Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Scarlet Letter

But the object that most drew my attention to the mysterious package was a certain affair of fine red cloth, much worn and faded, There were traces about it of gold embroidery, which, however, was greatly frayed and defaced, so that none, or very little, of the glitter was left. It had been wrought, as was easy to perceive, with wonderful skill of needlework; and the stitch (as I am assured by ladies conversant with such mysteries) gives evidence of a now forgotten art, not to be discovered even by the process of picking out the threads. This rag of scarlet cloth--for time, and wear, and a sacrilegious moth had reduced it to little other than a rag--on careful examination, assumed the shape of a letter.

It was the capital letter C. By an accurate measurement, each limb proved to be precisely three inches and a quarter in length. It had been intended, there could be no doubt, as an ornamental article of dress; but how it was to be worn, or what rank, honour, and dignity, in by-past times, were signified by it, was a riddle which (so evanescent are the fashions of the world in these particulars) I saw little hope of solving. And yet it strangely interested me. My eyes fastened themselves upon the old scarlet letter, and would not be turned aside. Certainly there was some deep meaning in it most worthy of interpretation, and which, as it were, streamed forth from the mystic symbol, subtly communicating itself to my sensibilities, but evading the analysis of my mind.

When thus perplexed--and cogitating, among other hypotheses, whether the letter might not have been one of those decorations which the white men used to contrive in order to take the eyes of Indians--I happened to place it on my breast. It seemed to me--the reader may smile, but must not doubt my word--it seemed to me, then, that I experienced a sensation not altogether physical, yet almost so, as of burning heat, and as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron. I shuddered, and involuntarily let it fall upon the floor.
-Nathaniel Hawthorne*

Thus endeth the prologue to our tale; it is therefrom that I must continue. Over the past three years, the City of Edmonton—the City of Champions—has seen a rapid increase in the amount of Calgary Flames paraphernalia being worn by individuals on the street, hung in home windows, and attached to the rear of automobiles. This alarming transition has come with little resistance from the citizens of our fair city; in fact, many Edmontonians have become willing participants in this treacherous exercise. It is one thing when people outside of this province, including the national media, act as if Calgary is the second coming of Shangri-La. But it takes on a whole new level of shamefulness when Edmonton’s own sons and daughters forget their civic pride and responsibility and begin whoring themselves out to that Babylon in the south, rather than treating it with the scorn and hatred deserving of the enemy.
"The great whore that sitteth upon many oil fields: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the province have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Rev. 17:1-2)

Before I go any further, let me be clear in what I find so egregious, because there are in fact not one, but two things that I find quite revolting:

1) The prominent display of Calgary Flames paraphernalia in the city of Edmonton, particularly the large quantity of Calgary Flames car flags on display;

2) So-called Edmonton Oilers fans that have switched, and may switch, their allegiances to the Flames once the Oilers are no longer in the playoffs.

There assuredly are people young and old living in Edmonton who either grew up in Calgary, or in another city, town, village or farm in southern Alberta. In fact, there must be thousands of them, as Edmonton is currently (and has been historically) the hub of Alberta’s cultural, educational, athletic and governmental scenes. Admittedly, those vigorously pursuing the base activity of commerce remain in Calgary, but those edified souls seeking virtue, wisdom and enlightenment long ago abandoned hope of receiving it in Cowtown, and made the short pilgrimage up Highway 2 to the Gateway To The North.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that indeed there are fans of the Calgary Flames living in the City of Champions. It is a fair and reasonable consequence of such a diverse and cosmopolitan city. But some may further argue that these Flames fans should have the right to express their sports fanaticism in the public square, and this is where I differ. For despite being an open-minded man living in a tolerant city, I must draw a line in the sand when it comes to the rules of being a fan. And let me be clear again: it is not so much the matter of these people cheering for the Flames, but a) their sudden and suspicious appearance when their team is finally doing well, and b) the fact that their cheering goes unchallenged. I can probably count on one hand the number of Calgary Flames jerseys I saw in Edmonton from 1974-2003. As for flags on cars, I don’t remember seeing a single one. This not only indicates the intrinsic bandwagon nature of Flames fans (not surprising considering their biggest yearly event celebrates Stetsons, cattle and shit), but the sheer suppressive will that Edmontonians had over such expressions. What has become so irritating is that not only have the fair-weather Flames fans finally come out to play, but that we as Edmontonians, in a weakened state of mercy and kindness, have ceded them the fucking field.

