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Canada through the eyes of world literature

Archive for the tag “Gregg Easterbrook”

Canada, A Land of Two Seasons

 

AP Photo/Times-Dispatch, Lindy Keast Rodman

AP Photo/Times-Dispatch, Lindy Keast Rodman

Gregg Easterbrook, Tuesday Morning Quarterback (September 30, 2014)

What is it with Gregg Easterbrook and Canada? Even in full romantic flight, as he rhapsodizes about his favourite season (autumn) in his column, he can’t resist taking a little shot at us:

In Praise Of Sweaters: October begins tomorrow, and with it the full glory of autumn. Your columnist’s favorite season is autumn — leaves are turning, the weather is changing (I like cool weather), football is being played, the wonderful Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday sequence is in prospect, and everyone looks better in sweaters.

In Hawaii, there are no seasons. In some cold places such as Canada, there are two seasons: frozen and construction. In four-seasons areas, like where I live, we get one fall day for every two non-fall days, so I spend two-thirds of the year waiting for the full glory of autumn. It’s finally here.

“Cold places such as Canada”? Really? I’m a bit stunned to find myself pointing out that, in much of Canada, it ‘s actually not cold all the time.

Here in Southern Ontario we get four quite distinct seasons, thank you very much; spring does turn into summer rather quickly, and winter can be a little long, but fall is just as glorious as it is anywhere in the northeastern U.S., and I can say from experience that summer in central Illinois isn’t markedly hotter than it is here.

So Easterbrook’s joke doesn’t reveal anything factual about Canada; it does, however, reveal the weird persistence (among Americans) of the idea that stepping across the border into Canada involves passing instantly from a temperate climate into an inhospitable wasteland of perpetual winter.

Just a friendly reminder: the border between Canada and the U.S. is composed mainly of air – there’s really no difference between the climate of, say, Southern Ontario and that of Upstate New York.

So if you’re coming in July or August, it’s safe to leave the parkas at home.

A Mathematical Aside

And incidentally, if you live in a “four-seasons area” (as many Canadians do), wouldn’t you get one fall day for every three non-fall days, not every two? That is, for every one fall day, there would be one winter day, one spring day, and one summer day, leading to a ratio of 3:1 non-fall to fall days, not 2:1 as Easterbrook says.

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Easterbrook and King Both Speak Canadian!

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Gregg Easterbrook, “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” (Jan. 22, 2014)

The Super Bowl is almost here, which means that soon I’ll no longer have the help of football writers to pad out these columns – so I might as well take advantage of them while I can. Gregg Easterbrook seems to have a thing for Canada – he can’t stop mentioning us – and here he goes again, in his TMQ column following the conference championship games:

Denver’s other touchdown came on a really pretty goal line zed-in to Demaryius Thomas – the zed-in is the Canadian version of a z-in.

Well, that’s interesting. Based on a Google search, it seems this play (see the diagram at the top) is commonly referred to as a “z-in” not a “zed-in” (under the name “22 Z In”, it was a staple of Bill Walsh’s West Coast offence when he was in San Francisco). So why does Easterbrook go out of his way to type it out as a “zed-in”?

That’s how we would pronounce “z-in” in Canada, of course, as opposed to “zee-in,” which one would think would be the standard U.S. pronunciation. Is Easterbrook trying to make his Canadian readers feel at home? That seems unlikely, given his history of glacier references. He is originally from Buffalo, which is close to the Canadian border – perhaps, through some sort of linguistic influence by proximity, the play is pronounced “zed-in” up there rather than the more typically American “zee-in”?

Or is Easterbrook just seizing the opportunity to take another dig at one of his favourite targets – Canadians?

