We Stand On Guard For Thee

Growing up in Canada, I heard the Canadian national anthem every single day at school. Everyone paused, stood, and listened to that day’s version of “O Canada”, which echoed over the PA system.

I don’t know if other countries play their national anthem at the beginning of the school day, but we do (at least in my part of Canada). Outside of school, sporting events is where we hear “O Canada” the most.

They even played “O Canada” before my championship softball game back in 2005! 

We can get into the, “Why are national anthems even played at sporting events, anyway?” debate another day. But having only one Canadian team in the NBA and MLB means that we are outsiders. Heck, that’s what the Toronto Raptors marketing campaign – We The North – is all about.

Here’s something you might not know about Canadian sports fans. For some reason, we seek acceptance, recognition, and respect from our American neighbours. Because we don’t always feel respected. We feel ignored.

“Why doesn’t anyone on ESPN ever talk about us?”

“Why does the NBA always schedule our playoff games at 12:30PM on a Saturday?”

We feel like we get the shaft. In a sense, I get it. If I lived in the United States, would I really want to hear about the Toronto Raptors? Hell no. I’d probably be making Flintstone vitamin jokes every three seconds.

And yet, we never really feel important until someone in the United States recognizes Canada, or a Toronto sports team.

It’s stupid, really.

We love Charles Barkley because he’s repeated numerous times that Toronto is his favourite city. When he says that on TV, it’s as if the doorbell just rang and our pizza is here.

Compliments like that have been few and far between, however. Granted, we like to focus on the negative more often than not. Canadians have felt disrespected on numerous occasions.

Just last fall, baseball “analyst” Harold Reynolds was providing his commentary for a Blue Jays playoff game in Texas. At one point, a foul ball went into the crowd and he suggested that Canadians can’t catch.

Go away, Harold. Just go away.

So, that made us mad. It’s making me mad just reliving it. Let’s get into national anthems.

If you’ve ever watched the MLB All-Star Game, you may have noticed on more than one occasion that the American feed of the game (which we are forced to watch in Canada) cuts to commercial during the performance of “O Canada”.

They don’t even show our national anthem! That blows my mind.

Sorry for being a nuisance, America! Take that commercial break! Go sell trucks and promote your new terrible show coming to FOX in the fall! We’ll be here waiting to watch your anthem get the royal treatment. Again, sorry for the inconvenience.

I’m getting mad again. Let’s time hop.

Let’s go back to 1992.

The Toronto Blue Jays were in the World Series for the first time. In Game 2, in Atlanta, they marched the Canadian flag out onto the field and it was upside down.

Canadian Flag

Click photo for link to article.

How exactly are we supposed to react? We don’t care if it was an accident or not, that’s our flag! And there it was on national television, hanging upside down. Gee, thanks.

We will never forget that one, don’t worry. We have a long memory.

Two years later at a Canadian Football League game in Las Vegas (yeah, that was a thing), the anthem singer sang “O Canada” to the tune of “O Christmas Tree.” Just watch.

O, my ears.

Fast forward to this past Saturday night and the reason why I’m writing this post. The Toronto Raptors were in Miami for Game 3 of their second round playoff series.

The anthem singer started singing “O Canada” and what do we see on our TV? We see Dwyane Wade continue to take warm-up shots, while everyone else is standing still.

Now, when I first saw it, I knew exactly what was going on. I assumed that he probably had some sort of ritual where he has to make a shot before lining up.

That’s what athletes do. That’s what kids did in gym class. That’s what my campers did at camp.

“Come on, we have to go!”

“Okay, just one more shot!”


“Wait, let me make one before I go.”


“Hold on…”


And then the kid would exit the gym.

Wade even admitted that he has a ritual he does before the anthem starts, but his pre-game timing was thrown off for this game.

Alright, I’ll believe him. And I don’t think he was intentionally trying to disrespect Canada, our flag, our anthem, or any of us that live here. I really don’t. I might not be a fan of his, but I don’t think he meant any harm.

Try telling the media that, though.

However, could he not just stop shooting and stand still!? It’s a national anthem! It might not be his national anthem, but come on.

Canadian basketball fans, and maybe even people who don’t watch sports, are eating him alive with their social media comments.

I get it. I do. We’re the outsiders, remember?

