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cincinnati redsChicago Cubs – There was a time when baseball was America’s pastime and the sport held the allegiance of all right-thinking people, but football has since supplanted it in the hearts of an increasingly conservative populace. In a more innocent age, Cubs were a perfectly acceptable mascot, but football demanded more machismo, and so it was that Chicago’s team became the Bears, in an effort to one-up the beloved baseball team. Bears were big, burly, and tough, while Cubs–or worse still, Cubbies–were derided as less manly. Of course, after the sexual revolution of the 1970s, the irony of big, hairy men who rolled around in the grass together and were prone to patting each other on their butts being seen as exemplars of heterosexual toughness became apparent. The Cubs, meanwhile, remain simple adorable losers, with little sexual identity whatsoever.

Milwaukee Brewers – During Prohibition, Milwaukee, which had long been known as a centre of beer production, struggled mightily. Looking to save their businesses, the breweries diversified their products to include colas and root beers. Al Capone took advantage of the situation and arranged for the smuggling of illicit booze into Chicago from nearby Milwaukee. Always eager to conceal his criminal operations behind a veneer of legitimate business, Capone owned a company that supplied public school cafeterias with soft drinks. In 1927 his entire operation was almost brought to its knees when alcohol meant for speakeasies was accidentally shipped to grammar schools, resulting in mass drunkenness amongst Chicago’s 5 to 8-year olds. Capone managed to shift the blame to the Milwaukee breweries, which were shut down for the remainder of Prohibition, and the entire city, by extension, was vilified as a den of iniquity. In Chicago, ever since, a “Milwaukee Brewer” has meant someone who serves alcohol to minors.

St. Louis Cardinals – Catholics were once viewed with as much suspicion in America as Muslims and Scientologists are today. In fact, the main targets of the Ku Klux Klan after African Americans were Catholics. St. Louis, for a time the biggest city on the Frontier, and the Gateway to the West, once had two baseball teams: the Browns and the still-extant Cardinals. Much like Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow, the teams garnered support from opposite sides of the spiritual divide. The pious and unprepossessing Browns were the choice of dour Protestants, while the Cardinals, as much as they tried to hide their papal allegiance behind their bird mascot, were Catholic to the marrow. For the many born-again Christians who don’t believe Catholics are Christians, the Cardinals still represent a fifth column in the heart of the Mid-West.

Pittsburgh Pirates – At the height of their success in the nineteen-oughts, the Pirates were the preeminent base stealers in baseball, but off the diamond were notorious ladies men, apt to steal your best gal from under your nose. This reputation took a severe hit in the 1970s with the rise to prominence of the homely Kent Tekulve, and was well and truly put to rest with the addition of the monstrously ugly Zane Smith in the 1980s.

Cincinnati Reds – Dirty Commies. Still, twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall? You betcha.

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?


"And in the time remaining, I'd like to talk about... Da Bears."

Everyone in Toronto knows that Etobicoke councillor Doug Ford is a huge football fan, just like Mayor Rob Ford. The brothers have made no secret of their desire to lure an NFL team to Toronto, and Super Bowl Sunday is famously their favourite day of the year. But after last weekend’s exciting game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, Doug is surprising many by launching a campaign to overturn the results of the game, a 21-17 triumph by the Giants.

While insisting that the NFL is supreme, a group of Etobicoke councillors led by Mr. Ford is attempting an end-run around last week’s result, sending a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to allow the Bears to be declared the winner of the game. This is the latest gambit in Ford’s strategy to find respect for the Bears, who play in the US city that he calls his second home. The Bears did not make the playoffs, let alone play in the Super Bowl, which Mr. Ford calls “a real shit-slap in the face to all the hard-working taxpayers of Chicago.” He’s paying for the lobbying effort–which he calls SOB or “Save Our Bears”–out of his own deep, daddy-provided pockets.

“It’s really incredible that he’s trying to make the results of the Super Bowl, the supreme deciding force in football, irrelevant,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc, a left-leaning opponent of the Mayor and his brother, as well as a better judge of football talent, based on his record of defeating the Mayor in the Council football pool this past season. “But I will say one thing, SOB is a great name for this thing–it suits Doug to a T.”