Peter King, “Monday Morning Quarterback” (Jan. 21, 2014)

By an odd coincidence, Peter King’s MMQB column touches on related subject matter. While in Denver covering the AFC championship, he attended a hockey game (hockey – this column just oozes Canada!) between the Devils and the Avalanche:

b. Of course, one of the highlights during the game was noticing the back of No. 24 for the Avalanche: CLICHE. A forward. Marc-Andre Cliche, from Quebec. So, brilliant me, I’m at the game with our Robert Klemko, and Cliche goes into the penalty box, and I say, “Cliché in the sin bin! How perfect is that?!”

c. But the dream soon died. The PA announcer, calling out the penalty, pronounced the last name “Cleesh.” Bummer.

That question mark/exclamation mark combo is exactly the way it appears in King’s column; apparently hockey is so exciting it makes him toss punctuation around like a drunk 13-year-old on Twitter.

As for the name, I thought “Cleesh” might just be the American PA announcer’s mispronunciation, but a quick Google search doesn’t turn up any instances with an accent on the “e” (though, curiously, “Andre” sometimes has an accent and sometimes doesn’t). Perhaps the family got tired of the jokes  and dropped the accent – the opposite of the famous case of Egbert Sousé.

I’m not sure these two references tell us anything new about perceptions of Canada, but they do offer further confirmation that American sportswriters have an idea that their neighbours to the North speak strangely (“aboot” etc.), and that this is an appropriate subject for jokes at our expense.

In a related note, the Montreal Canadiens are now putting accent marks on players’ names on the backs of their jerseys. If only Colorado would follow suit, Peter King would have one less thing to be confused about.

It’s Glacier Season in Canada!

play_a_greycup_ms_600x400[1]

Gregg Easterbrook, “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” (Nov. 26, 2013)

As you may have guessed if you visit this space occasionally, I read a fair bit (too much) about football during the NFL season. Every week I tell myself that I won’t write about football columnists here, and then every week I read something that is too good to resist.

Next week I’m definitely going to write about something literary. But I just can’t let this, from Gregg Easterbrook’s latest Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, slip by. He’s talking about the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their victory in the Grey Cup:

Underdog Hamilton trailing host Saskatchewan 24-3 in the second quarter of the Grey Cup — Canada plays its title game in November, before glaciers cover the fields — the Tiger-Cats faced third-and-goal, the CFL equivalent of fourth-and-goal, on the Rough Riders’ 3.

He hasn’t noticed that Roughriders is one word – a discussion we’ve had before – but at least he’s conversant in the basics of three-down versus four-down football.

But glaciers? Really? Have we come no further than that? Do Americans still have so little notion of what Canada is actually like that mainstream columnists can get away with jokes about glaciers advancing across our country every December? And this from a writer who believes in global warming and so must be aware that glaciers are actually retreating, not advancing.

Yes, America, it’s true – glaciers cover Canada every winter. But just like Canadians themselves, Canadian glaciers are so polite that they stop 1.6093 km (one mile, for your convenience) away from the US border so that you won’t be bothered by the massive sheet of ice that covers our northern land for four months every year.

I like Gregg Easterbrook’s column – I don’t always agree with him, and I could do without the sci-fi references, but overall I think he’s an intelligent and insightful writer and a well-educated man. And yet, when it comes to Canada, this well-educated and intelligent American instantly sinks to the lowest cliche available to make a joke at our expense. Really, it’s a bit dispiriting.

I suppose that’s what I get for reading too many football columns.

Scandal in Canada? Impossible!

NiceCanada

Gregg Easterbrook, “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” (November 12, 2013)

Just a brief note on a sentence from Gregg Easterbrook’s most recent Tuesday Morning Quarterback column:

If it’s any consolation, government hanky-panky is international. There is a corruption scandal in Canada, hard as the phrase “Canadian scandal” seems to be to write.

Ha ha ha.

Easterbrook is playing on the impression – general among Americans? – that Canada is simply too nice and polite – or too boring – a country to have a scandal, or at least a scandal that can measure up to the fantastic scandals that the U.S. routinely produces. And, granted, the Senate scandal that Easterbrook links to doesn’t have the salacious fascination of, say, the troubles of Anthony Weiner or Eliot Spitzer.

