Having a CFL team doesn’t make a city great

I was thinking about that writer a few months back who wrote a column for a Windsor, Ontario publication slamming Pier 21 in Halifax. It takes a lot of cognitive dissonance to write something negative about another city when you live in Windsor. That said, I wasn’t that annoyed about it. I know that Halifax isn’t for everybody (we certainly don’t have enough doctors for them), but I like it here. Even if it doesn’t have a large stadium.
A lot of people, both dumber and smarter than me, have written about this inevitable Halifax boondoggle. I can’t add much to the financial stuff. What I want to talk about is the CFL and our greatness as a city.
I don’t have a hate-on for the CFL. I’ve made a career of celebrating Canadiana. When I was on 22 Minutes, I wrote parodies of the old CBC Life and Times Show. (Remember that show? It was a blatant rip-off of A&E’s Biography) where we featured The Littlest Hobo and his affairs with Flipper the Dolphin and Canadian superstar Cynthia Dale.
I once wrote a sketch in which acclaimed-in-Toronto director Atom Egoyan was rebooting The King of Kensington. I co-wrote a Corner Gas episode that featured the Canadian Fitness Awards and the dreaded-to-any-Canadian-of-a-certain-age flexed-arm hang. I love Canadiana and I loved doing sketches and episodes of TV that only Canadians would get, even though the whole Canadian film and television industry eschews getting Canadian eyeballs to projects almost as much as it encourages writers to use words like “eschews.”
So I’ve always wanted to like the CFL. But I don’t. The same goes for jazz, red wine, and Ren & Stimpy cartoons. I don’t think the CFL is stupid, or that its fans are dumb for liking it, I just don’t get it myself.
This next insight is so subversive, so inconoclastic, so controversial that I might get fired for writing it, even on the Internet. In fact, it is so revolutionary that it should probably be in a piece that is printed on actual paper and not consigned to the ether and semi-permanence of the World Wide Web, but here goes anyway:
Having a CFL team does not in and of itself make a city great.
Take a second and breathe that in. I know, it’s heretical, but you must try, like a religious peasant in the 1500s grasping that the sun does not revolve around the earth, or a Newtonian physicist realizing that time dilates as velocities approach speed of light, or even like noted thinker Kyrie Irving finally conceding that the Earth is in fact not flat.
I spent a lot of time in Regina. Halifax is better. And it’s not close. It’s better than Regina in a “Clint Eastwood killing John Russell at the end of Pale Rider way” (oops spoiler alert, I guess). When I worked in Regina we used to have a saying based on the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” one. It was: “What happens in Regina—no really I’m asking: what happens in Regina?”
Or take Winnipeg. Halifax is better than Winnipeg. I know they have a ballet and some other things, but even with the Jets, do you want to live in that dystopian nightmare over Halifax? Imagine you took all the topography of Halifax, flattened it, moved it away from the ocean, and added a billion mosquitos. That’s Winnipeg.
Canny and alert readers will have no doubt ascertained that I picked those two places because they have CFL teams.
Do you think I’m picking on the Prairies? Okay, how about Hamilton? Halifax is better than Hamilton especially now that we have our own Bass Pro Shop. I don’t think we’re ahead the way we are with Regina and Winnipeg, it’s just that Hamilton is basically Toronto’s Truro.
If you don’t agree with me, feel free to write a blog post about it in Regina, Winnipeg, or Hamilton Magazine. If those “cities” even have such a magazine.
All right, you say, but how about the aforementioned Toronto, or Vancouver,or Montreal? They have CFL franchises.
I have to concede that those are great cities. But it’s not because of the CFL. If you took the franchise away from Toronto, I think it would still be attract visitors. Fewer phrases in recorded history have ever been said out loud than “I’m heading up to Toronto to watch a CFL game.”
The only one that comes to mind is: “You know what the problem with Halifax is? The airport is way too close to the city.”
In fact, the only time you head to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver because of a CFL game is if you’re playing in it. Or maybe you screwed up the venue’s website and meant to buy Springsteen tickets.
I do expect we will get a stadium here, because there’s nothing that free-market acolytes like more than spending public money on professional sports facilities. And then the CFL team will follow.
My fear is that it won’t make us any more like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal. I suspect we’ll have more of a Windsor, Ontario vibe, a place I’m definitely going to eschew.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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