Alex Anthopoulos and I have something of a disagreement. Not a major one– and not one that I really need to keep beating like some dead whores [Note: that's the phrase I'm looking for there, right?]– but one that does have to do with the big story of the second half of this season, and one that lands precisely where I’ve got something stuck in my craw.
“I think Brett Lawrie, whether he was Dominican or Venezuelan, would still be a fan favourite because of the way he plays the game,” Anthopoulos tells Terry Bell of the Vancouver Sun. “I think the fact that you can take even more pride that he’s Canadian is great. But I think it’s the type of player, high energy, speed, power, hardnosed. Being Canadian just adds to it.”
Really, Alex? Because that’s kind of not at all the feeling that I get. But, y’know, I only base that mostly on your own company’s numerous marketing efforts in the wake of Lawrie’s call-up, and the cavalcade of articles about him and his Canadianness in the local papers.
The Toronto Star reports of the “hundreds of fans, long lineups, wrist bands, cameras, phone cameras, teenaged girls — and even crying toddlers” that greeted Lawrie during an autograph session Friday at Eaton Centre, some lining up as early as 7 AM. Unprecedented much?
Then there were the members of the team that Canada sent to the Little League World Series– Like the Memorial Cup, but with less date rape! (TM)– who were on hand at the Rogers Centre on Sunday “to take in a Blue Jays game and meet Lawrie,” as Michael Grange of Sportsnet explains.
Not AL MVP candidate Jose Bautista. Not fourth best ERA starter in the American League Ricky Romero. Their fellow Langley, BC, native; he of a whole 24 games in the Majors; he who JaysTalk callers are already openly comparing to Pete motherfucking Rose.
I get it. Fans pined for Lawrie as he tore up the Pacific Coast League all summer, and as soon as he arrived in the Majors he started to deliver. It’s kind of fucking awesome. But I think it’s laying the maple syrup on a little thick to suggest that Lawrie’s Canadianness is simply adding to the phenomenon.
Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a thing I struggle with, for some reason.
Yes, every Jays fan should be thrilled that their team has a player who’s looked as good as Lawrie has so far. And even the ultra-cynical among us who are unnerved by just what a whopping fucking difference a player’s birth certificate apparently makes must, at the very least, appreciate Lawriemania for its potential to be exploited for the benefit of the organization.
Yet, I’m having trouble resolving my discomfort with this– and maybe it’s because I’ve spent so many years groaning and rolling my eyes in the direction of the army of maple dicks who insufferably trumpet the notion of the Jays getting their hands on every single fucking Canadian who makes the slightest blip on MLB’s radar. Now I’m seeing that there maybe really is something to this, no matter how much I think it’s completely ridiculous to have an extra level of appreciation for a player on a team you already like based on where he was born.
Or maybe it’s just that it feels like way too much of an encroachment into baseball of a form of English Canada’s crude, xenophobic, Don Cherry, Darcy Tucker and Tie Domi are fucking awesome but Mats Sundin is just OK bullshit meat head hockey culture for my taste.
Parkes mused in that vein, aiming high (er… low?) and missing when he groped for a resolution his own discomfort with Lawriemania last Friday at Getting Blanked, calling Lawrie “the perfect storm for popularity in Toronto. First of all, he’s Canadian. Secondly, he’s got the whole White, Anglo Saxon thing going for him. And finally, he appears to try hard. The insecure, inherently racist, casual baseball fan in Toronto didn’t stand a chance.”
“Inherently racist” is a pretty goddamned thick brush to paint with [as you may recall from two paragraphs ago, I prefer "xenophobic"! HEYO!], but as far as a player’s nationality creating an incentive for casual fans to like a team goes, I totally get that.
And maybe it is just the casual fan who is losing his or her shit on the back of some gaudy nationalism– the Star reports that at Eaton Centre, “the vast majority of fans on hand for Lawrie’s signing were younger than the 21-year-old himself.”
On its own that totally makes sense, but I can’t shake the feeling that all the maple-flavoured Lawriegasms are part of something much bigger than just casual fans finally having someone on the Jays they feel akin to and can cheer for, and I just can’t get behind it on that level, whatever it is.
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s totally the hockey thing.