I am a first-generation American. My parents speak perfect English, they understand the rules of baseball, they do not force me to enact odd folk rituals, but one of them was not born here. My mother is Canadian.
(My grandparents emigrated here when she was two; partially on the basis of a less-than-honest residency application, I’ve since learned, making us illegal immigrants. Sorry for taking your job.)
Yet despite my Canadian heritage, I here pronounce myself baffled by the violent behavior of Vancover Canucks fans Wednesday night, and by Canadian sports fans in general. Baffled, but a little impressed–especially by these two lovebirds.
In America, we burn cars and loot retail establishments when we win. It’s as if the euphoria of victory sends us back to our forest-burning, land-stealing colonial roots. I’ve never heard of American fans rioting when their team loses, no matter how enraging the defeat.
Take the Huskies’ 2006 NCAA tournament loss to UConn. A moronic foul, a lucky buzzer-beater, questionable refereeing, the second heartbreaker to the same team–if anyone had the right to a post-loss riot it was UW fans. But I sure didn’t hear of one, did you? I mean, my roommate David threw a garbage can down the stairs and chased a raccoon down the alley behind our house, but neither my ’99 Saturn nor the nearby Wireless Toyz store became a target of his rage.
And how about the Super Bowl XL loss? We all agreed, and head official Bill Leavy later confirmed, that referee incompetence cost us a world championship. Where was, as Bob Dole would say, the outrage? Confined to the comment section of local newspaper websites, as far as I can tell. I watched the game with three longtime friends, and our post-game response was to get drunk and watch a Steven Seagal movie. To forget. (And for some cooking tips.)
Maybe Canadians are just bigger sports fans. When American fans’ teams lose, we move on with our lives. Canadians, or at least Vancouverians, are too hardcore for that.
Canadians’ continued support of the NHL goes beyond loyalty. The league has, to talk Canadian, “hosed” that nation, yanking two teams out of Canada in the 1990s while adding teams for such dedicated hockey fanatics as the citizens of Nashville, Phoenix and Miami. You know how deep the hatred runs if you watched the post-game ceremony Wednesday, when Vancouver fans booed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as lustily as David Stern would be at a Sonicsgate screening. And yet they still come out to games.
Impressive dedication, and also impressive intelligence. Take Canadians’ attitude toward college sports. There isn’t one. Hockey’s the national sport of Canada, right? Well, here was the attendance for the 2010 national championship game at the highest level of Canadian university hockey: 3,770.
Here in the U.S., the NCAA Division III lacrosse championship drew more than 18,000 fans.
We’re addicted to college sports here, despite the fact that big time college athletic programs are as reliably corrupt as Congress. (Canada is the sixth-least corrupt country in the world) We agree that athletes are exploited, that universities often prioritize sports over academics, and yet we still watch. I still watch.
What if my family didn’t leave Canada. My nights would be filled with deeply felt passion for the world’s most fast-paced team sport. My fall Saturdays would be completely free. Then again, I don’t have comprehensive coverage on my Saturn, so maybe I’m better off here.