The news was shocking when it first broke Tuesday morning – Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner was involved in a carjacking incident in southwest Toronto Monday night.
Thankfully, Marner was physically unharmed, but it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t mentally traumatized by the event. Any of us would be if, as alleged in Marner’s case, complete strangers approached us with weapons and demanded we leave the comfort and protection of our vehicle, before they stole it.
But pretending professional athletes exist in a bubble, free from society’s ills, is foolish. Our stars and idols really are no safer than anybody else. What happened to Marner could’ve happened to anyone, really. It is a shame these things are happening in Toronto, a place where some of us have lived most of our life without anything close to a physical threat on our person. But Toronto is no different than any metropolis. This type of thing can, and does happen, and to deny that is to deny reality.
This is not to be an alarmist, and suggest drastic measures must be taken, simply because someone we know – or, at least, someone who is famous in their field – has been subjected to the underbelly of modern life. There are, no doubt, sociological and psychological factors at play, and of course, there is an individual responsibility that’s part of the picture as well. But what is the answer now? Are professional sports leagues and teams going to assign round-the-clock bodyguards to protect athletes? Is any amount of money worth feeling threatened enough that you require such extreme safety measures? I’m not sure there is.
We don’t know the specifics of Monday’s incident with Marner, and we may not for quite some time. All we can do for the moment is to support the young man, and try to be part of a city and country where people are not at high risk of catastrophic injury simply by going out and living our lives.
In Toronto, we’re close enough to Buffalo, New York, to see a city and a nation where, tragically, this is now the case. Don’t get me wrong – Canada has its share of problems with crime – but last weekend’s horrific, race-based massacre of 10 black people at a Buffalo supermarket is an example of how frightening things have gotten in the US Mass shootings happen at American churches, workplaces, schools and homes, and nothing, thus far, has resulted in improved gun control. There have been instances where famous Americans – including popular rap artists – slain by firearms, and yet their laws on gun control have only become more permissive.
Marner’s run-in with bad people Monday night was terrible, but you can’t help but wonder how much worse it could’ve been. If, god forbid, a beloved hockey player, in the most hockey-loving nation on earth, ever is murdered, what would our reaction be? It shouldn’t be only “thoughts and prayers”, that’s for sure. And it most definitely shouldn’t come to that to spur us into action. We all need to be cognizant of the problems before us, and active in our approach to correcting them.
Toronto is Marner’s hometown. He has every right to feel safe and secure in it, no matter how much money he makes, or how much fame he has. We can support him now with our words, but what is going to make a difference, in the long run, is our actions.
All of us should be striving to create and maintain a modern world in which this type of thing is a distant, abhorrent memory.