COLUMN: Hazarding a guess beyond our borders

Canadian pride is nothing to be boastful about, writes Peace Arch News' editor Lance Peverley.



When it comes to celebrating team spirit, few countries are more adept at it than Canada.

We play hard and we boast hard, to show the rest of the known universe we’re world-class.

The trouble is, when it comes to such spirit – and the often-accompanying lack of humility – there’s not much ‘class’ to brag about.

Take reactions in recent days to the clip from the U.S. TV game show Jeopardy! that’s sweeping the Internet.

Hosted by Sudbury-born Alex Trebek, the popular quiz show is otherwise all-American. In Tuesday’s broadcast – a clip replayed on Canadian news networks and across the Internet – we got to see three contestants go out of their way to avoid one category.

The elusive topic? ‘Canadian Cities.’

Regular viewers will know just how rare it is to leave all five clues in an entire category until the end.

And the poor American soldier who led off the guesswork, as each clue in turn was answered incorrectly – or not answered at all – is being used to show just how little our neighbours know about us.

First up, “An intersection in this provincial capital is the original western terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway.”

The silence was revealing, “Victoria” be damned.

The ‘Daily Double’? “The swan is a symbol of this Ontario city. Each year, white and black swans are released into the Avon River.” The soldier responded “Edmonton”, dropping $5,400 dollars and missing Stratford by many of his miles and a few of our provinces.

“This Alberta resort was the first municipality to be incorporated within a Canadian national park.” His answer, “Whistler”; ours, “Banff”.

“In 1992, this city’s velodrome, once used in the Olympic games, was transformed into an environmental bio-dome.” Not one of the three contestants ventured “Montreal”.

And finally, “Residents of this Saskatchewan city are called Moose Javians.” The soldier guessed “Winnipeg”, rather than “Moose Jaw”.

Dumb, right? You’d think so, by the hundreds of Canadian comments popping up online. But I’m not so sure. Then again, turns out I’m not sure on much about the rest of the world.

Take North America. Ask your closest friends how much they know about our continent. I would hazard a guess that most could identify several U.S. state capitals on a map; but could they list Mexico’s states? I certainly couldn’t, not beyond Baja California; and I’m guessing many would think me beyond ignorant.

Do any of us really know much about the rest of the world, past our borders? Not our national borders, but closer to home. The borders of our interests.

I know a thing or two about a number of subjects – those that specifically fascinate me – but if you were to ask me to identify any champions of lacrosse (our national sport) I would come up short. I know little about chemistry, and nothing about classic ballroom dancing.

And I certainly couldn’t name all five French “mother sauces” in cooking, despite being a fan of eating every day; or, without first being told back in college, the difference between “jealousy” and “envy”, despite English being my first language.

I remember in grade school when we learned basic skills. Inevitably there were kids who made fun of those that hadn’t yet mastered basic multiplication. “Three times three, hmmph, who doesn’t know that?”

But none of us did… until it was explained.

So Americans know little about Canada? I question whether most Canadians – with so many today lacking interest in world affairs – could fare much better in an international-trivia game.

Indeed, by definition, the questions asked by Trebek involved trivial knowledge. Not much to boast about.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.

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