Monday, November 19, 2007


So no one saw the first-ever Prairie Grey Cup between Winnipeg and Saskatchewan coming? Someone sort of did, albeit a year early. Adapted (that is to say, edited) from a post written Nov. 5, 2006:

How do you explain the Manitoba-Saskatchewan corollary as it pertains to how the rest of the country relates to the rival Prairie provinces and their football teams?

It's kind of like having a set of twins who are equally attractive and dateable, except one of them is prone to knocking over her/his water glass, usually right into your lap. So Saskatchewan is cute, Manitoba is just remote and kind of gawky.

Poor Manitoba can't catch a break when it comes to gaining the Rest of Canada's approval. And there's nothing more any insecure Canadian wants than the approval of outsiders. Validation from within simply won't cut it. The province gets a bad rap; this Ontarian was never been happier in his professional life than I was during my time writing sports for the Portage la Prairie Daily Graphic.

Saskatchewan exists in the Canuck imagination as the definitive middle of nowhere. Outside the Prairies, the Riders seem to be every CFL fan's second-favourite team. The Bombers inspire no such underdog sympathy, although Winnipeg fans would point that has to do with the fact their team, unlike the Riders, has won more than two Grey Cups in the modern CFL era.

The perception of the two provinces' football teams spills over into CanCulture. Saskatchewan gets the equivalent of a 30-minute informercial in Monday night prime time each week thanks to the sitcom Corner Gas, where everyone is, for all their quirks and obsessiveness, shown to be eternally good-natured and content to live in tiny Dog River -- the one inside joke that only a Canadian would get is that one of the show's characters even moved there from Toronto. (Life imitates art: Saskatchewan, long a place people left to pursue opportunity, is starting to get some of its native daughters and sons back, and is now a "have province.")

Constrast that with the treatment Manitoba gets. In Miriam Toews' 2004 novel A Complicated Kindness, the protagonist, Nomi Nickel, wants nothing more than to get out of her rural Manitoba hometown, a small Bible Belt community hard by the U.S. border that she refers to as "the joke town in the joke province in the joke country."

Saskatchewan gets the cute-funny sitcom. Manitoba gets the bittersweet prose treatment.

As a result, it's Saskatchewan, who projects an ability to laugh at itself a bit, who has everyone wanting to join their party. That's a big part of why when the Riders are close to the Grey Cup, everyone hops on the bandwagon...

Whatever happens, one thing people in the two provinces can agree on about football: Alberta teams aren't winning anything this year. Yippie-kie-yay.

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