails and mingled in the lobby with the crowd. It was a weird mixture of politicians and political insiders in suits, boxing types in flashy Las Vegas outfits and loads of young women in tiny sheath dresses and stiletto heels.

There was a lot of media attention, especially from Sun News which had exclusive broadcast rights to the event. Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley were broadcasting live from ringside all evening. Levant was carrying around a My Little Pony figurine and calling Trudeau "the Shiny Pony" at every opportunity. He was practically giddy at the thought of watching Trudeau get the crap beaten out of him. "That's for the National Energy Policy" I could imagine him chortling.

We took our seats in a corner of the cavernous hall. The boxing ring was set up in the middle, and there was definitely a division between Brazeau's supporters on one side of the ring and Team Trudeau on the other. We were on the Trudeau side, deep behind enemy lines. It turned out we were seated at a table with retired Liberal Senator Marcel Prud'homme and some of his staff and friends. We quickly googled him and found, via Wikipedia, that "he was particularly outspoken in his support for Palestinian causes and in his opposition to Zionism and this may have hindered the prospects of his serving in the Canadian Cabinet. In 1989, while in Opposition, he became the Liberal Party's Critic for Arms Control and Disarmament." His entourage was wearing "Team Trudeau" buttons. Also at the table was someone from the publishing industry and a lobbyist for the Sustainable Fuels Association. My partner Michel leaned over at this point and said "be polite". The table next to us was one of the corporate tables; it had a sign on it that said "Sensual Flixxx". A quick google search revealed that they were from "Canada's online adult superstore". I'm sure they were firm believers in the free market economy and no fans of the nanny state. Oddly, there were no women at their table.

Both Brazeau and Trudeau had tables filled with guests, and they were both working the crowd before dinner. Brazeau was in a pin-striped suit, tossing his long black hair and smiling his pearly-whites. Trudeau was beaming with a beatific, zen-like smile, also tossing his hair.

Dinner was served: soup, salad, giant slabs of red meat that drooped over the edges of the plate, and chocolate mousse for dessert. Senator Prud'homme plied us with wine and regaled us with war stories from his time in the Senate - he said that when he met Justin "he saw his father in his eyes" and he got a little wistful. There was much chatter among the guests at the table about the great Liberal talking points: Senate reform (bad), public transit and subsidies for trains (good), fossil fuels (bad), cars and Toronto traffic (bad), Cuba (good). I managed to restrain myself throughout the entire conversation, and Michel leaned over and said "I'm so proud of you right now." The things we do for love.

After dinner, the boxing began. There were seven bouts, a mixture of amateur boxers from local clubs and some "white collar boxing" featuring local captains of industry. The first match was between a guy named Jean Christophe Coulombe and another guy named Riga Jihad (I kid you not). This lead to a moment of awkwardness when one of Riga's supporters stood up and yelled loudly "JIHAAAAAAD!!!!!" Not something one should normally shout out in a crowd these days, I think. Later, the same fan yelled "Jihad - kick his ass insha'Allah!" Jihad won his match, insha'Allah.

Hours later, the main event finally arrived. Local sportscaster and former Ottawa Roughrider Ken Evraire stepped up to the microphone and introduced the contenders. First in was "Braz Knuckles" Brazeau - he was greeted with boos from my side of the aisle and ecstatic cheers from the Tory side. Next up was Justin "the Papineau Pugilist" Trudeau, whose fans practically swooned at his appeareance. Brazeau had the look of a crazed pit bull, while Trudeau smiled quietly like he had recently attained enlightenment. The crowd was worked into a lather by this point. Brazeau took off his robe, revealing his bulging physique in a skin-tight blue jersey. Trudeau looked tall and skinny. Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley went on and on about Brazeau's martial arts training and his time in the military, while Trudeau preferred "jazzercise and Tai Bo".

Then the match started and the narrative all fell apart. Brazeau charged out of his corner fists swinging, and for the first two-minute round, it looked like he had Trudeau beaten. Brazeau landed a few haymakers to Trudeau's head that had him staggering a bit, but Brazeau was gasping for breath and clearly couldn't keep up the pace. He ran out the clock and the two of them retired to their corners - Brazeau was clearly already tired while Trudeau had barely worked up a sweat.

When the second round began, it was obvious that something was wrong with Brazeau - he was flailing wildly, rocking back on his heels and protecting himself while Trudeau landed blow after blow to Brazeau's head. At the one minute mark, Brazeau was on the ropes, helpless, while Trudeau landed a flurry of punches. Brazeau's short arms and stature meant that he couldn't get anywhere near Trudeau, while Trudeau's long arms beat him mercilessly. When the bell rang Brazeau, stunned, collapsed in his corner while Trudeau calmly walked to his, smiling.

At the beginning of the third round, Brazeau was in trouble. He was disoriented, his right eye puffy and his nose bleeding, and at the 40 second mark the ref called a standing count to make sure he was OK. At the one minute mark, the ref called the fight for Trudeau.

The Liberal side of the hall went nuts, while the Conservatives stood in stunned disbelief. Ezra Levant climbed into the ring and put a microphone up to Trudeau and said "Justin Trudeau, you're not the Shiny Pony, you're the STALLION!" Trudeau replied "From you, Ezra, that means a lot. This must really eat you up inside, doesn't it?"

Levant eventually made it over to Senator Brazeau, who stood in the ring looking broken and defeated. Levant said "Senator Brazeau, what do you have to say?" Brazeau replied "I should be ashamed."

At this point I was a little embarrassed by the whole spectacle. The fight had ceased being a cancer fundraiser weeks ago, as Tories and Grits lined up on opposite sides to taunt each other. Brazeau had come off as a cocky, preening bully, and Conservatives (myself included) had exhibited such unrestrained joy at the prospect of Trudeau being physically hurt that it now seemed like a bad joke. Now all that was left was a hall full of screaming Liberals and a bleeding Senator standing in the ring saying "I should be ashamed". A Senator! A member of the Red Chamber, the chamber of sober second thought! It was a little hard to watch.

It pains me to write this, but the one person who came out of this with some dignity was Justin Trudeau. He was humble before the fight and gracious in victory. He reminded us all that it was, after all, a fund-raiser and not a gladiator duel in the Roman Coliseum. As he embraced Brazeau after the fight, there was a little glimpse of hope that maybe our leaders might be more civil to each other, and that they might be objects of admiration rather than mockery. I hope so.


Anonymous said...

Nice post but a little revisionist history included. Marcel Prudhomme is not a retired Liberal Senator. He was appointed by Brian Mulroney to the Senate and sat as an Independant. He left the Liberal Party when John Turner refused to appoint him as the Party's Foreign Affairs Critic. It was thanks to a Tory PM that Prudhomme spent 20 years in the Senate.

Eric said...


Thanks for the clarification - I did know that but the details got fudged in the post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Did they do a drug test on Trudeau after the fight like they do for the pro's? His eyes look glassy and WEIRD.

Anonymous said...

I saw the same fight on tv and must have missed it when he said I am ashamed. I know that afterwards he said something to the effect of he won congratulations etc etc. To me at home he didn't come across as a sore loser.

I do 100% agree that Trudeau was very humble in his victory. His politics will forever drive me crazy but you have to respect him for putting this challenge out there. It's my understanding Trudeau was the one who put it out there that he'd fight.