It’s a bit silly to make the argument that sports and nationalism don’t belong together. They don’t, but they are. Undeniably. Whether it’s something as overt as the Olympics or World Cup, or something subtler like a CFL fans private glee that next month’s NFL game at the Dome is not sold out, it’s always there.
And in case we forget there is a reminder before the start of every game played in both Canada and the United States. I’m referring, of course, to the playing of the national anthem.
And if you play the anthems enough times they will eventually get booed. Usually it happens in the heat of a intense playoff battle between a Canadian NHL team and an American opponent. Other times Oh Canada has been shouted down by over extending péquistes in Montreal.
It’s never pretty. It’s never right. And, it’s never as big a deal as some would like to make it.
Last night during the MLS all-star game many in the crowd started to boo the Star Spangled Banner believing that organizers had neglected to include Oh Canada in the opening ceremony. The booing lasted about 15 seconds before many in the crowd started to sign Oh Canada over the US anthem.
This has led many in the Canadian media to make sweeping condemnations of TFC’s fans, suggesting that they are nothing but a bunch of drunk hooligan wannabees. In the US, those with an agenda to keep further Canadian expansion out of MLS are holding the incident up as an example of all that is bad with us Canucks.
Of course no one is putting it into full perspective—the US national anthem has never been booed at a TFC game before (when tension is actually high unlike last night’s exhibition match featuring a pop star midfielder). Actually you can often hear the Star Spangled Banner sung at TFC games.
It’s also not widely reported that the Canadian anthem was delayed about five minutes after the U.S. and British songs and that the Canadian flag wasn’t part of the opening ceremony colour guard. Organizers claim that they wanted the Canadian anthem and flag to be separate to honour the host country, but in the stadium it just seemed like an afterthought. One announcement letting the fans know that Oh Canada would be sung five minutes after the other two songs would have stopped everything. You see, the fans weren’t booing the U.S. anthem. They were booing the lack of Oh Canada.
Oh yeah, the game. MLS won 3-2. Toronto’s own, Dwayne De Rosario scored the winner.