Monday, January 16, 2006

Gus Macker tournament nearly leads to riot in London Ontario

People living in London are likely aware of the Gus Macker basketball tournament that takes place at least once a year in Victoria Park downtown. The three-on-three battle of testosterone which also attracts people from outside of the city, spills out into a few streets running alongside the park, which are closed to motorists for the duration of the two or three day tournament. As a motorist and former close occupant of the park, I've always found this dribble fest annoying. For days people wearing the most ridiculous clothes are bouncing balls on the sidewalks, strutting around like peacocks because they can throw a ball through a hoop in London Ontario. In general, I am able to ignore the whole thing, and my greatest bother is wondering how much the city contributes to the tournament.

Well, apparently there are other problems with the event and the city is considering changing the location of the tournament, and perhaps even shutting down the popular event after a "riot" nearly broke out last year.

City councillor Ab Chahbar arrived at last year's Gus Macker tournament to find a woman waving a knife at police, Victoria Park on the verge of a riot and two of his sons beaten to a pulp.

It was May 29, a day that might otherwise have been memorable to the Chahbars as the day the London Knights won the Memorial Cup.

Chahbar and his wife had been driving in a funeral procession when their daughter phoned from Victoria Park, telling them to come quickly.

They arrived to find their sons' faces bloodied and swelling while police struggled to control belligerents.

"A young lady from Port Huron was wielding a knife and kicking containers while three or four police tried to contain her," Chahbar recalled Friday.

"We narrowly averted a riot. There's absolutely no question. It was close," he said.
Thank goodness Ab Chahbar was there to save the day.
Witnesses told Chahbar his 20-year-old son had been officiating at a basketball game that included a team from Port Huron when half a dozen Michiganders jumped him.

When his oldest son, 24, tried to intervene and pull his brother to safety, the assailants turned on him too.

"His face was so swollen it was double its normal size and there was not a spot on his face that blood was not pouring from," Chahbar said.

[..] The Macker tournament had been a regular event for his children but no more, he said.

"Neither are going to the Macker again," he said.
An alternative to shutting the ego-fest down would be increased security to deal with London youths protesting the lack of social programs:
Tournament organizer Clyde Adkin says he has been angered and frustrated by the violence but hopes to hold the event in the park, possibly with the help of off-duty police.

[..] Adkin said last year's violence was largely the work of non-participants -- about 75 London teens who moved around the park, cellphones in hand, looking for trouble.

"If parents knew what their kids were doing they'd be shocked," he said.

Security staff spent so much time chasing troublemakers they had little time to keep tabs on the games when tempers flared.

The violence was so bad that parents from Michigan and New York told him they were appalled, he said.


Anonymous said...

I'm confused at the comments in this artical. I googled for the macker and london to find the website and saw this. I was with 4 teams from and the only violence that had seen was a local gang who had a team in the macker in the 15 year old division were notified by the police to watch out for them. And only one other time that someone locally went after a player from Port Huron with a club and hit him and the player form Port Huron when after him. I'm not sure if the council were at the same event as many of the people that I have commented about your article.

Anonymous said...

Well. i think that yes the violence was unncessary but maybe if there was actual security than maybe the kids wouldn't be out of hand....and for the matter of changeing the location.. i think that is a dumb idea just because some says that they find it annoying

Anonymous said...

Being a native of Port Huron, I can say that Victoria Park in London is one of the most beautiful places to soak up the sun and play or watch basketaball Memorial Day weekend - it would be a shame if they had to move the tournament for these isolated incidents. However, I can tell you that in recent years, the tournament has lost some of it's appeal as well as support due to very poor organization. Last year, we didn't even have a "Gus Buster" (person who watches over the court for rough play and keeps score of the games) at our court! It was out of hand to say the least. Nobody seemed to know what the hell was going on. This is how and why the fights and arguments break out. It is the Gus Mackers' organizational brain trust (or lack thereof) that is responsible for these incidents. They need to supply better supervision for the games or else it's just going to get worse. It's a shame too, because I have been to Mackers' all over the place, and London by far is the nicest and is the only one we still go to because of the hospitality of the city and it's entertainment.