As a former bureaucratic word slinger I’ve written my fair share of speeches, news releases and communications plans, only to have what I would consider to be good work slashed apart by program areas, Deputy Minister Offices and finally, the Minister’s Office itself. It’s not an easy gig, as any product that you create has to go through more levels of approval than there are layers of hell. And each of those different levels all want to put their own custom stamp on your work so that they can claim ownership if someone higher up likes it.

Government writers spend just as much time negotiating that mess as they do actually writing. With that experience, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what it would take for a regular communications officer to get pop cultural references placed in a government news release. That’s why I probably have more appreciation than most for this paragraph from a recent news release from the Canada Revenue Agency:

Parents whose children participate in paid artistic, cultural, recreational, and developmental programs will now enjoy the same benefit as parents whose children participate in paid programs of physical activity. Our Government believes whether a child is inspired by Justin Bieber, Karen Kain, Brett Lawrie, or The Tragically Hip, parents should receive a tax credit to help pay for the programs that will help their children live out those dreams.

I can ignore the fact that Lawrie has only had 50 plate appearances at the Major League level, which is probably too small a sample size to be inspiring anyone, and embrace the reference knowing that whoever wrote it probably had to fight for its inclusion. And when the Government of Canada starts referring to baseball players in its news releases, it’s probably a good sign that the sport’s popularity in this country is growing.

Well done, anonymous writer, well done.

Comments (16)

  1. At first, I agreed that it is somewhat remarkable the writer was able to use Brett Lawrie as the only example of an iconic Canadian athlete. I can’t imagine how many pricks would have wanted to use Sidney Crosby.
    But after thinking it over I became doubtful the news release was written by an anonymous bureaucrat baseball fan. Instead, I suspect it was written by a Conservative staffer and the names used serve a specific political purpose. The Tragically Hip and Justin Bieber represent all those rich musicians out there who don’t need any government assistance. You’ve probably never heard of Karen Kain but she’s the director of the National Ballet of Canada and represents the cultural programs the government believes are overfunded and of little use to society. Brett Lawrie, is the talented, white, scrappy, and Canadian baseball player on the only team in Canada. Lawrie has been marketed by Rogers to inspire patriotic pride and the government is picking up on that to justify greater public spending on organized sport programs..
    The objective of the news release is (as is with many recent government proposals like the change to our now ‘Royal’ military) to please the Conservative base through devisive and unnecessary cultural issues. Government arts funding is a favourite target of many conservatives and this letter states a kid playing organized sports holds just as much value to society as someone in an artistic field. I am not arguing against that point but rather believe that using Lawrie to represent team sports and Kain to represent cultural programs has a clear political objective.
    If anybody thinks I’m totally off-base (Pun! Motherfuckas!) with this evaluation please consult the fantastic article ‘Jocks vs. Pukes’ (http://www.thenation.com/article/162401/jocks-vs-pukes) for a better explanation of the link between sports and right-wing ideals.

    • Who!?!?! My only cultural reference is the cartoon network.

      You could bend the identity of any athlete to fit the definition you’re providing. You’re also giving far too much credit to the Conservative party. They’re not clever enough to use examples in a minor press release to reinforce core values.

  2. Did nobody else flash on the image of pre-Jays Lawrie playing Edward 40 Hands when they read the title?

  3. can you imagine a legion of gourdie dougies roaming the baseball world

  4. can you imagine a legion of gordie dougies roaming the baseball world*

  5. We’ve probably never heard of Karen Kain?

  6. @stoeten – By ‘we’ I meant ‘me’. It’s called projection.

  7. stubbs, sadly I believe you’re right in regards to painting sports in a more favourable light vs arts. But I understand that organized sports funding is also under attack. Better to give a tiny tax credit than to substantially support anything that builds stronger communities. Thanks for the link to the article – it was enlightening.

    I suspect Lawrie was used just because he’s topical. Crosby is still a question mark to return while Lawrie has been burning up the sports newscasts the last few weeks. Still, it’s nice to see some other sport rather than hockey be referenced.

  8. @Parkes – Lawrie is unique from other athletes who could have been chosen because he’s the only good Canadian player (apologies to Teahen) on the only Canadian MLB team. The story of Lawrie we have been sold is that of a scrappy BC kid on his way to stardom in America’s game, for Canada’s team. Such a narrative obviously doesn’t apply to any other athlete.
    You’re probably right about giving way too much credit to the Conservative party. Perhaps I’m just paranoid about the influence of Karl Rove type spinmeisters in our government. It could never happen here, right?

  9. Stubbs, your argument would hold more weight if the Child Fitness Tax Credit hadn’t already been in place before the Children’s Art Tax Credit was introduced in this year’s budget. The purpose of this credit was purely an election “carrot” for the voters that want the same tax credit for putting little Johnny into piano lessons rather than soccer. Trust me on this, I write tax commentary all the time (I know, I lead a dangerous and sexy life).

    Heh, Brett Lawrie as the sports example, bet they never saw the Edward 40 hands photo.

  10. @Daniel – Thanks for putting an end to my baseless speculation with facts.

  11. Also today, a Jose Bautista reference in an article about news outlets demonizing muslims!

    “Despite his inflammatory views, Mr. Wilders is wily and soft-spoken, and Mr. Levant could hardly have treated him with more respect and sympathy. Jose Bautista would die for lobs like those Mr. Levant threw Mr. Wilders.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/gerald-caplan/demonizing-muslims-to-what-end/article2135372/

  12. @tropical – So Levant interviewing Wilders is like Bronson Arroyo throwing batting practice to Jose Bautista in a Racism Home Run Derby? If I were Jose I’d sue for libel.

  13. I bet the Conservative government as a whole doesn’t do the whole sabremetrics thing. Too much stats and too many facts, not enough ideology and mindless pandering.

  14. I’m just just blown away that there wasn’t a hockey player held up as a role model for these role models.

  15. Well, Gordie Dougie does play a bit like a hockey player, so there’s that. ;)

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