The lineups are introduced for the All-Star Game. The MLB on Fox music comes up. Joe Buck takes the audience to a commercial break. Once the commercial break ends after several minutes of spots, then the U.S. anthem is heard.
What the MLB on Fox won't tell you is that O Canada is being played at the stadium during the commercial break. This is not a fluke. This has happened for about a decade. MLB and Fox have done this dance where O Canada disappears from the U.S. airwaves. No one, outside those organizations, has a clue as to why.
The U.S. audience missed the most memorable moment from the 2016 All-Star Game when one of The Tenors went rogue and changed the lyrics. The 2016 change in lyrics from The Tenors was a surprise even to the rest of the members. Remigio Pereira went with "We're all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great" instead of "With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free."
The international audience will tell you that most years, the U.S. audience isn't missing much.
This year's rendition by Canadian pop singer Jocelyn Alice came under criticism because she giggled while singing O Canada. Alice said she was "overcome with excitement." "I love my country," Alice tweeted. "I'm so proud to be Canadian."
At least these versions are live: MLB used canned versions of O Canada in 2008 and 2009.
So let's see what the problems are:
- MLB puts very little thought and effort into finding quality singers for O Canada compared to those who sing the Star Spangled Banner.
- MLB allows/encourages Fox to not air O Canada on an ongoing basis.
- Fox runs quite a lot of ads in that space during which O Canada is heard at the ballpark, reportedly on ESPN Radio, and the international feed (carried by Rogers Sportsnet in Canada). The only place the anthem does not air is U.S. TV.
- MLB, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, and MLB on Fox continue this disgraceful policy without explanation. We don't like this policy but the frustration extends to not knowing the reason why this policy is in effect.
MLB, trying to grow an international presence, has a perception that the league hates Canada or has something against Canada. Some of those reasons include:
- The handling of Montréal and the Montréal Expos. Manfred has said encouraging words about Montréal. In his remarks last week, Manfred said expansion would be on the back burner to the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa. The A's have been chasing a solution for some time, though the Oakland Raiders leaving for Las Vegas and the Golden State Warriors moving to San Francisco leaves literally some room for a new stadium on the Coliseum grounds. As for Tampa, the team would be better off in Montréal. Tampa has a horrible stadium, no plan for a new one, and isn't a great market.
- All-Star Games: Ironically, only 2 All-Star Games have been played north of the border. Montréal hosted in 1982 and Toronto in 1991. A lot easier to air an anthem if the All-Star Game is on Canadian soil.
- Very few minor league teams are left in Canada. The Vancouver Canadians used to be Triple A but are now a Class A short season team. Consider that when Portland, OR, had the Portland Beavers, the team was Triple A.
A generation ago, the Canadians along with the Calgary Cannons, Edmonton Trappers, and Ottawa Lynx were all Triple A teams; the London Tigers were a Double A team; the St. Catharines Blue Jays and Welland Pirates were Class A Short Season teams and rookie-level teams: the Lethbridge Mounties and Medicine Hat Blue Jays.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes, which I saw last season, are not affiliated with a MLB team and play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Canadians would support minor-league baseball but have very few options.
When Winnipeg didn't have a NHL team, the city did have the Manitoba Moose. Montréal gets 2 MLB exhibition games, not even regular-season games.
This antagonism toward Canada didn't start under Rob Manfred but Manfred hasn't done much to clean up the damage from Bud Selig. We would love to take seriously Manfred's kind words about getting the Expos back to Montréal. But this denial of O Canada in one of MLB's brightest moments year after year increases the perception that MLB hates Canada.
If there are cosmic reasons why the Canadian national anthem can't air on U.S. TV, we did suggest that Fox should take the money made in that ad space and contribute the funds to baseball programs in Canada. Right now, Fox is profiting from disrespect.
Fox Sports isn't afraid to play O Canada on its soccer telecasts. But Fox has been afraid for years of running O Canada during the All-Star Game. The network is highly reluctant to air the Blue Jays on its regional telecasts, despite the team having been in the last 2 American League Championship Series.
We want to know why MLB and Fox have this disrespectful stance but mostly we want the policy to stop.
Twitter grabs: Twitter @canadian_xing
photo credit: MLB International feed