Wow – Canada!

Canada through the eyes of world literature

Fame – or Infamy?

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Brett Michael Dykes, “A New Subplot for Manning vs. Brady” (The New York Times)

As you may or may not know, things have been a little hectic in the city of Toronto lately. Sometimes it’s diverting, and sometimes you just want to forget – for a little while at least – that we’ve become a global laughingstock.

Sunday mornings are one of the latter times for me. If I can find a few minutes of quiet, I like to spend it with the NFL previews in The New York Times. What better way to escape from reality than to retreat into what Gregg Easterbrook so aptly calls “the football alternate universe”? But what greeted  – or should I say affronted? – my eyes this Sunday when I reached the capsule preview for the 2-8 Buccaneers at the 6-4 Lions? The following:

After starting the season 0-8, Tampa Bay has suddenly won two in a row, including a 41-28 thrashing of Atlanta in Week 11. And in the Buccaneers’ last loss, they forced overtime against Seattle, probably the N.F.C.’s best squad. So perhaps the team that looked to be imploding like the N.F.L.’s version of Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, has turned a corner.  (Nov. 24, 2013, S2)

Now, this isn’t completely news – in fact, we’ve already noted the presence of Toronto’s mayor in one online football column. But this is different; this is the Grey Lady herself, The New York Times, America’s unofficial paper of record, deigning to notice our little outpost of civilization here amid the frozen wastelands of the North.

And it’s not just a slightly amused, “Look at the crazy stuff going on up in Canada” news article buried somewhere near the back of the front page section. It’s in the Sports section, which is actually more significant than a news article. Being mentioned in the Sports section proves that the Rob Ford scandal has percolated through American public consciousness so completely that even the NFL game previews aren’t complete without a cheap joke at his expense. The NFL itself, apparently, isn’t complete without at least one team representing the league’s version of our mayor.

(The Bucs, history will note, went on the defeat the Lions, despite being 10-point road underdogs. Is this a sign that the mayor is also about to turn things around?)

How long, Toronto – how long have we dreamed of this sort of recognition? I’ve always felt that, as Canadians, we were like a little brother, eager to gain the attention of our big brother (not to say Big Brother) to the South. And now we’ve got it: segments on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, interviews with Anderson Cooper and Matt Lauer, and finally, a mayor so well known that football writers make jokes about him and just assume everyone will understand.

Why has Rob Ford struck such a chord south of the border? I’ll offer my personal theory: it’s because he’s just like Chris Farley. Numerous American outlets have pointed out the resemblance as part of Rob Ford stories – and not only does Ford look like Farley, he behaves like the sort of character Chris Farley played. Ford resonates with Americans because he conforms perfectly to an archetypal comedic character they’re already familiar with.

That’s just a theory – but whatever the reason, we’re at the top of America’s mind – though it took Rob Ford to get us there. Is this victory, or a kind of defeat?

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