Romance in a Time of Troubles

Chase Ruttenberg, Feb 12 2017.

The Sound.

The Undertones’ 1978 punk classic Teenage Kicks begins like an abrupt explosion, similar to an IRA bomb in Belfast during The Troubles, with the whole band starting simultaneously into the opening riff that carries the song for the entirety of its 2 minutes and 26 seconds. The descending guitar riff is very simple, and slightly distorted with a trace of reverb that contributes to the song’s rough and raw timbre. Lead singer Feargal Sharkey then chimes in with the iconic opening line, “Teenage dreams, so hard to beat…” that legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel used as his epitaph. Sharkey’s snarky, punk delivery of his lyrics, as well as his regional Northern Irish accent, immediately highlight the singer’s style as truly unique. The song follows a rudimentary verse-chorus form that emanates the band’s punk pioneer influences, such as The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks. As the first verse transitions into the chorus, Sharkey sings “I wanna hold her / Wanna hold her tight…” signifying a sense of romance and nostalgia that one wouldn’t expect from punk music of the time. After the song cycles through another verse and chorus, Sharkey then delivers, in his thick Belfast accent, a line that would resonate much more with the typical 70s punk: “I need excitement, Oh I need it bad!” The idea of a release from the boredom of everyday life was central in the set of punk ideals, and such a sentiment was way more common than the sensuality conveyed in the overall theme of the song. As Pitchfork writer Judy Berman writes in her blurb on Teenage Kicks in Pitchfork’s “200 Best Songs of the 1970s”: “The (Northern) Irish band’s enthusiastic slobber of a debut single surrendered wholeheartedly to the basic human urges most British punks either attacked or ignored.” (Berman 3) The bridge into the final chorus consists of a short and fast guitar solo that contrasts low power chords with more high-pitched notes and frequencies. Then, Feargal Sharkey interjects one last time: “I wanna hold her / Wanna hold her tight / Get teenage kicks right through the night!” The distinctive romantic nuances in the lyrics of Teenage Kicks, combined with the slight distortive effects, and angst more commonly associated with punk music, makes it a seminal track for the evolution of the entire British punk scene, as well as “an unparalleled encapsulation of youth.” (Berman 3)

The Context.

Void of context, Teenage Kicks would be remembered as just a catchy, pop-punk song about adolescent desire. But it is the ominous context of The Troubles that make the song so important in the history of punk music. “The Troubles” is the name given to the decades long conflict between the Irish Catholics and the Northern Irish Protestants that climaxed with violence in the 1970s. Belfast experienced more violence than any other area during this time: “Over the course of The Troubles, Belfast proved, unsurprisingly, to be the epicenter of all violence. Of the 3528 to die in The Troubles, 1540 died in Belfast.” (Sanders and Wood 42) Moreover, Belfast was the epicenter of the Northern Irish punk scene in the late 1970s, coinciding with, but separate from, the outbreak of violence. During times of political and social instability, punk music tends to thrive, and although the punks rarely commented directly on the affairs of The Troubles, their music provided an outlet of expression for the adolescents who were faced with violence on a daily basis. Celebrated Godfather of Northern Irish punk Terri Hooley was one of the few to see the inanity of the conflicts that pitted friends and neighbors against each other. His record shop Good Vibrations was located on what was known as the most bombed street in Europe, but it was his passion and love for music that stoked the fire that became the booming Belfast punk scene. Hooley signed bands such as Rudi, The Undertones and The Outcasts to his label, and travelled with them to perform gigs all across both Northern Ireland and the Republic. These bands often had some members who identified as Catholics and some Protestants, but they did not care about politics, they only cared about the music. The widespread acceptance preached by Hooley to the younger musicians helped cultivate the scene, and through their music, youths across Ireland were able to feel an unprecedented collectivity of acceptance, freedom and rebellion in a time of tragedy. (Hooley 169) As Martin McCloone articulates in his article “Punk Music in Northern Ireland: The Political Power of ‘What Might’ve Been,’” the punk uprising in Northern Ireland “symbolized the attempt to forge an alternative politics by the province’s severely bored, annoyed and disaffected youth.” (McCloone 34)

The Affect.

