Monday, July 16, 2012

Oh Canada

It was very exciting to visit Canada recently – I travelled there with Maj (you can find out about Maj here) to compete in the BC Bike Race, which is billed as “The Ultimate Singletrack experience”. But while riding in one of the world’s premiere mountain bike destinations was definitely going to be special, I was actually more excited about heading to ‘North America’ for the basketball. What?

I’ve been a big fan of basketball since I was a kid and played the game for over 20 years so the excitement of the NBA was always a big dream for me. Unfortunately for me our trip to Canada only included Vancouver, which hasn’t had an NBA team since 2001 (when the mostly unsuccessful Vancouver Grizzlies were sold and moved to Memphis)…and it was also summertime, which is the NBA off-season.

The Vancouver Grizzlies are now nothing more than a distant memory in Canadian history, much like Pamela Anderson’s foray in to Professional Wrestling.

Thankfully though, the basketball legacy in Canada still lives on today via the Toronto Raptors who have managed to survive in the NBA. Despite this however, a friend from Canada quite abruptly told me that “nobody gives a shit about basketball in Canada”. This is surprising given the fact that Steve Nash grew up on Vancouver Island and was propelled to sporting stardom by that most clichéd of means – an unsupportive high-school teacher who advised him to seriously re-evaluate his goals of becoming a professional basketball player.

Nash went on to become one of the greatest point guards in NBA history and recently began his 17th NBA season (at the age of 38) with the Los Angeles Lakers. Nash has achieved some great milestones in the NBA including being named as a 2-time Most Valuable Player, 8-time All Star, multiple assists leader and one of the top free-throw shooters in NBA history. Now, while free throw shooting doesn’t generate the same sort of excitement as high-flying slam dunks or buzzer-beating game-winners, in much the same way as the quintessential super-domestique in professional cycling foregoes the limelight to help his team, the accurate free-throw shooter also plays an extremely important role.

While the points from these uncontested free throws (left) are just as valuable, the excitement generated by slam dunking (over a car) is unfortunately not matched.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so apparently Canadians don’t give a shit about basketball, all they care about is hockey. Apparently hockey is a really cool sport because dudes travelling at high speed intentionally smash into each other and then fight a lot. I was told that you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to watch a hockey game in Canada so I bought a ticket from a scalper and sat through a game. Unfortunately for me, the summer league must be a little bit toned down because the only fight I saw involved two aggressive mothers at the cafeteria battling over the last low fat yoghurt.

Mmmmm, that sure does look tasty! Hockey in Canada wasn’t quite as violent as I had anticipated.

My Canadian friend assured me that in winter, hockey is much more exciting and that every Canadian idolises former hockey star Wayne Gretzky and most have not even heard of Steve Nash. Despite this though, it is interesting to note that Steve Nash has an entire chain of fitness centres named after him in British Columbia while Wayne Gretzky’s name is attached to this dodgy-looking sports bar in downtown Toronto…and also the Vancouver Science Museum which is colloquially referred to as ‘Gretzky’s Teste’.

Steve Nash promotes a healthy lifestyle to Canadians while Wayne Gretzky is immortalised by this dodgy sports bar and a piece of modern architecture affectionately known as ‘Gretzky’s Teste’. 

I guess this really shows the true nature of Canadians – they’d prefer to idolise a violent, beer-drinking hockey player than a gentlemanly, free throw shooter trying to promote a healthy lifestyle. But there are a lot of things about Canada that don’t make sense – just look how they spell ‘Squamish’:

In the native Squamish Aboriginal language, the autonym for the town of “Squamish” includes a number 7. Amazing stuff which really makes the silent “b” in “oxygen debt” look a bit simplistic.
Oh Canada, when will you ever cease to amaze?

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