No truer manifestation of this exists than during the Flames aborted Stanley Cup run of 2003. The Oilers failed to make the playoffs that year (for only the sixth time in its twenty-five year history), while Calgary was making its first appearance after seven straight years of missing out. Riding on the back of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff (the Flames had been an abysmal 29-36-13-4 in 2002, and weren’t doing much better until they traded for Kiprusoff and he rolled of a 24-10-4 run to end the 2003 season), the Flames went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, eventually losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. Along the way, out of some misplaced nationalism that was better suited to Don Cherry or Carolyn Parrish than it was to Edmontonians, Oilers fans began cheering for the Flames because they were “the only Canadian team” still left in the playoffs. Signs and flags popped up everywhere, and even Edmonton’s sporting goods stores were selling out of Flames merchandise. Never mind that Tampa Bay actually had more Canadian players on their roster than the Flames did, that this type of jingoism paralleled the creation of the “Freedom Fry,” or that it was the sporting equivalent of Red Sox fans cheering for the Yankees, a sorrowfully large group of Edmontonians abandoned their integrity for the quick promise of Red Mile titties.

We are now in the Stanley Cup playoff run of 2005/2006, with both the Oilers and the Flames making the show after a lockout year. Calgary has again piggybacked their way to success, and currently are the 3rd ranked team in the Western Conference. The Oilers finished a disappointing 8th , and face the daunting challenge of upsetting the NHL’s number one point-getter, the Detroit Red Wings. Again this spring, there is a large amount of visible Flames merchandise within the city of Edmonton. Thankfully, there is an even greater amount of visible Oilers merchandise, including the Oilers car flags. It appears that Edmontonians may finally be fighting back. One story is already making the rounds, taking on a legendary status. There are unconfirmed reports that a popular bar in Edmonton, known simply as The Black Dog, refused entry last evening to two gentlemen wearing Flames jerseys. Whether it was out of sporting pride or sound business acumen (the Oilers lost in overtime last night, while the Flames won) makes no difference, as the underlying sentiment was assuredly that a brawl would have occurred had the two men been allowed to enter. This is a positive sign. Edmontonians must stand up for their hockey team and their city, and force back the scavengers from the south. For example, when you come across someone wearing Flames merchandise, see if you can determine a manufacturing date. You will assuredly see that the product was likely made, and therefore only purchased, in the past couple of years. In fact, the price tag will probably still be on the product, as the greedy and utilitarian minded Calgarian is planning on returning it once their team regresses to its historical mean. I suggest ripping it off, leaving them with no other choice but to keep the Darren McCarty jersey they purchased this afternoon.

As for the distasteful level of sports bigamy that occurred two years ago, it too must be thwarted. Already this year, I have had one individual—a so-called “lover” of the Oilers—tell me that they would be cheering for the Flames if the Oilers got knocked out. I did not spit in her face, as I wanted to do, but I did call her out. I do not know how we can implement it, but I do have a solution to this problem. I would like to advocate the creation of a Sporting Inquisition, whose sole responsibility would be to weed out the sporting heretics in this city. While I would never recommend something so inhumane as the death penalty, I would suggest that those convicted by the Sporting Inquisition be publicly vilified and forced to wear a giant flaming “C” on their clothing, in recognition of the shame they have brought upon themselves and their city through their sporting adultery. As for who shall be in control of the Sporting Inquisition, who shall be named as Grand Inquisitor, I can think of only one man. A man whose loyalty to the Oilers and the City of Edmonton has never once been questioned. A man whose ethics, virtue and integrity are beyond reproach. Only one man can do this job, and his name is Joey Moss.

“Long live the Oilers, or go down with the Flames! Long live the Oilers, or go down with the Flames! Long live the Oilers, or go down with the Flames!”

*The only thing changed in the Hawthorne quote is the letter "C" from the letter "A." It's like the guy wrote it for this very moment in sporting history!


At 10:45 PM, Blogger Joko Londo said...

San Jose Sharks will compete for the Stanley Cup... a miracle in itelf.. they will win it all!!

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

What you describe is, in fact, the bandwagon jumping nature of NON-flames fans. Just because Oilers fans have started to cheer for the Flames doesn't mean that Flames fans are fickle, but that people are looking for something to cheer for in a city where it is (or wasn't) possible. I will never understand the myopic nature of Oiler fans. They argue that Flames fans only showed up to cheer their team after the 2004 cup run, but the Oilers ran into the same problem as they struggled in the 90s, as was evidenced by their franchise nearly living the city due to financial woes.

At 11:48 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Uh huh. I never heard you saying shit about the Flames until they took a run at the Cup. Nice try, no dice.

As I said, I don't have a problem with Flames fans cheering for the Flames. I simply outlined several issues: there were none cheering here until the Flames went to the final, Edmonton fans let them off the hook, and many Edmontonians made the mistake of cheering for the Flames because they were a Canadian team, when really the should have just admitted their team didn't make it and called it a day.

At 12:44 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

p.s. you know how I know you are gay?

