|It's our city to make fun of, not Toronto's!|
Editor’s note: This is not a typical BBTG post – while you can expect the same sort of quasi-intelligent academic piss-taking we usually do on this site, this article is a collaboration between myself, Shepso, Ph.D., and Mikhail Bjorge, Grumpy Historian. There’s been a lot of negative press about the city of Edmonton lately; most of it revolves around the fear of Edmonton ruining the potential generational hockey talent the Oilers are about to draft, however something else happened today and neither of us are going to stand for our fair (former) city getting targeted by members of the media – in this case Canadian journalist Cathal Kelly and American hockey writer Josh Cooper. While Mikhail might not be the first angry Edmontonian to respond to Kelly’s attempt at being the villain (see David Staples' excellent column): and while I quite like my new hometown and hope to stay a while, we both felt the need to fight for our former city and for our people the only way we really know how.
|What a great place to watch a football game, any kind of football game.|
In a recent column, non-notable hack Cathal Kelly decided that deriding Edmonton was a great way to get some click-bait in an apparently “national” newspaper that, despite all evidence to the contrary, purports to matter. Perhaps buzzfeed had too much draw, and the author was looking to jump, rat-like, from the sinking ship, to more appealing list-based waters. Indeed, the Globe and Mail, long the boring rag of Toronto’s business elite decided to shit on a fair city, Edmonton. I must confess, I was wondering if I was reading and engaging in Poe’s law or not; but with the quality of the emergency umbrella in question, one would be hard pressed to discern such intricacy. The author compared, as is so often the case, Toronto to some major global city (I’ve heard this countless times since moving into and around the city). But, dear author, it’s delusional. I’ve lived in four of the cities mentioned in your sad screed, London, and Berlin, and also Edmonton and Toronto (and Copenhagen for that matter and Damascus, but those are tales for another day). And no matter how much Torontonians wish their city to be world class, it simply is not. Indeed, it’s only even “Canada Class” because of a politico-historical anomaly. When the PQ were elected in the early 1970s, Canada’s economic centre shifted slightly down the malignant 401 by a few hundred miles from Montreal. Scared as they were of the (not) socialist (barely) Quebec nationalists, Canadian capitalists invigorated the backwater of York. This meant that Toronto grew up in the worst period of architectural terrorism, the 1970s and 1980s, and this evidences aesthetically quite starkly. The Kensington Market area has a city vibe to it, but from there...the city is…not pretty. The area to the west of UofT has some appeal and character, but beyond that, the town is pretty much low-rise apartments, endless stripmalls, parking lots, and charming, but basically identical, single family housing areas. Self-same Lowrise commercial avenues, continually packed with traffic are the norm. Bloor, Dundas, College, are all very similar, and similarly benign. Terrible transit, probably the worst in the industrialised world for a city of this size lumbers throughout, and an incredibly poorly developed waterfront tops it all off. At least Edmonton has the river valley. And jobs.
Speaking of Kleinengrad, a city that looks like it was built almost purely on blueprints from a Bulgarian architectural firesale, it does not stack up much better, but it’s simply not much worse. Canada has no world-class cities, and the second-tier ones are Montreal and Vancouver, not Toronto. Toronto is not vying with New York or London as world city status - it’s vying with Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax, and Calgary for Canada class cities. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional, or a Torontonian. And that is the sad thing about Toronto. It so desperately wants to matter, and watching its sad advocates churl would almost hurt, if it was not for writers like you who provide the rest of us with schadenfreude. Now, I have to agree that if the World Cup was vying for attention, it would go to another city, namely Montreal. But I think that Edmonton deserves it as much as anyone, and I’m not going to even comment about the myriad issues of FIFA as a almost sociopathically corrupt and deeply, horribly misogynistic organisation. That goes without saying, and others have said it much better than I could and at some length.
