Friday, June 24, 2011

"Imagination, Eh? (Doesn't Seem Very Practical)"

I take no joy in criticizing my country of origin, but there is persuasive evidence around, suggesting that my beloved home and native land is seriously lacking in imagination.

Not all kinds of imagination, I must disclaim off the top. In the “imagination that leads to discovery” category, Canada holds a back seat to no one. We did invent insulin, don’t forget. I know it was 1923, but, as far as I know, there is no statute of limitations on tooting your own horn about life-saving discoveries, managed by jabbing a needle in your arm every day. That one holds up.

What I am talking about are frivolities. It is highly unlikely Canada could have invented the Slinky or the Hula Hoop. That, for better or worse, is not us.

In the “Frivolity” department, Canadians apparently have a recessive gene of “fun.” “Fun” is quintessentially American. Not necessarily because Americans like fun, but because they know that “fun” invariably arrives conjoined to its jingly Siamese Twin – “profit.” And “America” is “profit” spelled backwards. Not really, but wouldn’t it be amazing if it was?

“The Voice of the Lord hath spoken in our spelling.”

Evidence that Canada is deficient in the “Frivolity” sub-section of “Imagination”:

I have mentioned elsewhere that the game of basketball, invented in Canada, flamed out as a popular sport when Canadians, employing peach baskets for baskets, refused to cut out the bottoms, fearing the ruination of two perfectly good peach baskets. This resulted in all the games inevitably ending with a score of “two-to-nothing.” (After the first basket, the ball didn’t come out, and the game was over.)

The preceding story may have been made up, but, the following, sad to say, is not.

In 1967, Canada got a new flag. What’s on it? A leaf. How’s that for imagination? It’s like a a guy was heading over to the “flag design” committee meeting, spotted a leaf on the ground, and said,

“What aboot that?”

And the proposal met with resounding approval.

“A leaf. That’ll do just fine.”

Speaking of leafs – he ingeniously segued – Toronto has a much revered hockey team, called the Toronto Maple Leafs. When I was a boy, before the Blue Jays, Toronto served as the home of a minor league baseball team. The name of that Triple “A” franchise?

The Toronto Maple Leafs.

Based, I suppose, on the argument:

“They already know one name. Why make them learn another one?”

Practical to a fault. But imaginative? Sorry, boys. Low marks.

I have saved the most spectacular example of deficient imagination for last. Also in the sports arena. But this time, it’s football.

Things have changed in recent years, but again, when I was growing up, there were nine teams in the Canadian Football League. Two of them had the same name.

By contrast, the National Football League has thirty-two teams. That’s three times plus five teams as many as the number of teams in the Canadian Football League. And yet, facing that daunting challenge, the challenge the Canadian Football League had so ignominiously fumbled, the CFL’s American counterpart was able to come up with thirty-two different names for their teams.

Quibblers will maintain that the two Canadian Football League teams with the same name do not have exactly the same name. (And here, he belatedly mentions the names.) One of them was the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And the other was the Ottawa Rough Riders.

See the difference? One word. Two words.

Quibblers will also assert that the two teams bearing the same name played in different divisions of the Canadian Football League – the Ottawa Rough Riders playing in the Eastern Conference, the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West.

“Oh, well, then. It’s okay.”


“How about if one of them’s called the Roughriders, and the other one’s called the Rough Riders?”


I will remind these quibblers that the National Football League has eight divisions. Yet they did not deem it worth courting ridicule by placing teams with the same name in all eight divisions. Or even one other division, say, the Miami Dolphins and the Seattle Dol Fins.

American quibblers will bring up the fact that for a time, New York had a baseball team and a football both called the Giants. I suggest further research be done to determine if there were any Canadians involved in that decision. Besides, the Giants baseball team, affected at least in part I’m sure, by the embarrassment of having to share a name with the football team, sensibly picked up stakes and moved to San Francisco. Where the football team’s called the 49ers.

My heart goes out, in retrospect, to the beleaguered CFL announcers, especially the radio announcers, who were required to call a game where the Saskatchewan Roughriders were pitted against the Ottawa Rough Riders. I can imagine the proceedings going something like this:

Roughriders ball on the Rough Riders thirty-five. Roughriders break the huddle, heading up to the line of scrimmage – the Roughriders on one side, the Rough Riders on the other. The ball is snapped. Handoff to the Roughriders fullback, who blasts through the Rough Riders front line…breaking tackles, and charging into the Rough Riders secondary, where he’s swarmed over by Rough Riders. Fumble – Roughriders! Picked up by the Rough Riders, racing the other way, the Roughriders in hot pursuit. The Rough Rider fumble returner is finally brought down by the Roughriders on the Roughrider twenty-two. First and ten, Rough Riders deep in Roughrider territory, with the score Rough Riders – twenty-one, and Roughriders – sixteen, after the two-point “rouge” scored earlier by the Roughriders.”

I have heard that a number of those CFL announcers were heavy drinkers. I can easily understand why.

Standard Rebuttal: But Earlo, you’re frivolous to a fault, and you’re Canadian.

Standard Rebuttal Response: That may be true. But I had to change countries, or spend my life in the principal’s office.


Alan said...

You'd think one of them would be called the Maple Leaves

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; the Canadian Flag is worse than you've alluded to. Sure it looks unoriginal - a maple leaf - those things are everywhere, couldn't the use a different symbol? Many nations reuse and redefine their favourite symbols so this isn't so bad. What really gals is the TIME it took to come up with a flag. Between 1867 and 1921 Canada didn't have a flag of any sort, and used the English Naval Ensign for ships. In 1922 it was decided to make a "real flag" so they slapped the Canadian Coat of Arms on the Red Ensign and used that till the new flag was rolled out in 1965. basically, for 98 years Canada just borrowed her big brothers (England's) flag.

Kathryn Hartog said...

Think about the Canadian teams in the NHL. Montreal has the Canadiens and Vancouver has the Canucks. Yes, that's right: two of the Canadian teams are just words for "Canadian".

But why is that, Earl? Perhaps all the creative Canadians like you moved to the US.

Elliott Loch Ness said...

Did you help the authorities capture Bulger, yesterday? Cuz that might make an interesting blog post.