You have a Chuck Kobasew poster in your bathroom.

At 2:11 AM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

Uh huh. I never heard you saying shit about the Flames until they took a run at the Cup. Nice try, no dice.

I've always been a Flames and always will be. You've always known I was a Flames fan and if you profess otherwise, then you, sir, are a liar.

At 2:46 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I never said you weren't a Flames fan. I just said I never heard you say much about it until they went to the finals. I know you had the misfortune of growing up with parents who were Flames fans. You come by your poor luck honestly.

At 8:23 AM, Blogger sacamano said...

Hey, you got to use the scarlet letter post afterall. Kudos!

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I did! I had seen enough. GOOOOOO OIL!

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Here's an example I point to to illustrate the fairweatherness of Flames fans.

In the mid 1990s, when I last regularly attended Oiler games, you would always see a strong contingent of Leafs and Habs fans show up (often in jersey) when those teams rolled through town. Even when those teams were struggling, the crowd at Northlands would be at least 1/3 in support of the visiting team. When the Flames came to town? Not so much.

Now, until the spring of 2004, I rarely saw any Calgary Flames paraphenelia in Edmonton. Even when I was in University, and a lot of my friends/classmates were from Flames country, I heard barely a word of support for them until the playoff run. In fact, I remember finding out for the first time that about 2-3 pretty good friends of mine were "huge" Flames fans right about the time that they eliminated Vancouver.

I don't buy the "there was nothing to cheer about" argument. There are some hardcore Flames fans, but most of them seemed to go into hibernation until the team became a contender once again. And as for the argument about financial problems, you'll remember that *all* the Canadian teams (save Montreal, Toronto, and maybe Vancouver) were having financial problems around that time. If you're going to criticize the lack of support in E-Town, you also have to give the community credit for rallying around the team and coming out in droves to buy season tickets and support the Oil when things got really rough.

So in conclusion, there are some hardcore Flames fans, but my observation (at least regarding the ones I know in Edmonton) is that most of them are pretty weak, at least compared to the Oiler fans that I know.

I won't say anything about the Oiler fans who jumped on the Flames bandwagon, because frankly, they're not worthy of our attention.

At 12:04 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Well, I don't agree entirely with the principal that if the Oilers are knocked out of the playoffs that Oiler fans must be so blindly devoted to the team that they should turn off the television and not watch another game of the playoffs. There is some good hockey there to watch and fans are naturally going to follow it. For example all of the Canucks and Leafs fans haven't simply said "Forget about the season's starting?"

If your watching the games anyways its natural to develope a preference as to whom wins. I tend to think that its natural that most fans in Canada would prefer a Canadian team to win. Its probably misplaced nationalism. It embarassing for Oilers fans to be cheering for the Flames to be doing so, and that should be discouraged or at least done in the most subdued and half hearted fashion possible. I'm not going to object overly to the sentiment "I guess it would be better for the Flamers to win, than for Tampa Bay to win as no one in Tampa would actually notice that they'd won the Stanely cup. However, if they do at least we wouldn't have to put up with insufferable Flames Fans."

On the other hand, if the only Canada team left in the playoffs is the Habs or the Sens (and hence there is no justice in the world as the Oilers are not present) I don't think there would be anything wrong with cheering for those teams for the remainder of the season. Ottawa is fun to watch, and the Habs are my dad's team so I have a measure of affection for them. Plus neither of them is Calgary or Toronto...

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Agreed, Chris. I understand that people still remain a fan of hockey, and therefore gravitate towards other teams in the playoffs. That makes sense. I myself don't do it with hockey (I actually do stop watching), but I do it with the NFL usually. Where I draw the line however, is in a) cheering for your most heated rival because they live 3 hours down the road when that is why you hate the bastards in the first place, and b) buying jerseys and flags. That is going too far. Unless you are related to one of the many Flames players who are from Edmonton, you should never cheer for the Flames. Ever. And it works both ways.

It seems to me there has to be a certain poit where you just say, "my team lost, who cares who else wins?" Otherwise, why be a fan of any team at all?

At 5:54 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I agree to an extent, on principle alone I will never cheer for the Leafs, even if they eventually get to some sort of game of some substantial significance and all other Canadian teams have been eliminated. Their media and fans are simply too god damn irritating to put up with.

Calgary I dislike strongly because their fans act like they've assembled the late 70s Montreal Canadians, when they're really being carried on the back of one outstanding Finish goaltender.

I do agree that purchasing the merchandise towards the end is the worst sort of band wagon jumping and its disgraceful if its your team's worst rival especially. On the other hand, I don't have any problem with well wishers. The people who aren't fans of the team, but who of the teams remaining do have a preference as to whom goes on the win. That I don't have a problem with


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