And I guess it didn’t help that he didn’t really apologize.

But what about all the times we go to a hockey game and watch the players line up on the blue line for the national anthem. And then some of them start skating circles around their end of the rink about ten seconds before the anthem is over?

Why don’t we ever criticize them? Is it because they’re on our favourite team? Or does someone have to take a video of it?

Because if you ask me, I find that just as disrespectful as what Wade did.

When Wade comes back to Toronto, he will probably be booed out of the building. And knowing him, he will probably use it as fuel to score 50 points on us.

We can never really win.

But it hasn’t been all bad when it comes to our national anthem at sporting events.

A few years ago, I was at a Toronto Maple Leafs game. They were playing the Nashville Predators. The anthem singer started singing the American national anthem, but halfway through, the microphone cut out.

So, what did the crowd do? We took over. We sang the rest anthem, never missing a word.

After the game, I found out that many Americans were surprised we even knew the words to their anthem. Of course we do. We’re the only Canadian team in the NBA and MLB, and only one of seven in the NHL.

Every time we play an American team, we hear your anthem. We know it by now.

Do Americans know the Canadian anthem? I don’t know. But I do know that the classy fans in Nashville sang our anthem when we visited.

Thank you, Nashville.

And then there was this:

A hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. A game that did not require the Canadian national anthem because there was no Canadian team involved.

But that night, they sang “O Canada” to show support for Ottawa and the rest of Canada.

Earlier that day – October 22, 2014 – there was a terrorist attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed while on duty, before the attacker forced his way into our Parliament building.

Canada was in mourning and there was the United States, standing with us.

As I said before, we have a long memory. We won’t forget that.

A national anthem is more than just a song. It is the rope that ties a country together.

Though there may be rivalries between cities and provinces across Canada, at the end of the day, we are one.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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25 Responses to We Stand On Guard For Thee

  1. That Tiny Giant says:

    Oh my. I wish they played our national anthem at the start of every school day too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Miriam says:

    Here in Australia it’s the same. We sing our National Anthem before our major sporting events. And at school we sang Advance Australia Fair before every assembly. I remember it oh too well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Val says:

    Hard to know what to say except that respect is respect and when it’s not shown things need to be examined. I don’t know how it is in schools today, in the UK, but when I was at school the national anthem was not played on a daily basis. The times when it was played apart from state occasions, were in the cinema at the end of the movie (and in theatres, too, I think). As a child I was always nudged to stand up, but I do rememeber a lot of shifting in seats as people ‘escaped’ before it started.

    While it’s disrespectful, it’s nothing new, Paul. There will always be people, who will want to avoid it. As for the media… they’re well known for being disrespectful, I think. For them, money is more important as in ‘time is money’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for your insight, Val! At the end of movies…that’s interesting. I would’ve never guessed that.
      I guess I just expect more from athletes who always have thousands of eyes on them at all times.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. George says:

    I’m sorry about the slights you’ve received from the people in this country and the television start times. I’ve never heard anything but respect for Canadians in this country but there are always ignorant people wherever you go.
    As for Wade. He’s a bit of a jerk as evidenced by his non apology which made no sense at all. He just doesn’t get it and deserves whatever your countrymen shove his way the next time he visits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thanks, George. To be honest, I think a lot of this “Americans don’t respect us” is mainly our own creation. It’s a good media story.
      Wade also referenced himself in the third person while making his statement. Just pouring gasoline on the fire.


  5. That’s America for you, absentminded until Donald Trump takes over. Then watch us learn the Canadian National Anthem, and in less than 30 seconds flat! What a neat trick that will be, when you consider it takes a full minute to sing it, something similar to doing the 4 minute mile in 3 minutes. I would have referenced Chopin’s The Minute Waltz by comparison, but Barbara Streisand proved that can be done in under 2 minutes, not hardly applicable. Well, I’m off to put on plaid and find my pet moose, because Harold Reynolds must think the San Francisco Giants are Canadian too! He found nothing nice to say about us either, and we won 3 World Series in 5 years in spite of him. Just you try to enter San Francisco, Canada without a passport, Harold, just you try. Well, I guess that’s aboot it, eh. Four years of taking Canadian at university, and that’s all I’ve learned. Darn, even the American educational system is not up to speed on Canada. I can’t wait for Donald Trump to become president… I’m moving now! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Your comments are always the best. I appreciate the time you put into them. San Francisco, Canada might be the place to be this with with the Blue Jays in town! Who would’ve guessed there’d be an all-Canadian baseball matchup this season? And they don’t even have to sing the American anthem for it!


