Hamish McKenzie - no-income bum, London, Ontario

Friday, June 24, 2005

I can be pretty critical of Canada at times. Well, Ontario, at least. Box stores abound; there’s more concrete than grass; and 'fine dining' is characterized by drive-thrus, grease, and a "would you like fries with that?" patois.

But then I'm reminded that Canadians sometimes do things oh-so-right.

As part of Pride Week in Toronto, the city's major league baseball team, the Blue Jays, will host hundreds of homosexuals. An all-male gay chorus, Forte, will sing the national anthem at tonight's game against the Baltimore Orioles. The host of My Fabulous Gay Wedding will throw the opening pitch. And in the seventh-inning stretch, members of the Lesbian & Gay Community Appeal Foundation will don fruit costumes to entertain the crowd.

Says a Blue Jays spokesman: "We have a responsibility to be representative of our community and to reach out to segments of our community and overall just be an inclusive organization."

This is baseball, remember, the sport quintessentially associated with machismo.

Could you imagine this happening in New Zealand?

Picture this: the Auckland Blues run out onto Carisbrook on a drizzly grey Dunedin night. There are boos, shouts of "JAFA," and indeterminable references to fudge manufacturers. The Otago Highlanders follow to loud cheers. Speight's cans are thrown skywards. Then, just before kick-off, both teams and the crowd are treated to a cabaret-style rendition of George Michael's 'Outside'. PVC-panted flounces camp it up big time, cartwheeling over the halfway line, blowing kisses to the drunkards on the terrace.

How long do you think it would take before one of the dancers was wearing one of those Speight's cans on his forehead?

Actually, it would probably be sooner than that.

My feeling is that New Zealand sports -- rugby in particular -- are a long way off acknowledging homosexuals in their game-day festivities. They'll just stick to the safe stuff: kids' rugger teams, bagpipers, scantily-clad cheerleaders. Heterosexuality is where it's at, mate. The gays can go back to their own country. And play soccer. Now, watch me eat this pig.

The Blue Jays example is emblematic of Canada's more mature attitude towards homosexuality. Here there is a debate over whether or not gay marriage should be legalized for the whole country. (It's already legal in seven of the ten provinces, and in the Yukon territory). It makes New Zealand's squabble over Civil Unions -- which don't even go so far as to let homosexuals marry -- look even pettier.