To Be Canadian Is To Be Toronto

November 6, 2018 § Leave a comment

There is a disturbing trend in Toronto sports for the franchises of the self-proclaimed ‘Centre of the Universe’ to brand themselves as the ultimate Canadian franchise.  Of course, this should not be surprising, since Toronto hasn’t realized there is a huge country out there, and that, in reality, it only makes up around 16% of the population of the nation.  But don’t tell Toronto that.

The Toronto media has a long history of denigrating the rest of the country.  I stopped reading the Globe and Mail about 10 years ago when I realized that about the only time there was news about Vancouver, Calgary, or Montréal was when it was bad news or something to mock the cities about (this, of course, coming from a city that once called out the military to deal with a bit of snow and had Rob Ford as mayor).

But to suggest the Toronto sporting franchises as the Canadian teams is, well, ridiculous and insulting.  The NBA Raptors a few years ago used the slogan #WeTheNorth as part of its marketing campaign.  This, though, feels the least insulting to me in that the Raptors are the only Canadian NBA team, and the only other Canadian NBA team, the Vancouver Grizzlies died an ignominious death in 2001.

And, to be fair, the CFL Argonauts and MLS TFC haven’t seemed to get the memo, but that’s probably because no one cares about either one anyway.

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But it’s the MLB Blue Jays and the NHL Maple Leafs who take the cake.  The Blue Jays have created a cap that features nothing but the Canadian maple leaf on it.  The message here is that any good Canadian must cheer for the Blue Jays.  But the thing is, it’s not this simple.  Until 2004, Montréal had its Expos.  The Expos were killed off by MLB and moved to Washington, DC., so this remains somewhat of a sore spot.  But Down East, Canadians are just as likely, if not more so, to cheer for the Boston Red Sox than the Jays.  And out West, the Seattle Mariners and the Bay Area teams are also popular.  And in Montréal, the Red Sox are the most popular team.

Then there’s the Maple Leafs.  Sure, their name and their logo.  But those go back nearly 90 years.  So they get a pass on that (as an aside, the Canadiens de Montréal are so-known because the peasants of French-era Québec were called Canadiens, or Habitants, thus, the Habs).  But EA Sports, Adidas (which makes NHL uniforms) and all of the so-called Original Six teams created interesting new jerseys for EA Sports’ NHL ’19.

They almost all suck and are pointless, but you just know that they will eventually be the third jerseys of the teams, though the Chicago Blackhawks jersey looks like their third jersey already.  The Maple Leafs’ however, is a blatant rip off of the legendary Team Canada jersey, made famous by the victorious Canadians in the 1972 Summit Series.

 

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The difference, of course, is that the Maple Leafs’ version is blue instead of red:

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So, yeah, this is for a video game and it’s not realty.  Yet.  And sure you’re thinking I’m getting worked up about something that isn’t important.  The thing is, it is.  Jerseys, caps, hoodies, etc., these are all part of the marketing campaigns of the franchises and the leagues they play in.

And when Toronto clubs monopolize and capitalize on Canadian images and icons for their marketing campaigns, they are doing several things.  First, they are cheapening our national symbols and icons (as an aside, remember when the RCMP licensed its images to Disney for marketing purposes and the outcry it created?).  Second, they are changing the national discourse about what it means to be Canadian, just as Molson attempted to in the 90s with the Joe Canada commercials, which suggested to drink Molson Canadian was to make oneself Canadian.  That’s what the Raptors, Jays, and Leafs are doing here: to cheer for them is to be Canadian.

In the case of baseball, again, we have divided loyalties.  We do for basketball, too.  All my friends in Montréal cheer for the Boston Celtics, and out in Vancouver, it’s the LA Lakers, Chicago Bulls or Golden State Warriors.  But hockey is something else.  There are seven NHL franchises in Canada.  Three of them have variations on Canada and our nationality in their names (Canucks, Maple Leafs, Canadiens).  One shamelessly ripped of the Royal Canadian Air Force in its marketing and logo (Winnipeg Jets).  But none of this reaches the ridiculousness of the EA Sports Maple Leafs’ jersey.

And so we’re back to the idea that to be in Toronto is to be Canadian and to hell with the rest of the nation, you know, the 84% of us who don’t live in Toronto.

The Halifax Explosions?

February 1, 2018 § 4 Comments

The Canadian Football League has long sought to add a 10th team in the Maritimes.  To do so would be to make the CFL actually national.  But, the CFL has also had to deal with some serious instability with its franchises in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa, especially, over the past 30 years.  Ottawa is currently on its third (as far as I can count) franchise since the 1980s.  The Rough Riders folded in 1996.  They were replaced by Ottawa Renegades; this franchise only lasted from 2002 to 2006.  Currently, the REDBLACKS play in the nation’s capital.  Meanwhile, down the 417 in Montreal, the original Alouettes folded in 1982; they were replaced by the Concordes, who only lasted until 1986.  After that, Montreal was devoid of Canadian football until the Baltimore Stallions were forced out of that city by the relocation of the original Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1995.  The Baltimore team moved to Montreal.  Meanwhile, the Argonauts have never ceased operations, but they have been a basket case in terms of stability and presence in the city most of my adult life.  So, in other words, expansion to the Maritimes has not exactly been on the front burner.  But that’s changed recently, and reports state that not only is there an ownership group in Halifax, but there is will at CFL headquarters.