  6. Jess says:

    That’s such an American thing to do. We can be a very hypocritical country at times. When it comes to everyday things such as a sporting event, we show no signs of caring. But when something terrible happens in another country, we’re one of the first ones to respond to it in a positive way. Not saying that’s a bad thing, we’re just not consistent. I’ve always noticed these things and have found it a bit annoying. All those stereotypes you hear of Americans have a bit of truth to them. And I remember chanting our national anthem at school, but I’ve heard many schools don’t really do it anymore in the U.S. Too many parents were complaining because we have the term, “Under God” in the anthem, and such. It’s really silly and very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Typical. Just the mention of “God” will cause people to complain. Our anthem references God too but I haven’t heard of any cases of people complaining (there probably have been and I’m just naive). Have people complained about how violent your anthem is?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jess says:

        So I just realized that in school we would say the pledge of allegiance but not the “Star Spangled Banner”. My goodness it’s been so long! Oof. And surprisingly I haven’t heard any complaints about the violence of the song, which I find odd nowadays. You would think if enough people can boot the pledge of allegiance because of the word “God”, someone would have tried to boot the anthem too. Our country has been a bit ridiculous in the last few years when it comes to this stuff because they’re all like, “Well what if we don’t believe in God!?” It’s stupid since this pledge was written like, 120 years ago. It’s not like as a kid, I knew what I was saying and was being converted. It’s just something for people to complain about I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        The pledge of allegiance instead of the anthem? What is this, a cult? lol. Oh, I can just picture a bunch of parents going to school to protest the things their precious little unaware child is being forced to say. The world is wonderful, isn’t it!?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jess says:

        Hahahha I woke up this morning thinking about the anthem and I’m like, “Wow. It sounds like we’re pledging to Charles Mansen or something.” It really does have a cult vibe!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        So this is why Trump is gonna be the next President…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jess says:

        Hah! Probably!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Barb Knowles says:

    When I was growing up, as well as at the school I teach in today, we say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, but never the anthem. Facebook kills me, because so often, and usually by people of a certain political persuasion in a certain part of the country, there are posts about how some areas and groups aren’t patriotic enough (there is a scale for patriotism?), And that if anyone other than the current President was president, students would still stand for the Pledge every morning. I love replying that in our school we do every morning, and I teach the immigrant students. And I live in New York and I’m a Democrat. Obviously I’m lumping people together and that’s unfair. But how we express traditions and patriotism plays an important role in citizenship and how others view the U.S.. And one part of our country isn’t better than other parts. I’m offended when that is suggested. I’m not talking internally, not by Canadians.
    If we had to sing the anthem every morning I would do it, but it’s SO LONG AND ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to sing. When sung at a sporting event, the entire country holds their breath to see if the singer can hit the high notes.
    Does Canada stand together (metaphorically) united in patriotism? Or does one faction think they are better or “more” Canadian?
    I’ve always thought of sports as the great equalizer. Loyal to local and regional teams, but in playoffs, or World Cups and Olympics, fiercely loyal to their country. But what you are writing about here is the reinforcement of the stereotype that Americans are arrogant and think they are better than anyone else. I don’t agree, and for that display of arrogance I apologize. Inexcusable.
    I’m sorry that my comment was almost as long as your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      For some reason I’ve never understood the argument that the American anthem is hard to sing, which is why fans don’t sing it at sporting events. Canadians sing our anthem at sporting events and it sounds how it should sound…a bunch of people gracefully yelling in a closed arena. I think Canada is pretty united in patriotism, except for the murmurs that Quebec wants to start its own country (those have died down lately, I think). Of course, Canadians out west and out east probably aren’t the biggest fans of us in Southern Ontario, but it’s not a big deal. I think the perception we get in Canada is that Americans don’t really give us respect, primarily when it comes to sports. Or maybe they do and we just like playing the victim lol. Thanks for the novel, Barb!

      Liked by 1 person

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