Confession time: for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Calgary Flames fan.
It’s not my fault! When you’re eight-years-old and your dad is dancing and cheering along to a radio announcer calling the final countdown to a 1989 Stanley Cup victory, fandom kind of imprints itself onto your DNA.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on that undying loyalty to a sports team. Years ago comedian Jerry Seinfeld pointed out that, when it gets right down to it, fans are actually cheering not for a particular team or player, but for the team’s insignia—the clothes.
“Fans will be so in love with a player, but if he goes to another team, they boo him,” Seinfeld points out. “Boo! Different shirt! Boo!”
He’s not wrong. We don’t give much thought to our loyalties. Why do I cheer for the Flames and not the Edmonton Oilers, Alberta’s other NHL team? Particularly as I live in Jasper, why wouldn’t I want to join with the many other Oilers fans here to cheer on the likes of the world’s best player, Connor McDavid? Why wouldn’t I hop onboard the Oilers bandwagon when their advancement in the NHL playoffs has such direct, positive spin offs to this community and province?
Truthfully, I don’t give it much thought. I just cheer when my team wins and kick sand when the other guys win. Different shirt! Boo!
Unfortunately, support for political parties in this province—and certainly in this riding of West Yellowhead—doesn’t appear to be any more nuanced. Many constituents mark their ballots for a particular party simply because they’ve always voted that way. Just like my passionate allegiance to the Flames comes with a whiplash-like aversion to ever rooting for the Oil, West Yellowhead residents can’t seem to stomach the idea of voting orange if they’re historically on team blue. Even if the party leader breaks the law, calls unvaccinated people the most discriminated group she’s ever witnessed or serially lies about everything from the performance of the economy to her plans for healthcare, many partisans are unwilling to even consider voting against their favourite team.
Different shirt! Boo!
We ought to be smarter than this. We ought to be able to look past the jersey logo or party colour and vote with our brains, not our hearts. I should be able to see how the awe-inspiring feats of McDavid can grow the game of hockey and appreciate how much money gets pumped into Jasper’s economy with a lengthy Oilers playoff run.
Likewise, voters should be able to look past what lawn sign their parents put up and drill down into the ideas put forward by particular candidates.
Albertans should be loyal to smart ideas, to community building, and to creating opportunities for the next generation—not to parties. Parties change. As voters, we have to be open to change, too.
On Monday, I’m registering my vote with the party that aligns with my values, not my parent’s lawn sign. And the next time McDavid and the Oilers make a deep run, I’ll be cheering—not for the jersey, but for the province.
Just don’t tell my dad.
Bob Covey // firstname.lastname@example.org