Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Upset mom spurs duelling Banjo Bowl stories

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As most of you can appreciate, I am not accustomed to being the recipient of a lot of fan mail. But this batch -- emails that started early Thursday morning and went on until late the same night -- were from a different variety of fan.

Football fans.

And most of them were not fans of what prompted their responses; a column about an incident before Sunday's Banjo Bowl game when an eight-year-old Winnipeg boy in a Saskatchewan Roughriders sweater was reduced to tears when he was yelled at by a Bomber fan who told him to get back to his seat when all he was trying to do was get close to his team as they ran out on the field. To make sure his message was loud and clear the blowhard, as I called him, reportedly used a blowhorn fans had been given, presumably, to make things loud and uncomfortable for the opposing team, not their supporters.

When the little boy, Hugh Montgomery, returned to his seat and told his mother what happened, Jodi Montgomery reacted the way mother bears do and went looking for the guy who "bullied" her son. That was the word Hugh used later to describe how he felt after being yelled at.

As for how the blowhard felt...

"I'm the fan that did this and it is blown way out of proportion," Jason Paseska responded via email. "The kid was 'asked' to sit down. Security is usually there to tell people NOT to stand there and the kid couldn't handle it and cried. If you are going to opposing territory with other colours on expect some banter."

Banter?

Then the 29-year-old got into his side of what subsequently happened. "The lady came storming down the stairs accusing everyone and then shoved the horn they were giving out at the game into my face. They are hardly the victim here."

Jason added this: "My objective was NOT to make anyone cry. The Bombers created a family section for a reason. If everyone just sat in the seat they were assigned this wouldn't have been a problem."

So that's Jason's side of the story.

But the man's 27-year-old girlfriend had something to say in the defence of the father of their child. Yes, Jason is the father of a three-month-old boy. And Jason's "an avid Bomber fan, longtime season-ticket holder and I am proud to sit by him at games," Taryn Scanlon, wrote. "He is enthusiastic, loud and funny, but in no way is he a bully. As his girlfriend I am definitely the first to let him know when he is wrong but in this case the only wrongdoing was when Mrs. Montgomery decided to hit this blowhorn into his face."

Taryn continued: "I am truly sorry her son got upset, but this situation was just nonsense... It was not hurtful in any way."

Not harmful in any way?

Among the other emails, including some about other ugly incidents between Bombers fans and Riders fans, there was one from an independent witness who found fault on both sides. Kristen Laxdal was sitting one row back and heard the man yell at the boy.

"He yelled 'get out of the way' several times and the boy did well up in tears."

Kristen then reported something that Taryn later acknowledged. That Taryn said "sorry" to the boy and tried to get him to return.

"But the damage was done."

Kristen said she wanted to be clear she wasn't condoning Jason's behaviour. She called yelling at an eight-year-old boy "mean, thoughtless and inappropriate. And being a parent herself, Kristen said she empathized with Jodi's "need to stand up for her son."

"Unfortunately, her judgment was equally (or arguably more) inappropriate than his. The real lesson here is that both parties acted impulsively and both parties should be ashamed of their behaviour that day."

With that in mind, I asked Taryn if she and Jason would consider meeting with Hugh and his mother in a safe setting. Maybe both sides could get a better understanding of the other side's perspective. Maybe both sides, particularly the boy who felt bullied, would feel better.

"Unfortunately we don't believe a sit-down would be beneficial to either party... We are sorry Hugh and his mother feel the way they do, but it was their choice to overreact."

I should close with another email that arrived, coincidentally, with all the "fan" mail. It was from the Canadian Football League and it began:

"The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will move to the West Division of the Canadian Football League in 2014, league announced today."

Oh, joy. More games between the Riders and the Bombers. And more opportunity for rival football fans to exchange even more "banter." Please don't remind me what I'll be missing.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 B1

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