Boredom, annoyance and disaffection were central themes in the kinds of people that were drawn to the first wave of punk music, which gave those adolescents something to bond over, as well as a platform to rebel against the establishment. The Northern Irish punk movement, however, had the additional ability to affect its listeners through not just the typical punk elements, but through a kind of release from the fear and uncertainty of their lives during The Troubles. The Undertones and Teenage Kicks, in particular, allowed for listeners to achieve this release in a few different, and very effective ways. First, the song, and The Undertones’ entire sound, adheres to the stylistic sonic properties of punk music, so it appeals to the typical punk demographic who seek loud and energetic, songs to help express their emotional angst and anxiety about societies traditional customs. Second, the lyrical content of Teenage Kicks appeal exceptionally to the adolescents of Northern Ireland, who may feel as though everyday normalcy has been robbed from their life by the ongoing danger and violence in the streets. What better way to achieve a release from this fear, stress and anxiety than by listening to Feargal Sharkey lustfully longing for a local girl, thus romanticizing the relationships and emotions of everyday teenaged/young adult Northern Irish people who may feel as though their individual lives and problems are overshadowed by The Troubles. And finally, the ultimate means of expressive release is the live show. Seeing a live performance by The Undertones, The Outcasts, Rudi or any number of similar bands would allow a punk to truly experience the outlet they seek in music with other who share the same sentiments. The feeling of camaraderie and affective overdrive achieved from attending a raw and energetic punk concert is unparalleled and allows to one forget about their troubles… even if their troubles are The Troubles.


In Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, Iggy Pop explains the true impact and importance of punk music, as he states: “I heard other people who could make good music without being any good at music. It gave me hope.” (McNeil 18) This quote highlights the fact that the real significance lies not within the musical qualities themselves, but within the hope that the music represented. Punk music ignored the traditional qualities that made music “good” and flipped them upside down. Thus proving that a song like The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks can be just as emotionally affective, if not more so, than even classically beautiful works like Schubert’s Serenade, or Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.


Works Cited:

Berman, Judy “The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s.”Pitchfork. Pitchfork, 22 Aug. 2016. Web. 12  Feb. 2017.

Hooley, Terri, and Richard Sullivan. Hooleygan: Music, Mayhem and Good Vibrations. Belfast: Blackstaff, 2010. Print.

McLoone, Martin. “Punk Music in Northern Ireland: The Political Power of ‘what might have been’.” Irish Studies Review 12.1 (2004): 29-38. Web. 8 Feb. 2017.

McNeil, Legs. Please Kill Me The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. New York: Grove Press, 1996. Print.

Sanders, Andrew, and Ian S. Wood. Times of troubles: Britain’s war in Northern Ireland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh U Press, 2012. Print.


Life After Basketball

IMG_9575.JPGOne of the most moving experiences I had during my time as a basketball coach for the Lawrence Park CI Senior Boys Basketball team didn’t happen on the court or during a game, it happened in the locker room. After a very successful season, which included the schools first playoff victory in roughly five years, there were many emotions in the locker room after a hard fought loss to end the season, and for many of the seniors, the end of their basketball career. It was a unique experience for me to see these moments from a different perspective, as I have been there 2, or maybe even 3 times before: My last ever high school game, my last time representing the province of British Columbia at Nationals, and my last ever U SPORTS game that signalled the end of my basketball career. I vividly remember the intense flurry of emotions, mostly sadness but with some positivity mixed in thanks to the rush of great memories that came back to me in those moments. Thanks to my own personal experience, I felt that I was in a good position to offer these student-athletes support and encouragement having been there before, and as I talked to them in that locker room there was a tangible shift in mood in the room. Sharing my experiences, which I have had the time to reflect on and gain as much wisdom and consolation as possible from these moments, I was able to share this positivity with them and immediately all the sunken heads and faces buried in jerseys turned into heads held high and a room full of kids proud of what they had accomplished and reflecting on the incredible journey that they have just been on together that they will never forget for the rest of their lives. As a former student-athlete turned teacher-coach, this was one of the most profound teachable moments for me, more so than any moment I have had in the classroom. To have these kids in such an emotional setting be able to be so reflective on their experiences and take all the positive lessons and moments they have learned and see the bright side and the lessons of an experience that can feel so devastating is the greatest kind of critical thinking and well-roundedness a teacher can hope to inspire within their students. While some of these kids may never play competitive sports at any level again, they will take everything they have learned and apply it to be able to become better people in whatever they choose to pursue and wherever their passions, interests, and talents take them. I know because I was them not too long ago. And I take those experiences, emotions, skills and memories with me wherever I go.

Congratulations to the 2018-19 LPCI Panthers Senior Boys Basketball Team on an amazing season and best of luck with whatever you choose to do next!

