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Canada through the eyes of world literature

Archive for the tag “Peter King”

Easterbrook and King Both Speak Canadian!


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.


Scandal in Canada? Impossible!


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.

Freaks Belong in the CFL!

“Tebow headed north of the border?” ProFootballTalk (Dec. 22, 2012)

This video is a bit old now, but it contains so many central ideas about the CFL versus the NFL that it’s worth a look:

Peter King is rather like the Thomas Friedman of sports journalism: he plays the “reasonable man” who offers a wise and balanced point of view, but he’s nothing more than a mouthpiece for relatively conservative conventional wisdom. Between him and Florio, however, they cover quite a few clichés about Canada in a relatively short space of time. Here are a few highlights:

Go to Canada, hone your craft, win championships. (King)

This is the essence of King’s advice to Tebow – because obviously anyone who has played in the NFL will automatically become the best player in the CFL and be guaranteed to win multiple championships simply by showing up. Tebow’s unconventional mechanics and poor accuracy – King calls him a “sideshow” at one point – won’t be a problem up north because, as everyone knows, it’s an inferior league that welcomes players who are essentially circus freaks.

What are you talking aboot? (Florio)

Florio leads off with this classic (or should I say stale? a matter of perspective perhaps) American joke about Canadian pronunciation and gets a big laugh with it. I have to admit I still don’t get this one; is it an accent thing? I feel like I pronounce “about” properly (rhymes with “trout,” not “toot”).

He should exhaust all opportunities at the NFL level before he gives up. (Florio)

Playing in Canada is tantamount to giving up, since no one who had a chance to be even a third-stirnger for an NFL team would choose the CFL. There’s probably a fair bit of truth to this, at least in terms of how players perceive the NFL versus the CFL.

If it doesn’t work in Jacksonville, then you ship him to Canada. (Florio)

The CFL, apparently, is a gulag for failed NFL starters.

He’s not accurate enough. (King)

By this, King means Tebow isn’t accurate enough to succeed in the NFL; of course that won’t interfere with his ability to win multiple championships in the CFL, as King mentioned earlier.

How many games do they play up in Canada? Sixteen? Nineteen? Twelve? (King)

This casual exposure of gross ignorance is greeted with laughter from the other two talking heads; no one can be expected to know how many games they play in that crazy Canadian league! It’s remarkable that someone purporting to be a journalist can get away with remarks like this, and needless to say it’s only acceptable because he’s ignorant about Canadian football; no outlet would pay Peter King a nickel for his opinion if he didn’t know how many games were played in an NFL season, or by major league baseball.

Now having said that, I have to admit that I don’t know how many games they play in the CFL either. I’m sure it’s more than sixteen.

Pause for research….

A quick look at the 2012 schedule for the Toronto Argonauts shows they played 18 regular season games (Peter was close with 19) plus three playoff games. (They conveniently won the Grey Cup last year, so their schedule represents the full gamut.)

That took me all of a minute, Peter. Do some research! Don’t you have interns to find this stuff for you?

At the end, King goes into full Angry Schoolmarm mode, jabbing his finger and shaking his wattles in what used to be known as “High Dudgeon”. Everything, apparently, is the fault of the evil New York Jets:

I blame the New York Jets. The New York Jets totally hurt this kid…. The Jets are the ones who are to blame for this whole mess. (King)

OK, Peter. As long as we have someone to blame.

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