Friday, November 27, 2009

The National Party

It’s Grey Cup Weekend in Canada. And for the second time in three years, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, my home town team, Saskatchewan’s team and (to the eternal chagrin of the Toronto Maple Leaf’s marketing machine) Canada’s team is vying for football supremacy.

We won in 2007. Last year we don’t talk about. And this year, the prevailing wisdom is that we’ll have our asses handed to us by the grid-iron juggernaut known as the Montreal Alouettes.

None of that matters. What matters is that we all have an all-inclusive ticket to what replaces New Year’s Eve as the biggest party in Canada. 

This morning, a friend in Moose Jaw (Yes, international visitors, such a place exists) sent me this aerial photo of Saskatchewan residents heading for the big game in Calgary.

rider rush

Meanwhile, another friend, already arrived in Cow town, sent this picture of the burger place across the street from her motel.


Ah, Western Canadians! Plain spoken and always a little Rough(rider) around the edges.

The annual East-West contest has been engaged. And fear not for those of the Alouette persuasion who will soon descend on Calgary in their own thousands. They’ll give as good as they get and receive the same all-access party passes. And then a fabulous time will be had by all.

There will be parades, fancy dress soirees, all night-parties that end in street breakfasts served from Chuck wagons. Horses will be ridden through hotel lobbies. Cops will kiss cheerleaders. Stetsons will mingle with Habitant toques and people whose first language isn’t either English or French will argue over the point spread.

“Montreal by 9 and a half! Oh, I definitely want a piece of that!”

But in the end, our National Party, Grey Cup Weekend, is not about where you’re from and who you root for. It’s about celebrating being Canadian and being a part of a sport that isn’t played anywhere else but here and yet stirs passions from coast to coast to coast.

And like all things truly Canadian, passion means more when it includes a generous portion of FUN.

As of last night, Safeway, Western Canada’s largest supermarket chain, was rushing 10,000 watermelons to Calgary to provide Rider fans with their required game-day headgear.

rider melon

Instructions for creating your own at home can be found here.

After two weeks of listening to the masters of Canadian mainstream media speaking to the CRTC and declaiming that Canadians have little interest in supporting things Canadian, local and otherwise Not-American, the highest television ratings for the week will be achieved by featuring a prairie backwater and an English minority city better known for Hockey dynasties and F-1 Racing.

Those ratings will also come via a cable sports network (TSN) that doesn’t enjoy anywhere near the audience penetration of any of our national over the air broadcasters.

Since TSN is also owned by CTV, it makes you wonder what kind of Local TV payday could have been realized had company management chose to provide their potential Sunday night audience with the Grey Cup Game instead of “The Amazing Race”, “Desperate Housewives” and a repeat episode of “CSI: Miami”.

And in a curious turn where football life imitates Canadian Arts, one of the major stories coming out of this year’s Grey Cup is also about Canadians trying to come to the fore.

In a league that has mandated a maximum of 20 Canadian players on any team’s 42 man roster, this year’s final will feature more Canadian starting players than ever before. During the season, 10 of the 12 Saskatchewan players on the field at any time carried a Canadian passport and Montreal wasn’t far behind.

I’m told both teams had to trade Canadian talent they didn’t want to lose to other teams in order to meet the league quota.

Isn’t it interesting that TV isn’t the only Canadian industry where the guys in charge think the product has to be imported in order to be good or attract an audience?

And isn’t it even more interesting that despite proof that they’re wrong, the guys who run things don’t learn?

Maybe it’s really only a very small group of Canadians who suffer from our supposed National Inferiority Complex.

The rest of us are apparently already enjoying the National Party – and without even having to be told it’s good for us – or that we have to pay more to get it!


Dwight Williams said...

The non pareil of wrong-headedness.

There are no other words.

Anonymous said...

Go Gang Green!!!

DMc said...

Blah blah east Blah-diddy-blah.

It's gonna be nice to see Montreal hand you your (candy) asses.