But hasn’t Easterbrook noticed that Canada is curently in the throes of a scandal that is consuming media attention, not only up here, but around the world? (That last article, incidentally, is typically Canadian in its attitude toward international media attention: we’re horrified that the world is laughing at us, but at the same time, it’s hard not to notice a certain excitement in the catalogue of headlines we’re getting in more glamorous cities like London and New York.)

How far do we have to go to shed our goody-two-shoes image?

Based on his earlier reference to Canada, it’s clear that Easterbrook’s impressions of our country form a fairly small cloud hovering around the idea that we’re boring and excessively nice. So perhaps he just refuses to believe that such things can occur here. Or perhaps he’s too focused on football to pay any attention to Toronto city politics. But in another corner of the football journalism world, we rated a small notice this week:

d. I suppose we shouldn’t laugh at Toronto mayor Rob Ford, but every time I hear the tape of him talking about smoking crack, I can’t help it. Ford: “Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors. Probably approximately about a year ago.” And then, basically, apologizing, wanting life to go on as before.

e. Rob? That’s sort of a big deal.

f. Doesn’t Rob Ford look exactly like Chris Farley’s slightly older brother?

Clearly, Canada can produce a captivating scandal after all. The issue isn’t us: Canadians can be just as corrupt and venal as people of any other nationality. And while it’s a banal observation, I’ll make it anyway, just for the record: once impressions about national character take hold in people’s minds, they’re remarkably hard to shake, even in the face of compelling contrary evidence. No matter what we do, a lot of Americans will always think of Canada as that quiet, dull nation to the north, full of people so polite they apologize every time someone steps on their foot.

At least we’re doing what we can to shake that image.

Peace, Health Care and Doughnuts

easterbrooktims

Gregg Easterbrook, “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” (October 1, 2013)

Ah, Tim Horton’s: that glowing beacon of Canadian identity.

We’ve already discussed the (aborted) Canadian connection of the TV series “The Bridge”, of course, but in one of those curious instances that proves great minds think alike (or fools seldom differ?), Gregg Easterbrook, in this week’s “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” column, has hit on the same thing:

FX’s “The Bridge” is a remake of a Scandinavian television show about a crime at a bridge between Denmark and Sweden. Before centering the remake on a bridge between Texas and Mexico, producers first proposed using the bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. A hyper-violent crime drama about U.S.-Canadian relations — there’s no minimum to the potential ratings of that concept. A cross-border tunnel between a Texas ranch and a Mexican cartel’s hideout, used to smuggle heroin, figures in “The Bridge” plot. If the Detroit-Windsor setting had been chosen, it would have been a tunnel into a Tim Horton’s doughnut shop, used to smuggle government-financed Canadian prescription drugs.

Packed into that one small paragraph (which is illustrated with the Tim Horton’s photo above) are a number of typical clichés about Canada. The main idea – that Canada is a totally uninteresting place and that a crime drama about our country would serve no other purpose beyond that of a soporific – comes through clearly in the phrase about there being “no minimum to the ratings potential” of the idea. Clearly, Easterbrook sees Canada as a squeaky-clean, law-abiding place where nothing bad ever happens. It’s almost enough to make one ashamed of our peaceful nation. You feel like crying out, “Hey, we have crime too, you know!” But what’s the point?

But Easterbrook really distinguishes himself in the last sentence, where he manages to bring in a reference to our “government-financed” health care system, and also Tim Horton’s doughnuts. Health care, needless to say, has come up before, but the doughnuts idea is a new one. The corporate overlords at Tim Horton’s must be thrilled to see that their brand is indelibly associated with Canada in the minds of Americans – or are they?

A recent article suggests Tim Horton’s expansion into the U.S. is a failure; could the brand’s connection to Canada, and our uninteresting, crime-free image, be part of the problem? Perhaps doughnuts just taste better when the threat of death feels a little more imminent.

At least Easterbrook spells it “doughnut” rather than “donut”, coming down on the right side of that heated debate.

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