  • Coach Chase

The Importance of High School Sports

As an athlete, my goal was always to take my sport to the highest level I possibly could, therefore, no matter the level I was currently at, I always had my sights set on the future. Although I never gave anything less than 100% effort, I knew that there were more important things ahead. In hindsight, I now see what I perhaps didn’t fully realize at the time, and that is just how important high school basketball was in my life. At the time I viewed it simply as a stepping stone to get me onto a university basketball team and in my mind that is where my journey would truly begin. Little did I know, my time as an athlete at Sentinel Secondary School in West Vancouver had already been playing a huge role in shaping my character and developing myself as a man.

Now, as I have moved on from my competitive playing days and into coaching high school basketball at Lawrence Park, I truly realize the impact that playing high school sports had on me, not just as an athlete, but as a student and as a person, and I am starting to see the impact it has on all my players as well. I had the chance to be with the team at a tournament at Earl Haig that lasted the whole day, and seeing the team playing, hanging out all day in between games, watching the other teams play from the stands, and going for lunch at local restaurants really took me back to the good ole days. I started to think about my old teammates, many of whom are still some of my best friends to this day, the hilarious stories we still cry laughing about to this day, the long days spent at tournaments like this one, and the intense battles we shared on the court, sometimes ending in triumph, sometimes in heartbreak. I also thought of my coach who has supported me to this day since way back in grade 9, through all the highs and lows of my career, and even now on my way to a career in teaching/coaching just like him. No matter how great my time at the University of Toronto was, and how high the level of basketball was, or the intense bond me and my teammates shared, my time at Sentinel was just as amazing and just as formative. Because I was lucky enough to play sports at university, I had the tendency classify high school sports as lesser and I under-appreciated its value. Now, since I am coaching seeing first-hand the value and impact that being a part of team has on these student’s lives, I believe that it is actually more important than high-level sports as its reach is far greater as so many more students have access to this opportunity. The character that is being built, the unbreakable lasting bonds, the mentorship and the incredible journey that is being shared through sport is one of the most valuable experiences that a person can have during those difficult high school years. The skills gained from being a part of a team are also extremely valuable in the long term, such as teamwork, communication, leadership and problem solving (almost a direct quote from my resume).

Those who dedicate their lives to high school sports are some of the most important pillars of our communities, as they influence and shape the lives of countless young students. That is why I hope to dedicate as much of my time as possible to the youth sports community wherever I end up living and working, because I know firsthand the incredible impact these people can have on the lives of the student-athletes. Even though the position of coach can often be a tough one, such as in the position of making cuts to potentially leave some students without the amazing opportunity to be a part of something so special, it is worth it in the long run as the chance to have such a great impact is incredibly rare. An example of the tough situations coaches are put in when selecting teams with more people trying out than spots available on the team happened to me during tryouts for the LP team. We were down to one final spot between 2 guys, and the final spot on the roster is more or less trivial as the 15th man on the team probably won’t see any meaningful playing time, but still the decision was a tough one. It was between a grade 12 senior with a lot of friends on the team, who definitely wouldn’t play, or a grade 11 who showed decent potential but just wasn’t good enough yet. So the decision came down to this: Do we give the spot to the grade 12, allowing him to have one last run with the boys to cap off his high school experience, or give it to the grade 11 who could develop and potentially be an asset to the team next year or could decide to give up on the sport altogether if he got cut. In the end, this moral dilemma was irrelevant as we ended up cutting both of them (LOL) and choosing to carry only 14 players. It still makes me sad to think about those who got cut when I realize just much fun it is to be a part of a high school basketball team, but then again it also occurs to me that although sports have been basically my whole life, it is not quite as big a deal for other people, and that gives me some solace.

Although high school sports have such a positive impact on the community, it is not without problems or controversy, as politics are usually play a huge role at the higher levels, and oftentimes participation levels suffer as students already have so much on their plate. The Superintendent of West Vancouver School District Chris Kennedy, who is a role model of mine in the education field (youngest superintendent in Canada; was a principle by 30), often writes in his blog about high school sports, and these posts usually go viral, showing just how much people care about this subject. He has many great ideas for youth sports, including ways to increase participation and ideas for restructuring the way these sports are implemented. His blog is definitely worth a follow, and since my delve into the education world, I have been keeping up with him and the development of the West Vancouver School District which is definitely one of the most innovative in the nation.