Toronto is like a shitty Chicago, but with worse traffic, much less crime, far cleaner streets, crappier transit, shoddier (yet more expensive) restaurants, much poorer museums, and far more expensive rent/housing costs. The main difference is that most people world-wide know where and what Chicago is. Toronto isn’t even a blip. It is less than an afterthought. It’s the same as Edmonton to the vast majority of the world’s population: largely irrelevant (unless people are looking for employment or a moderately more humane government, then Edmonton might matter). It's not that I hate Toronto: it's that it is what it is, and many Torontonians are steadfast, with this weirdly supercilious conviction, that it's a Major World City™ that Really Matters A Lot. And that conviction is delirious and boring. Just like that article in the Globe and Mail, another parochial institution pretending to matter. Say what you will about Edmonton, the city that keeps the lights on in Toronto, but Edmontonians have no delusions about their city, and take it as it is.
While Cathal Kelly’s hatchet job came seemingly out of nowhere, there is another ‘journalist’ (and I use that term lightly - he’s employed by Yahoo after all) named Josh Cooper who appears to have made it his personal mission to make fun of Edmonton at every chance he gets. Look, as long suffering Oilers fans, both Mikhail, (writer of the first half) and myself understand that the franchise has not been good over the last nine years. Cronyism ran as rampant in Oilerville as it did in the PC dominated Alberta legislature, and the people in charge of the franchise had been in seemingly unimpeachable positions for nearly as long. Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish have been the subject of much ire and scorn throughout the Oilers blogosphere and the Canadian hockey media and were finally moved into positions where they could do the least amount of harm, much like the Tories.
If Cooper’s writing was directed exclusively at the franchise, I could understand his point of view – we get it, the Oilers are terrible, a once proud team turned into a living joke for the world at large. However Cooper’s work rarely stops at just picking fun at the mismanagement team (er… braintrust…er…smartest men in the room) and always, inevitably descends into bitter critique of the city as a whole. This unprompted attack on the city has only intensified since the Oilers miraculously won the right to draft a player some clever, if borderline sacrilegious folks are calling the ‘Actual Hockey Jesus’ (full disclosure – that’s a bit too much pressure to put on the kid. Even ‘the next Gretzky’ is better than calling him Jesus, but I digress).
Cooper was for some reason granted an exclusive interview with young Connor McDavid yesterday and decided to spend as much of his limited space as possible not disparaging the franchise, but instead doing what he always does and craps on our city. His most recent astute observation: “Makes you kind of weepy knowing that skill is going to be playing in Hoth until he’s at earliest 27 – using the current CBA rules. (Cough, Eric Lindros, cough).” Ok, yes Edmonton is cold in the winter and Hoth is the ice planet from star wars - we get it. Very clever, Cooper, but also not the first time you went to the star wars well. Other genius level quotes – on the hiring of Todd Mclellan – “Regardless, he’s getting probably one of the most plum jobs in the league, so it will be good testing ground for him to see if he can coach a bunch of young, talented players. Sidenote … Edmonton is now a plum job? Are you serious?” The fine people at Puck Daddy included the following photo for added effect:
|I don't see any Tauntauns. Do you see any Tauntauns?|
We understand it takes a special sort to appreciate what Edmonton has to offer, both as a city and a place to play and watch sports. I grew up during the Oilers' glory years and the family had season tickets to the local CFL concern throughout most of my childhood. In fact I had many birthday parties (in November I might add) at Commonwealth Stadium watching playoff football in that frozen wasteland and speaking from first hand experience, the lines of site in that stadium are second to none even in bad weather. Whenever I'm home for a visit in the winter, I try to take in a hockey game at the old hockey barn, because being a fan in Edmonton, as much as we have suffered in recent years, is still a wonderful experience. Clowns and hacks like Kelly and Cooper are free to say what ever they want – as journalists that’s sort of their job, but there is no need to assassinate the city or its citizens, either because you’re so far up your own Toronto-centric ass you can’t see through the winds of shit-filled smog, or because you write for probably the worst “hockey blog” in the world and you have to do something to massage your own wretched ego.