Canada 2017·What's Your Story

For me, being Canadian feels a lot like cheering for the Jays

Whether you're cheering for your team or your country, die-hard Jays fan Jennifer Foden says there are going to be ups and downs.

On remaining hopeful while preparing to be disappointed

Jennifer Foden and three friends lament the Jays's loss at game five of the ALCS in October 2016. (Jennifer Foden)
When I moved from Toronto to Vancouver in January of 2016, everyone asked: "When are you coming back to visit?"

My response was always: "October, if the Jays make the playoffs."

Jennifer has expressed her devotion to the Jays in ink. "It's hard to not believe in a team when they're forever on your body." (Jennifer Foden)

You see, there was such incredible build-up to last year's Major League Baseball playoffs.

Like all Toronto Blue Jays fans, I could still feel the momentum from their riveting 2015 playoff run. Before the 2016 season even began, baseball was on my mind.

I repeated my pledge to return in October over and over for months. Finally, in September, when their chances for 2016 were looking good, I clicked 'purchase' on a flight and tickets to three games.

I anxiously awaited my first of three — game four of the ALDS — but then we swept the Rangers in three. I looked at my next ticket — game five of the ALCS.

If you're a Jays fan, you'll know what happened that day. They lost, and were eliminated from the playoffs.

Perfection is fleeting

If you deeply love any sports teams, you can appreciate the emotional ups and downs.

For Jays fans, there have been many highs, including Edwin Encarnacion hitting that walk-off homer at the bottom of the 11th inning of the wild card game, and Jose Bautista's iconic bat flip. (I got a Jays tattoo after they rallied that series.)

Sorry, Texas. Toronto will never get tired of this picture. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

But, trust me, there have been many lows.

The Jays didn't make the playoffs for 21 years, they've lost the ALCS twice in a row and lost someone who hit almost 20 per cent of Toronto's home runs last year. (We'll miss you Edwin!)

Not to mention the fact that baseball fandom requires cheering for overpaid male athletes (up to $34-million per year). Or that, come playoff season, many fans who have supported the team all year long are priced out of their games.

Baseball and the Jays aren't perfect.

But, ultimately, the Jays have many redeeming qualities: hope, the power of community (in the form of baseball fans across the country) and, if the past two years have taught us anything, the attitude that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

A nation's batting average

This is no different than my experience of being Canadian and my view of Canada 150.

Canada has done a lot of things well. Compared to many countries, we can be thankful for our health-care and education systems, our gender-balanced cabinet, our laws that support same-sex couples and our leader's respect for cultural diversity.

But, Canada is not perfect. Canada is complicated.

I can't help but think about the estimated $500-million dollars the federal government is spending on Canada 150 celebrations and where that might be better spent. Firstly, to our First Nations communities — who have experienced a history of cultural genocide and abuse — and still receive sub-par health care, housing and water.

What about money for the environment? Or supporting the homeless population? Or, mental health? I could go on. 

A new cedar carving was unveiled at Victoria City Hall on Jan. 1, 2017 to mark the start of the "Year of Reconciliation." (CHEK News)

Canada 150 resources aside, we have an opportunity to reflect on a century and a half of colonization and take a hard look at our national story. We have a chance to look to the future and have critical conversations about reconciliation, climate change and more.

In my new city of Vancouver, for instance, Indigenous peoples are helping to re-brand the celebrations: the city is hosting a $7-million event called Canada 150+.

This isn't enough, but it gives me faith.

Because like I believe in Canada's only major league baseball team, I believe in this country. We are not short on hope, the power of community or the attitude to try and try again, until we get it right. 

Jennifer, left, and two friends celebrating the Jays win over Kansas City at game five of the ALCS in October 2015. (Jennifer Foden)


Jennifer Foden is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who relocated from Toronto to Vancouver in early 2016 — for the mountains. When she's not working with words, she's travelling, riding her bike, FaceTiming her niece and nephew, and cheering for the Jays.


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