Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Zen Dayley: Insert picture of upside-down Canadian flag in 3, 2, 1...

Fox Sports cutting to a commercial during O Canada is tacky -- but it's like expecting the class clown not to make armpit noises during a school assembly.

The point is, you almost look forward to it with Fox. One less than endearing Canadian trait is that we often overanalyze American interpretations of us, just to look for the boo-boos. It's kind of like the nerd who adds to the goofs section on the Internet Movie Database. Watching how Fox, the broadcast arm of the hyperbole-industrial complex, utterly ignored this country's baseball fans during the baseball All-Star Game telecast from Yankee Stadium, though, you can't blame us for feeling that way.

It happens too often. We are forced to keep score at home. No one in Canada would have known about this right away, save for the fact globesports.com's Jeff Blair blogged it, but MLB did have O Canada. While Sheryl Crow performed The Star-Spangled Banner, there was a recorded version of our national anthem, with no singer. The only reason it was even seen in Canada, ironically enough, was due to a screwup by the Canadian rights holder.

Think about it. Months of planning and preparation went into this Bronx bonanza, but MLB couldn't find anyone to sing O Canada. Hey, it's not like there were an unprecedented three Canadians in the game. In fairness, New York City isn't swimming in unknown performers who just need a break.

This very well could be the old Canadian insecurity talking. Doesn't it seem like U.S. broadcasters constantly betray a lack of broadcast preparation when it comes anything Canadian? The half-assed treatment of our anthem was just the tip of the iceberg.

What happened was that that chill bump-raising pregame ceremony introducing virtually every living Hall of Famer wrapped up and Fox went to a commercial break. That's not so bothersome. They had a lot of ads to squeeze in and the pregame ceremony was bound to run a little long.

On Sportsnet Pacific, the screen went to black for about 15-20 seconds. Then suddenly the feed came back, somewhere around the "from far and wide," although it was hard to be pinpoint it exactly, since there were no words. What, MLB couldn't spring for the airfare and a hotel room to get this singer down to New York City?

Any Canadian baseball nut who tuned to see a game that had an unprecedented three of our own playing in the Midsummer Classic -- the L.A. Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau -- saw half of a half-hearted treatment of our anthem.

In the top of the fourth, Roy Halladay came on to pitch. Joe Buck called the four-time All-Star Holliday (no, he plays for the Colorado Rockies -- as Amrit pointed out, he homered an inning later, but not off his AL near-namesake). A few moments later, Tim McCarver, referred to the Jays' home stadium as the "Rogers Dome." (Well, it has only had Rogers' corporate on it since 2005, and it is a dome.)

Hopefully Jays president Paul Godfrey wasn't expecting any quid pro quo for persisting in playing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch at the Rogers Centre long after many U.S. teams discontinued the practice.

It was a slap in the face. They skimped on an anthem singer and then Joe and Tim skim over some basic prep work for the broadcast involving a Canadian-based player. It comes off as saying, hey, it's Canada, what does it matter?

This isn't coming from someone who's resolutely anti-American. There's so much they do better than Canada -- sports, movies, politically motivated witchhunts, Trials of the Century, showing celebrities at their worst, subtle political satire. How many Canadians who couldn't get anywhere creatively in this country have made it big down there?

One of the funnier aspects about that line "where else can even paperboy option the film rights to a book?" in that Bruce McCullough Kids In The Hall monologue, In America, is that it has a grain of truth. The U.S is still the country for the dreamers, the lottery players. Canada is where your life is just a job you have to finish, although that's probably just as true for most Americans (that's why country music is so popular in both countries).

Getting back to the point, no Canadian broadcaster would ever think to go to commercial during the American anthem. We're way too eager to ingratiate ourselves with the Americans. Our government even let American fighter pilots do a flyover over the U.S. ambassador's residence in Ottawa on July 4, as well we should have. We would never consider not giving our American friends equal consideration.

Down south, they figure there's no need to bother with acknowledging Canada, but then again, we are kind of boring.

You think Buck and McCarver mentioned that there were three Canadians in the game? Don't be foolish.

(How sweet was it to see the full range of Martin's talents -- hitting, going first-to-third on a single, working the plate -- and to see Morneau score the winning run?)

Forget it, it's the Bronx

  • Capping the pregame hoopla by wheeling in George Steinbrenner was lame. Only the Yankees would have the gall to be so obvious about ripping off the scene in Boston in 1999, when the presence of Ted Williams, in evident poor health, turned Fenway Park into a giant kiss-and-cry area at a figure skating competition.

    There's no moral high ground in begrudging an 78-year-old plutocrat in his sunset years becoming America's grandpa. That said, you can sub in "baseball owners" into that line from Chinatown about how "politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough" and it fits the scene to a tee. It's no wonder he didn't get a big ovation from the crowd.

