Words

The Mixed Martial Artist and the Crack-Smoking Mayor

Fightland Blog

By Sarah Kurchak

I am a left-leaning media-type who lives in Toronto. A large percentage of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are also left-leaning media-types who live in Toronto. As such, my Facebook feed is often a steady stream of outrage, exasperation, and the occasional meme inspired by our decidedly right-leaning mayor, Rob Ford.

The storm started when Ford was still just a councilor with an admirable record for looking after his constituents personally and a far less admirable penchant for saying unfortunate things about “Orientals” and allegedly assaulting his wife (who later dropped the charges). It continued after he was elected mayor and temporarily got kicked out of office after engaging in some possibly unethical activities. 

Things in Toronto became even more fevered this past May, when reporters from Gawker and The Toronto Star announced that they’d seen a video of Ford smoking crack and using homophobic and racist language. Ford continually denied the allegations, but both my social life and social media were ripe with jokes, discussions, and references to The Wire as we watched the world discover what we’d been dealing with all along.

Then, last Thursday Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair held a press conference in which he announced that his staff have recovered a tape featuring images “consistent with what has been described in the media.” This prompted Ford to finally admit that he had in fact smoked crack “in a drunken stupor,” but it did not prompt him to resign. Instead, true to form, he intends to run for re-election in 2014

Throughout all of this madness, there has been one person on my Facebook feed who has remained staunchly pro-Ford—or at least anti-anti-Ford: UFC welterweight Claude Patrick.

At first, I dismissed Claude’s posts as the rants and conspiracy theorizies of your stereotypical Ford Nation supporter, but I soon realized that there was more to them than that. Claude is far from a blowhard or right wing nutjob. In the short time I knew him as a trainer at my old MMA gym, Toronto BJJ, I found him to be smart and thoughtful. And though he sometimes resorts to playful trolling online--like when he argued that Ford could have been smoking tobacco in that now infamous pipe--he is just as likely to discuss the media’s coverage of the Ford spectacle with Noam Chomsky-like precision.

Fightland: How long have you been a Rob Ford supporter?
Claude Patrick: Rob Ford supporter? I wouldn’t quite pigeonhole myself as a Ford Nation fanatic. Too many people see politics as black and white. There are many who wouldn't give their starving infant child a drink if it came from Rob Ford, and that’s not the way I see it. More like Rob Ford has been clearly targeted by certain groups and he's been smart enough to point that out so loudly that the masses are now taking notice and painted him as the "lil’ guy underdog." And no one likes a bully.

What did you think when Gawker and The Toronto Star first reported that they had seen a video of Rob Ford smoking crack?
Truthfully, I figured it was quite possible. If you’re standing outside a "crackhouse" with a crack dealer smoking a pipe, it probably adds up to crack. Ford seems like a nice guy that means well but just got too carried away trying to be the “mayor of the streets.” I mean, its one thing to mingle amongst you constituents but probably unwise to hanging out with Pablo Escobar if he was in your area.

Throughout this scandal, have your opinions on the matter changed at all?
Nope. It’s not a scandal to me; it’s a circus. Ford detractors know if he makes it to the election he may win. Now with all this attention he's gonna win for sure. Total backfire.

On Facebook, you pointed out that there was no way to prove that Ford was smoking crack in the video. Can you elaborate on that?
First off, you have to understand Facebook is a joke to me. I’ll just jump online and rumble with them for a few minutes daily for sport. A bit of mental exercise, if you will. But on a real note, you cannot prove he was smoking crack because the crack pipe is gone. There is no physical evidence and that doesn’t fly in a court. Far worse offenders have gotten off on far smaller technicalities, and people are forgetting that.

So were you suprised last week when Ford finally admitted he did smoke crack. 
Come on, that shit was obvious from how long. It’s just the way the media went about it that sickened me. He’s like the modern-day JFK.

Does it matter to you that he smoked crack? Do you think it could have affected his performance?
[Laughs] Of course. But does it matter to you what drugs he does? Are you, the reader, real enough to admit that drugs are big business and a lot of people do them? Including lawyers, doctors, police, garbagemen, and politicians? I’m not in need of a hero or role model in elected officials, just someone who does the job. People are flawed and politicians are also people.

Crack smoke, drug deals, or not, however this pans out, my big wish is that these same media and Ford detractors take their heads out of the sand and apply even a little bit of this pressure on other pressing world issues. Just imagine what a nation we would be if people were even half this politically mobilized across the board when dealing with important issues.

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