I am Canadian, and I love living in this country. I love the ideals that Canada, if not actually stands for, at least believes itself to stand for. In some ways though, especially as the Olympic Games continue in London, being Canadian reminds me of really liking Radiohead in undergrad. They’re really great until you meet the super fan who sees a couple of Radiohead compact discs by your stereo, and takes that as an invitation to provide you with a spec script for an impromptu episode of Behind The Music on Pablo Honey.

For as much as I love Canada, I really hate the Canadian tendency to exhibit our insecurities and overcompensate for our culture being inundated by the United States by adopting an uncharacteristic jingoism or nationalistic ideology when it comes to athletics, arts and entertainment. I always believed the best part of being Canadian was that we don’t necessarily care all that much about being Canadian.

This has led me to often roll my eyes at the Toronto Blue Jays’ exploitation of this phenomenon, specifically, as it pertains to the marketing of  Langley, British Columbia’s Brett Lawrie. And don’t even get me started on the members of the team’s fan base who suggested Ryan Dempster as a solution to the Blue Jays problems, or craved for the team to go after Jeff Francis when he was available.

This is all to say that I don’t dabble in maple bonerism.

However, if I were to experiment just one time, like I was back in college or something.  I would probably get rather excited about this quote from St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras:

I’m Canadian. My passport is Canadian.

Taveras, who lived in Montreal, Quebec, during his teenage years, was ranked as the number fifty-three prospect in all of baseball at the beginning of the year by Keith Law. He then moved up all the way to number eight overall in Law’s mid-season rankings which came out a couple of weeks ago. This, is what the ESPN scout and scribe had to say:

It ain’t pretty, as you know if you watched the Futures Game on Sunday, but it works, with average, power and an impressive ability to square up pitches most hitters can only foul off. He’s hitting .324/.372/.593 as a 20-year-old at Double-A, though I’m skeptical that he’ll be able to play center field at an adequate level in the majors given teams’ general insistence that their center fielders have more range than Taveras can offer. His bat still profiles as star caliber in right.

Baseball Prospectus prospect guru Kevin Goldstein had even more glowing praise for the young outfielder:

Taveras has an excellent approach for his age, and his swing possesses the rare combination of extreme violence and sublime bat control. While he takes a massive cut, he consistently makes very hard contact to all fields. Once he adds some loft, scouts believe he’ll be good for 18-20 home runs. Leg problems limited Taveras in 2011, but he’s an average runner with a good arm.

And then earlier in July, he had this:

This is all very exciting stuff for Canadian baseball, as is the rest of what a mock Team Canada Olympic Games roster might look like. It should be noted that although he remains open to the idea, Taveras has never represented Canada, and during the recent Futures Game, he wore a Dominican crest on his uniform.

If Taveras were to represent Canada, say at the next World Baseball Classic, it would certainly be something that those who care about Canadian baseball would and should get excited about. However, I think it’s somewhat illustrative of my overall point about the ridiculousness of caring about such things. Globalization has made it justifiable for almost anyone to represent anyone at international sporting events. It just seems all so silly to imagine someone who lived for only four years in a country as a young teenager to be an arbitrary representative of a country. Then again, it seems silly to me to divide these things up by country to begin with, as though that has any meaning.

After all, this is how I was first introduced to Taveras:

Most people didn’t even know his name, let alone his nationality.

Comments (20)

  1. I always thought you needed to be a citizen to have a passport of a country?

    But if Taveras only spent four years in Montreal, how could he be a citizen?

    I’m confused.

    • You do need to be a citizen to have a passport. However, permanent residents can get travel documents from the federal government that look similar to and do the same thing as a passport. If Taveras is a permanent resident of Canada, he likely has these documents and just thinks it’s a passport.

  2. Remember when you weren’t a total douche, and this post would have been something simply along the lines of “hey, it’s pretty cool that Oscar Taveras lived in Canada” instead of spending half the article making sure that we know you’re too cool to really care?

