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A Great GameFor years the Canadian publishing and political worlds have been abuzz with anticipation for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s book on Canada’s national sport [Sorry, lacrosse, but honestly–get real. -Ed.] but the wait seems to be coming to an end with Thursday’s announcement of the title and publication date. Harper’s publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, revealed that A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey would hit bookstore shelves on November 5th, just in time for the busy holiday-shopping season, not to mention the not-so-busy pro-roguing season. The book promises an historical perspective with a fan’s passion for the game, and yes, you read that right–Stephen Harper is promising passion. And after all, when you think of passion, isn’t Stephen Harper what you imagine?

We at the Centre for Poor Karma & Pain have obtained an exclusive, behind-the-scenes peek at this sure-to-be publishing milestone and can, for the first time ever, reveal the chapter headings:

  • Introduction: When I’m Finished Writing About Hockey, You Won’t Recognize It
  • Why You Can Thank Canada’s Founding Party for the Game You Love
  • The Reckless and Dangerous Liberal Meddling in Canada’s Defining Sport
  • Ask Me Three Questions About Hockey. One at a Time. OK, This Chapter Is Over
  • The Royal Canadian Hockey League
  • Sidney Crosby: He’s In Way Over His Head
  • Abolishing Records: Why Keeping Statistics Should Be Voluntary
  • The Sad History of the Long-Stick Registry
  • Declaring the Montreal Canadiens a Nation within the National Hockey League
  • Don Cherry and the Evolution of the Temporary Foreign Player Program
  • It Is High Time for the Ottawa Senators to be Equal, Elected, and Effective

Blue states are where the action is!

Sports are integral to the American experience. Baseball is famously “America’s pastime” and the Super Bowl is the biggest game in the world. Basketball, though invented by a Canadian, is a quintessentially American game that is rapidly expanding across the globe. And as much as Canadians will tell you that hockey defines our national identity, there are far more NHL teams in the United States than in Canada, and they’ve had much more success than Canadian teams over the last twenty years.

Many pundits divide America into Red and Blue states, but if there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s their love of sports. It crosses all boundaries: class, race, geography. Or does it? It’s interesting to take a look at the distribution of major league sports teams in the United States, and what it may mean for the country.

The “Big Four” sports are generally agreed upon to be Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey (even though college football or basketball are arguably bigger draws than hockey). These are the biggest professional leagues in America. There are 113 major league teams in the United States divided between these four sports, an average of more than two teams per state. But would it surprise you to know that all of these 113 teams are located in just 25 states, plus the District of Columbia? It’s true, which means fully half the states have no major sports team whatsoever. The concentration of teams in larger markets is well-known, but the fact that there aren’t more outliers dotted around the country in smaller population centres means that many Americans don’t have a local team to root for, in any sport. As a proud Montanan baseball fan, which team do you support? The closest teams are in Seattle, Colorado, or Minnesota, not even in neighbouring states. Here are the 25 states that have no major league sports teams:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Maine
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Vermont
  5. Alaska
  6. Hawaii
  7. Connecticut
  8. Rhode Island
  9. Delaware
  10. Virginia
  11. West Virginia
  12. South Carolina
  13. Kentucky
  14. Alabama
  15. Mississippi
  16. Nebraska
  17. Iowa
  18. Arkansas
  19. Kansas
  20. North Dakota
  21. South Dakota
  22. Wyoming
  23. Montana
  24. Idaho
  25. Nevada

You might say that the divide between have and have-not states looks fair, being split 50/50, but look even further. Of the 113 major league teams, fully 48 of them are based in just five states: New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and Texas. But here’s where it gets interesting from a political perspective: only 36 teams reside in states that vote predominantly Republican. And of the 25 states that have no teams whatsoever, 15 of them–or 60%–are Republican strongholds. Just 15 states hold 77 of the nation’s major teams… and those states vote overwhelmingly Democrat.

So what do Republicans have against sports in America? Why have they left it to the Democrats and their Blue states to dominate sports?Are they too busy shooting guns, stopping a woman’s right to choose, and having tea parties to enjoy well-executed double-plays, fast breaks, Hail Mary passes, and goals in the five-hole? Why have the Republicans fallen down in providing a local sports experience for their hard-working, family-values constituents?

WHY DO THE REPUBLICANS HATE SPORTS?

The latest buzz around Ottawa:

“Congratulations to the new leader of the NDP. You know who else has a beard? Castro. Just sayin’…”

“Did you think we meant that the F-35s would cost nine billion dollars? No, no, no… we were always talking in terms of pounds… they’re going to cost nine billion pounds! It’s standard accounting procedure.”

“The Royal Canadian Oil Sands are a proud part of the Canadian tradition of self-sufficiency, determination, and ingenuity. Canadian.”

“Rob Ford? I’ve never met the man, let alone went on a secluded fishing trip with him.”

“The Prime Minister has paid the full ticket price for each hockey game he’s attended while in office. Wink!”

“C’mon, you didn’t really think you’d be able to retire at 65 anyway, did you? With all the money we’re gonna spend on fighter jets? Tell you what, we’ve got plenty of new jobs as prison guards right around the corner… how’d you like that?”

Gary BettmanIn a deal that is causing concern in churches and hockey rinks across North America but is surprisingly uncontroversial in Toronto, Satan has reached an agreement with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman to insure that the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup this year.   While the favouritism is upsetting for fans of teams whose records of futility approach (but could never match) that of the Leafs, the greatest concern surrounds the price that Bettman and The Prince of Darkness have agreed to: a Stanley Cup for Toronto and then, Armageddon.

Satan“At first I thought, ‘Armageddon is a pretty steep price to pay just for a championship’, but then I thought, ‘1967’… ‘1967’… and I couldn’t get it out of my head,” explained loyal fan Jay Patterson.  “Armageddon’s gonna come sometime whether we want it to or not, and I’d rather meet my maker after parading the Cup down Yonge Street!” said Maria Latulippe, philosophically, “Plus, winning the last one, we’d be defending champs for eternity, no matter what!”

Amongst the skeptics are Jim Balsillie, CEO of Research In Motion and erstwhile owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, who speculates that “Bettman wants the Leafs to succeed–no matter what the price–just to block me from bringing the Coyotes to southwestern Ontario.”  For his part, Bettman dismisses Balsillie as paranoid.  “This has nothing to do with Balsillie or the Coyotes and everything to do with the great fans of Toronto, who have been so patient and so loyal for so many years.  Anything–and I do mean anything–I can do to bring the Stanley Cup back to this great Original Six team, I will do. This deal with the devil–literally it’s a deal with the devil, and I won’t sugarcoat that–is something I feel good about… he’s someone I feel I can work with, and trust, unlike Balsillie.”

Satan was unavailable for comment, but was heard to laugh maniacally.

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