Here is his post on increasing participation:

And on the restructuring of youth basketball:

Overall, I love being able to share whatever expertise I seem to think I have with the young athletes, and seeing them implement my coaching into real game situations makes me very happy. Perhaps my involvement in school sports as a coach comes from a place of selfishness, not wanting to let go of my glory days and move on from my basketball career, but even so, I know from experience just how huge of an impact high school sports has had on my life and the lives of many others, so whatever the motive, I am thankful to be able to coach these kids and help give them an opportunity to experience everything I was so lucky to experience through the sport of basketball.






5 Things I’ve Learned Coaching Basketball (You Won’t Believe #3!)

For my Service Learning Project I have been helping coach the Senior Boys Basketball Team at Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, the school in which I was placed for my first ever teaching practicum. The following is a list of the top 5 most important things I’ve learned (so far) about myself, my players, and coaching in relation to teaching:

1. I Really Miss Playing Basketball.

Most of my life up to this point has been dedicated to the sport of basketball. The countless hours spent practising on my own or with my team, watching game-film, and hanging out with my teammates… I didn’t realize it at the time but that is when I was truly happy. Now that I have graduated and I’m officially retired from competitive basketball, I am left with a crushing emptiness in my life, a hole that was filled by being part of a team and working towards a common goal of getting better and winning. I guess I was drawn to want to coach this team because I was looking for a sense of fulfillment that I have yet to find anywhere else, and even though I am just an assistant coach, I still feel as though I am a part of the team. Watching them play games or running them through drills at practise is fun and I like seeing them get better, or make good plays on the court, but at the end of every game or practise I am left with an overwhelming sadness and nostalgia for the times when I was the one out on the court everyday.

2. I’m More Comfortable On the Court Than In the Classroom.

This one makes sense if you think about it logically. Although I am in teacher’s college aspiring to become a teacher, I have really only been teaching for less than a month, whereas I have been around the game of basketball for almost 15 years. I don’t think I lack confidence in any aspect of life, and teaching was no different, but I feel like I am a completely different animal once I get on the basketball court. My level of expertise in the sport allows me to really assert myself and unleash my true personality. I had some students in my classes that are also on the basketball team and I think it’s safe to say that they were surprised to see the person I was on the court vs. the person I was in the classroom. This definitely stems from me feeling more in my element in a sporting environment, but I will strive to bring this version of myself into the classroom as I get more experienced because I feel like that is my true self.

3. My Experience in the Sport Commands Respect.

The team at Lawrence Park is pretty good and has several experienced players in leadership positions, so it easily could have been a rough time volunteering to help coach them. But once I shared my level of experience playing basketball at a high-level and demonstrated to them that I knew what I was talking about, I felt like I gained their respect right away. My Ethos allowed me to assert myself into the situation and opened up a great teaching/learning relationship that was beneficial to all parties involved. If I were helping out with another sport, perhaps I would take more of a backseat approach and just fill up water bottles and help with basic drills, but with my expertise in the sport, I feel as though I can really share my knowledge and utilize my experience to help make the team, and each individual player better.

4. I Made the Right Choice In Teaching I/S.

I also coach a U9 boys and girls basketball team at a local private school and the difference between my two teams is really representative of the differences I considered when deciding between Junior, Intermediate and Senior grade levels when it comes to teaching. Sure, it’s fun playing games with the little 8 and 9 year olds, especially when I let them try to score on me and just block their shots as hard as I can, and sure they are insanely cute, but it’s just so tiresome for what feels like a light-to-no impact. I have real experience seeing this on the basketball court, and I feel like it translates similarly into the classroom. With the senior boys, obviously it’s much more advanced, and I can share and implement my more complex ideas and principles while seeing immediate impact and improvement. But with the young kids, I have been trying for weeks now to get them to listen and to not hurt each other while playing Octopus… It’s fun, but I really am not sure if they are learning anything at all since there is no evidence. Pat on the back to myself for making good decisions!

5. I Might Really Like Coaching as a Career.

While currently I am trying to enter the teaching profession, I have learned by coaching the team at Lawrence Park that coaching might be a legitimate career option for me upon graduation. When I look back at the coaches I’ve had over the years, there are certainly many who have had a tremendous impact on my development into the man I am today (for better or worse!), similar to the many great teachers that I have had. The parallels between the two positions are extensive, and with my passion for basketball, alongside my self-proclaimed expertise, I feel as though I probably have more to offer as a basketball coach than as a teacher. I look at the my old coaches and see places where I can both derive from their philosophies and differ from them in a way that I think could really benefit players. If this whole teaching thing doesn’t work out, perhaps I could consider a career as a basketball coach…but maybe that’s just me being stuck in the glory days!