Sunday, 2 March 2014

Setting Based on Canada Themes: Hockey, Regionalism, and Munificence

  Previously, I charted all three of the above ideas as signal values of Canada. 

  Hockey is the force and arena that brings us together.  We all understand hockey, like it or lump it, and channel our enthusiasm into the next matchup.

  Regions are each individual and separate.  Each region hums to its own tune, and often responds differently than expected.

  Munificence is the pursuit of visible, constructible beauty.  Each city prides itself on its conduct, appearance, and distinctive character.  They often adopt both the regional character, and league franchises for Hockey.

  Hockey is therefore the best possible stage for regional character and collective will to be showcased.  It is too valuable to the Canadian character to do without, and too collective to avoid drawing in the regional variations.

  Let’s discuss the elephant in the room: hockey player selections, especially in large leagues.  Private businesses can, in theory, operate however they want, but any money that they take from the Government (they too are subject to the painting easel), means that they have to conform to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, mandating full and equal participation.  Men and Women do not play together, First Nations produce as many talented players as do “other races” yet never make the draft picks, there are hardly any black players at all, and foreign players skate into the highest level draft picks on the strength of their international reputations. 

  The money of rich folks flows through professional Hockey at all levels, and it skews the discussion to highest figure incomes, mostly reducing the “locality” of the profession to wearing the local colors, perhaps another vision of “waving the flag.”

  By that I should clarify, if you wear the local colors, you charm the locals so much that none care where you’re from, nor how similar you are to the next man on the team in all the ways that are supposed to matter to us. 

  I’m not really sure how best to square this circle, but I will need an answer, and fantasy gives me a chance to make one up.

  “Fantadians” (name subject to change, wow that is bad!) are a people with delusions of relevance, even grandeur on a large stage.  While likely the real answer for hockey and the cults of participation and flag-waving, I wanted to write a fantasy that focused on Canada, and thus would be self-sufficient without needing to include the rest of the world, except as hints and stories.  This one isn’t the best…

  “Fantadians” are a people hungry for self-assurance.  We aren’t weak in the world at large, per say, we are weak in our own minds, and hockey gives us a chance to meet this weakness head on, maybe even challenge it.  This works because it implies a wider world without resting on it, but why is hockey the medium we settled on to define us?

  Hockey descends out of dozens of European stick-ball games, some played for centuries, and with inestimable contributions to form from First Nation sources.  Montreal is undoubtedly the center of it, though, as not only the leagues Canadians look to but the rules that have become pan-Canadian standard were codified there.  Incorporating hockey or any sort of analogue thereof could draw of this history  pretty transparently.

  My best efforts to look up the symbolism inheirent in Hockey in Canada is frustrated, but that just means Google will be of little use.  Steve Keating had a good write up from 2010, before the Vancouver Olympic games.  It seems I won’t find any help making Hockey fit a mythology.  That’s too bad, as I already have a couple that fit the country better. 

  Curling, for instance, is a simple target challenge that operates alongside one’s neighbors, but the neighbors keep getting in the way.  It is emblematic of Canadians that, faced with such competition, we resolve to meet our targets at our neighbor’s expense, not in harming them (no, never), but in friendly competition, as in Curling, by blocking them from their own targets.  Already I have occasion for competition, and even cooperation to beat the competition, all from Curling’s relatively sedate metaphor of Canadianism.


  Aha!  I have it!  All it took was an ice cream break in the winter!

  Okay, bear with me, because it will be offensive, but it will also connect to huge themes from throughout human history.  Ahem!

  Hockey isn’t the same sort of game as Curling.  Curling is a straight target test, a chance to flex personal muscle in a team environment.  Hockey demands not just skill, but superior skill; its “outthinking” is far more speed and reflex based than strategic. 

  Hockey is … more like hot potato.  Scratch that, it is exactly like hot potato.  Hockey is about getting rid of the puck, and doing it better than the opponent.  The team with the puck in his net more times than the other guy (deliberate gender use) loses, the team that can put the puck into the net, and beyond competition range, the most times wins.

  After a dozen failed attempts to define our hockey heroes as soldiers, I now officially give up; they are not warriors, they are garbage men.  They take out the trash, and moreover, they do it better than the other guys, or fail in the attempt.  But where this metaphor becomes truly offensive is Lord Stanley’s Cup!  It is silver, not gold, not adorned; it is pure!  The very best of our garbage passing heroes can claim the Stanley cup, but only after they have shipped more pucks into more nets than any other team. 

  League hockey is inherently city representative.  Players need to purify themselves, and the city that they represent before they can become worthy of the Cup.

  Women may not touch Lord Stanley’s Cup!  Nevermind his daughter Isobel, who played hockey.  Women can have their own league, they can win Gold internationally and they can be inspiring in their own right, but they cannot touch the Stanley Cup!  Why?  Indo-European traditional culture has a ready-made, totally offensive answer: they are impure!

  First Nations may not touch the Stanley Cup.  Few if any blacks can become pure enough to reach the cup.  Americans and Russians … can!  Silly I know, but young men of these sometimes in conflict countries can join “real Canadians” in celebration with the Stanley Cup.  Our broadcasters even talk about bringing home the Stanley Cup, as though the Americans have taken it unlawfully!  …But they still passed the ritual!
The preceding is my best effort to transparently make up a mythology, a ritual and significance that fits the game of hockey.  I’m sure most hockey fans are already lining up to beat me up for it!  Most transparently see the game as being no more than a silly arrangement of coincidences, but … but damn it, if that were true, why not baseball, or football, or soccer (what everyone else calls football)?  We, that is, Canadians, see something in the game that transcends the coincidences.  Identifying that desire and making it the center of my fantasy Canada is essential to good fantasy!  For reference, I consider good fantasy to be strongly humanist.

  Well, that’s my best efforts to make stuff up!  Now, I am going to redress something I neglected to do earlier.  Research if anyone else in fantasy writing hasn’t already sought out such a concept as Canada.  

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