    Painting Steinbrenner in such a glowing light, giving him more of a spotlight than Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, George Brett, Mike Schmidt and Frank Robinson, et al., is a whitewash. Sorry, but there's no way to be objective about Steinbrenner.

    In the back half of his time running the Yankees, he was the best owner in sports. However, you have to remember that for at least as long, probably longer, he was the worst owner in sports. He demeaned players and managers, ran roughshod over people who had no way of fighting back, traded in thinly veiled racism to try and shake down NYC for a new stadium -- remember when he kept saying the area around the Stadium was "too scary" -- and damn near destroyed the Yankee tradition.

    A generation ago, Goose Gossage, one of the Yankees legends involved in the first-ball ceremony (four first balls? Really?), said, "George always like to talk about the Yankee tradition. When did he ever play for the Yankees?"

    Gossage was right the first time. The Yankees can recognize Steinbrenner on their own time, like before their final home game of the season, rather than shoving it down the throats of fans whose teams don't have $209-million payrolls. The rewriting of history is well underway.

    Plus there was the time he invited himself to Costanza's wedding.
  • The best hitters in the game (and Jason Varitek) went 3-for-28 with runners in scoring position. Basically, it was like a Jays intrasquad game.
  • Everyone will be having a lot of fun with the story about Ichiro Suzuki's not-G-rated Gipper speech.
  • Great lines from ShysterBall: "The baseball luminaries are riding in 100 Chevy Silverados. Baseball's carbon footprint is taking a beating this evening.

    "This thing reminds me of the Macy's parade. I hope I didn't tune in too late to see the David Wells balloon."
  • Dustin McGowan's not out for the season. Even better news: He never watches movies that star Bill Murray.
  • Via Uni Watch, here's a great trivia question: Who was the first player to play in an All-Star Game wearing Blue Jays gear? OK, It was Ruppert Jones, an outfielder in the '70s and '80s who never played for the Jays. How did he pull that off?
  • Lastly, how much more informal was baseball back in 1967, the only previous time the game went 15 innings? Mickey Mantle was on the American League team that season, but didn't feel like he rated the honour, so he flew from Dallas to Anaheim, arrived after the game had started, pinch-hit for the starting pitcher in the third inning, struck out, and flew back to Dallas. The game was still going when he met up with his buddies at the country club.

    It's too bad that OPS+ wasn't around in in 1967. For a guy who was supposedly done, The Mick had an OPS+ of 150. Most players never get close to that in their entire career.
(Digression: Searching for the McCullough monologue turned up the greatest cold opening in television history. Try to work "guilty, but with various good excuses" into conversation whenever possible.)


Amrit Ahluwalia said...

I agree completely, but I do have a small correction.

You note that Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies wasn't selected for this game, when in fact not only did he play, he scored the first run for the NL in the fifth.

Tao of Stieb said...

A penny for your thoughts on the Torontoist article?

Don't leave us hanging!

sager said...

I'll put the whole bullet point in the comments rather than edit a post I wrote 12 hours ago... sorry, it was late and I was getting tired.

Pointing out most of Torontoist's stable of writers are a bit myopic is like pointing out that David Eckstein isn't very tall.

Case in point: Christopher Bird, whose bio says he has "worked in no particular order as a filmmaker, waiter, administrative assistant, script doctor, freelance writer, freelance character assassin, web monkey, teaching assistant and hobo who dances for quarters (and) is now a student at Osgoode Hall Law School" (in English, that's a rich kid whose parents threatened to cut him off), committed betrayed 20-something hipsters' tendency to be overopinionated and undereducated when it comes to something as important as sports.

"Alternately, you could watch this year's Major League Baseball All-Star Game! A lot of home runs will be hit. The only Blue Jay who made the roster this year is Roy Halladay; fans were too busy voting for Derek Jeter to start on the team to get any more Jays on it, despite the fact that Jeter is having one of the most mediocre years he's ever had. This goes to prove a longstanding theory of mine: namely, that baseball fans use statistics to hide the fact that they are stupid.

For anyone who's been paying attention, the all-star balloting is not indicative of fans' intellegence, since MLB not only allows but encourages ballot-box stuffing, which means players in big markets such as Boston, Chicago and New York benefit disproportionately. A 47-48 team that doesn't have a hitter in the top 40 in the AL in OPS (Overbay is 42nd) doesn't deserve to have anyone other than Roy Halladay in the all-star game.

But, hey, that's just a baseball fan using statistics because he's stupid.

I should point out that today T'ist has a very nice post up about going to watch an Inter-County Baseball League game at Christie Pits between the Maple Leafs and the Guelph Royals team whom Layson covers.

sager said...

Oh, and of course, there were only two homers hit, which anyone who's watching would have expected, since power numbers are way down across both leagues this season.