For his part, Mr. Ford counters that “The recent decision by the NFL to move ahead with awarding the Vince Lombardi trophy to the Giants poses a number of concerns.”

The letter to Goodell added that heroics by Giants quarterback Eli Manning at last Sunday’s Super Bowl “reversed the direction” of a March, 2011, memorandum of understanding between the NFC, AFC, Commissioner’s office, and football fans that “the Giants are a bunch of East Coast, latte-sipping elitists.”

Reached for comment, Commissioner Goodell said that the memorandum of understanding was “non-binding” and required the Bears to actually make the playoffs. Mr. Goodell indicated last week that the winner of the Super Bowl has to be one of the teams playing in the game.

During Tuesday’s press conference announcing his challenge, Mr. Ford’s allies briefly debated the question of whether their gambit was consistent with football tradition. “I respect the game of football,” said Mr. Ford. “But football has to start respecting the fact that the Bears rule.”

“Hello, Toronto, look at your man, now back to me, now back at your man, now back to me.

“Sadly, he isn’t the Mayor, but if he stopped riding his bike to work and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me.

“Look down, back up, where are you? You’re on a downtown road with not a single streetcar or bus in sight. The war on the car is over, remember? You’re welcome!

“What’s in your hand, back at me. I have it, it’s a new football stadium with two tickets to the SuperBowl that I brought to Toronto, because every world class city–at least in North America–has an NFL team. And I’m the coach and the linebacker who just sacked that pretty boy Tom Brady!

“Look, I know you just wanted a balanced budget and lower taxes but I was elected on a mandate to destroy years of public transit planning and bring an NFL team to Toronto! OK, maybe you weren’t around when I talked about that stuff, but I definitely discussed it with my election team over beer and pizza… we got so wasted! Anyway, I swear we can do all of this without raising taxes or cutting services that I care about… we went over the math and it all works perfectly! Of course, Dougy and I were pretty high that night…

“Look again, the tickets are now diamonds. Are you happy now? God, I can’t believe how ungrateful you are, after everything I’ve done for you… Grapes was right, you damn lefty pinkos.

“Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a sweaty fat man, which is what you’re all thinking, isn’t it? That I smell bad? C’mon, I’m on a horse. Blame the horse, man!”

This ad is not approved by Rob Ford.

Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the World Trade Center attack on 9/11 and America’s Public Enemy Number One, has revealed in his latest taped message the real reason he hates America–not for its freedom, its commitment to democracy, its Christianity, and not even for KFC’s Double Down, but for a far more personal reason.

In an audio-only message sent to Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, Bin Laden, who has continued to elude capture more than nine years after the attack that killed nearly 3000 and changed American politics forever, discusses for the first time his surprising connection to one of the most enduring symbols of America: the Dallas Cowboys.

“I see that the Cowboys, scorn be upon them, have started the season 1-2,” Bin Laden says, pausing unexpectedly from his habitual rants about America being the Great Satan, continuing “This brings great joy to my heart… I can’t help but speculate that, had the team a better special teams coordinator, if they had, for example, given more than a cursory glance to my resume instead of concentrating on my beard and robes… perhaps then, they might be able to return a punt with some authority…?  But what do I, a poor servant of Allah, peace be upon him, know?”

Jimmy Johnson, former head coach of the Cowboys, would neither confirm nor deny that Bin Laden interviewed for a coaching position with the team in the 1980s, but former quarterback Troy Aikman recalls team owner Jerry Jones touring the stadium, along with Texas Representative Charlie Wilson and a “little foreign guy” who was wearing a camouflage jacket and carrying a captured Soviet assault rifle, which Jones told Aikman that his guest had obtained by killing a Russian soldier with his bare hands.  Aikman remembers thinking that the story was “rad” but admits to not having thought of the encounter in many years. “Wow, it’s kind of crazy to think that had I been able to see the future, I could have snapped that little twerp’s neck like a turkey bone… or that, had we hired him, I might have been thanking him in my Hall of Fame acceptance speech… I wonder if I’d have nicknamed him ‘Sam’… or ‘Binny’…?  Crazy world.”

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