A few lifetimes ago, when I lived in Calgary and was an ardent Flames fan, I claimed not to like the Oilers’ Wayne Gretzky very much.
We lampooned The Great One mercilessly. For example, my Calgary buddies and I called him “Whine Gripesky,” and we told mean jokes about him. (To wit: “How do you get Wayne Gretzky to go into the corners? Start a fight at centre ice.”)
That was good for a few laughs until August 1988, of course, when Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, and he had a teary-eyed press conference to confirm that he was indeed leaving Canada for the United States. At the time, me and my Cowtown pals were a bit teary eyed, too. So, indeed, was the nation. The New Democrats demanded that the government block the trade, and Oilers owner Peter Pocklington was burned in effigy in Edmonton.
How could Gretzky leave us? Leaving Edmonton’s winters for sunny L.A.? Has he lost his mind?
I call this uniquely Canadian (and internally contradictory) phenomenon The Gretzky Effect. As in, we Canucks will enthusiastically bash any Canuck, like Wayne, who achieves a modicum of success up here. But the minute they indicate a willingness to relocate down south, we react with shock and horror, and implore them to remember their Canadian-ness. And tell them we love them.
Thus, The Gretzky Effect: We’ll diss you up here, but we’ll always end up begging you to stay.
This phenomenon — which is the product of many years of scientific study, and close observation of my fellow residents of Canuckistan — is in full bloom this week with Rolling Stone’s interview with Justin Bieber appearing on newsstands everywhere.
In it, young Bieber relates the following:
– On abortion: “I really don’t believe in abortion. It’s like killing a baby.”
– On abortion in cases of rape: “I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”
– On political ideologies and parties: “Whatever they have in Korea, that’s bad.”
– On abstinence: “I think you should just wait for the person you’re in love with.”
– On Canada: “Canada’s the best country in the world.”
Oh, and he said — jokingly, I think — that the U.S. was “evil” because it allowed people to get sicker if they couldn’t afford to see a doctor. (He’s right.)
Almost immediately, the media — on both sides of the border — got to work. The American ink-stained wretches were chagrined to see their nation described as “evil” by an adolescent from the terrorist-loving, Soviet-style gulag to the north. The Canadian media, however, got in on the act too and mocked Bieber mercilessly. The National Post sniffed that his comments were “questionable.” Maclean’s suggested he was indifferent to rape. And so on.
Remembering The Gretzky Effect, I offer the following in the Bieb’s defence: One, he’s a kid, folks. A KID. Two, he’s a singer, and a pretty popular one, too. Why ask A KID SINGER what he thinks about abortion? Three, we should all be sort-of proud of him. He was raised by a single mom, struggled with poverty, and — oh — HE’S JUST A KID.
There. Now that I have that off my chest, I offer the following:
Wayne, we are all sorry. Please call soon, OK?
— Kinsella is a lawyer, blogs at warrenkinsella.com and will appear regularly on Sun News Network