  3. Another douchy article from Parkes. Quelle surprise!

  4. Hey Parkes, i thought your thoughts on the “Canadian Identity” were very insightful. Especially for a Canadian sports writer. In regards to the Brett Lawrie marketing campaign: I think, even if he wasn’t Canadian, Rogers would still be advertising him as one of the faces of the franchise; behind only Bautista and maybe Romero. His age, skill, tats, energy, attitude, etc are perfect marketing attributes in the age of the UFC sports fan. The exploitation of his nationality is annoying for sure, but have you ever watched USA olympic coverage? Maybe that will put things in better perspective for you.

  5. Douchy comments

    Quelle suprise indeed!

  6. Hey neanderthals, this is what you sound like: How dare someone who gets paid to give their opinion as a means of prompting thought give an opinion that prompts thought. Your failures to provide a counter argument to Parkes’ point shows that if there’s any fault here it lies with you.

    Good post, Parkes.

  7. Parkes would be more excited about Taveras’ Canadian ties if Taveras was a Giants’ prospect.

  8. I agree that one of the cool things about being Canadian is the ability to not get all bent out of shape about it. Having lived in the USA I certainly revelled in the idea of being very proud of where I come from without getting all American about it (we hear chanting of USA-USA at almost every Blue Jays road victory). In fact one of the most interesting contradictions in Canadian identity is the struggle to make ourselves the American counterpoint – all the while increasingly imitating their identity traits as we go along.

    Lawrie’s passport is no insignificant thing though. I often wonder why on this site the issue has to be so polarized. Why is it that you either think his national identity is meaningless – or – you’re a mouth breathing Neanderthal?

    I love Brett Lawrie. I’m not really nationalistic about it at all. Still, I think its awesome that he’s from this country. I’m pleased as piss that he’s be wearing our colours at a major international tournament.

    Anyway – Good post Parkes. I’ve never heard of Taveras before – although I don’t feel guilty about it after seeing that Fox Sports screen capture.

    • The issue is that we shouldn’t like Brett Lawrie the Toronto Blue Jay because we he is Canadian, we should like Brett Lawrie the Toronto Blue Jay because he is a very good player with tons of upside who is tremendously exciting to watch.

      Now when the WBC or any other international event happens it is more logical and reasonable to cheer him on as he is representing Canada.

      It shouldn’t matter where the Blue Jays are from, so long AA fields the best team possible and wins a WS. The is the end goal, not to sell Jersey’s just because Lawrie has the same passport as us.

      • This is why I like Lawrie, not because he’s Canadian. Having said that, I don’t understand why we can’t let people like players for whatever reason they wish.

  9. While I don’t disagree with Parkes’ distaste for Rogers’ use of Brett Lawrie (or any other Canadian… Scott Richmond anyone?)’s passport as a marketing tool, I do take issue with his characterizing it as unique to Canada. Witness Jose Bautista’s All Star vote totals from the Dominican or the ridiculously douchey American Exceptionalism traits of our neighbours to the South. Sure we’re proud of having a talented baseball player be Canadian. It’s not the only reason to enjoy his play, but it’s a valid one for casual fans to follow.

  10. Can I just add…who cares about the World Baseball Classic? Seriously? It’s just another version of the all-star game.

  11. I can’t fault Rogers for trying to exploit nationalistic sentiment in pursuit of profit. Cynical? Perhaps. Good business? Definitely. The Jays have become a national team. Having lived in TO, and now residing on the West Coast, I must say that the best, most engaged pro-Jays crowds that I have been in are those in Seattle when the Jays visiting. That being said, the notion that the Jays should target players because they are Canadian is silly.

    • Yep, that simple. In Calgary, I’m geographically closer to several AL and NL Central teams, and several AL and NL West teams, than I am to Toronto. In Vancouver, the Mariners are right next door. Yet the biggest baseball team in Canada in terms of support is easily the Blue Jays, because they make some noise about being Canadian.

      A significant portion of the Jays fanbase lives far from Toronto, and pretty much irrationally supports the Toronto team simply because it’s the de facto team of their cities and towns, too, because they’re Canadian, and the Jays have been on national TV for so long and so consistently.

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