Personally, I’d love to see a Halifax CFL team.  This would both make the league truly national, it would also speak to the deep popularity of Canadian football in the Maritimes.  The universities of the Maritimes have a long and deep tradition of Canadian football.  And just like the Alouettes and the REDBLACKS (in French, the ROUGENOIRS) have offered a professional career to many French-Canadian football players emerging from Quebec’s college teams, a Halifax team could do the same.

It is unclear what the team would be called, and so, social media (as well as Halifax’s media in general) is full of speculation, and a bevy of names have been proposed.  Last week, a fan art Twitter account, dedicated to this proposed team, suggested that perhaps the team could be called the Explosions, in a tweet:

Uh, yeah. No.  The Halifax Explosion occurred on the morning of 6 December 1917, when a Norwegian ship collided with a French cargo ship, the Mont-Blanc, in the Halifax Harbour.  The French ship was carrying explosives and war munitions (this was the middle of the First World War, after all) and caught fire after the collision.  The fire ignited the cargo, which then exploded.  It devastated a large chunk of Halifax.  Nearly every building within a kilometre radius was destroyed.  A pressure wave accompanying the explosion snapped tress, grounded vessels in the harbour, and devastated iron rails.  The remnants of the Mont-Blanc were found several kilometres away.  Nearly every window in the city was broken.  The city of Dartmouth lies across the harbour from Halifax.  It suffered extensive damage.  The Mi’kmaq First Nation, near Dartmouth, was destroyed by a tsunami caused by the explosion.

The blast was the largest human-made explosion prior to the advent of nuclear weapons.  It released the equivalent of 2.9 kilotons of TNT.  Think about that for a second. Of all the blasts of bombs and munitions in war prior to 6 and 9 August 1945, the Halifax Explosion was the greatest one ever caused by humans.  It killed over 2,000 people and injured nearly 10,000 more, out of a population of around 95,000.

In short, the Halifax Explosion destroyed the City of Halifax.  So suggesting a CFL team be called the Explosions is flat out disrespectful and idiotic.  Shame on @CFLinHalifax for even suggesting it.  Since this initial tweet on Monday, the people behind the account have doubled down in their idiocy.

Meanwhile, the CFL and the proposed Halifax ownership group have had to put out press releases distancing themselves from @CFLinHalifax.

Football and CTE

November 27, 2017 § 3 Comments

This past weekend was Grey Cup weekend in Canada.  The Toronto Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders met at TD Place Stadium in the Nation’s Capital.  The Argos won 27-24 in another classic.  In the lead up to the game, Canadian Football League Commissioner Randy Ambrosie declared that ‘we don’t know‘ if there is a connection between CTE and football.  Around this time last year, the former CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said the same thing and was roundly criticized.  Ambrosie is being suitably raked over the coals.

But here’s the thing, Ambrosie should know better.  He is a former CFL player himself, he was a lineman for the Stampeders, Argonauts, and Edmonton Eskimos (why no one protests this name is beyond me).  Ironically, he retired due to injuries.  And he should know about the damage done to his own body by the game.  I am certainly aware of what football did to my body, between the cranky knees, shoulders, and, of course, the concussions (added to, of course, by hockey, where I played goalie).

More to the point, it looks pretty damn likely that there is a connection between football and CTE.  This is just media one story from this past summer (out of many) that reports on a study that found that 88% of brains donated by now-deceased former football players had some form of CTE.  CTE was also more prevalent in former professional players, as compared, to, say, high school players.

This is not complete proof positive of the link between football and CTE because CTE can only be diagnosed after death, and so far, studies have concluded nothing more than the commonality of the disease being present in the brains of former football players, as opposed to those who did not play.  But this isn’t a direct proof.  But, recent research has found that it may be possible to determine the presence of CTE in the brains of the living.   This may allow researchers to positively correlate football and CTE.

But, we are not there yet.  Nonetheless, Ambrosie’s comments are asinine at best, recklessly dangerous at worst.  And, either way, profoundly stupid.

The CFL has done a lot of good to reduce the stress on players’ bodies, from adding a 3rd bye-week during the season to banning full-contact practices.  But, it is still the subject of a class-action lawsuit focusing on brain damage (in this light, Ambrosie’s comments make some sense, but the better thing to have done would’ve been to deflect the question).

But Ambrosie’s statements last week threaten to undo that.  We should all expect better from the Canadian Football League.

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