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.
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.”
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.