Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Paranoid Sportswriter's Anti-English Rant

Réjean Tremblay is not your average run of the mill sportswriter, he's an influential columnist for Montreal's La Presse newspaper and writes a widely read column, mostly about the Montreal Canadiens. He is well-connected and to his credit eschews the temptation to write puff pieces about the team in exchange for greater access and inside scoops.

His one failing, is his overt dislike and obsession with anglos and his unabashed demand that the Montreal Canadiens become more 'French.'

Mr. Tremblay wrote a column last week exposing an embarrassing persecution complex, which is unfortunately not all together uncommon in Quebec.

The piece, written September 10, is entitled "Un mépris évident envers les joueurs francophones" ("Blatant contempt For Francophone Players")

You can read the entire original article in French HERE.

..."There are four to five million francophones in Quebec who do not speak English fluently. Obviously, for the intellectuals of the electronic media in the rest of Canada, five million Quebecers are part of a backward race.

Sixty million Frenchmen do not speak English, 70 million Germans do not speak it either. Not to mention the Spaniards or Italians. Or Chinese or Japanese. They are not bumpkins, they speak their own language, like any normal people would. If people speak English, Spanish or Mandarin as well, it's obviously an asset, but it's normal for a society to speak it's own language.

During the first 95 years of its history, the Canadiens respected their 'French-Canadian' customers, as we were called at the time.
In recent years, the contempt is obvious. The yahoos of Roberval, Quebec, Rimouski and Rouyn-Noranda can't comprehend their favorite players, they just buy the crap the team is selling at three times it's value. 'Peter' Boivin and 'Ray' Lalonde made the decision.

I hope the Molson brothers can read and count. They should be aware of the names Lapierre, Latendresse and Laraque and take into account that there are only three of them. (Francophone names-ed.) These sons of a great Quebec family should understand that they own a very ordinary team that boasts of no more than two and a half 'frogs', since 'Big George' (Laraque.-ed) only appears in about forty games a year.

I spent the summer traveling the backwoods of Quebec. I visited Abitibi, the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Outaouais regions. I can reassure the Molson brothers, that Quebecers still love their Canadians. But they are troubled, some are angry and above all, they don't understand. Why this eradication of francophones from their team? Why get rid of them? Why so little effort to cultivate the soil of Quebec to find young players who could represent the next generation? Why this abominable behavior by the Canadiens towards francophone coaches that has seen them literally banned to positions in Hamilton? Coincidentally, ever since the team was put up for sale this summer, Bob Gainey seems to have rediscovered some 'frogs' for his organization. Damned accident!

The Molson brothers are not obliged to turn to Quebecers for political reasons. Not even for cultural reasons. But they should take advantage of the unique situation of Montreal and Quebec in North America to give the fans a great team. Only Quebec and Montreal can build a team by using the special relationship between fans and players who are part of the same nation. The situation exists nowhere else. There is no Swedish nation in the Detroit area or a Cuban nation in Sunrise.
The clientele of the team is French Canadian and the history of the team is based on that sacred bond. The history of the organization has proved that the Canadiens succeed when team officials used the synergy between the francophone majority and its players.

At any rate, the taxpayers of this province have just lent a hundred million to the three brothers. We should at least ask them to do us the courtesy of observing Sam Pollock and Serge Savard's old rule. At equal talent, hire the Francophone.
And as a corollary, the team should never pass up a good francophone draft pick. That doesn't mean that there will be no mistakes along the way, but at least there will be a thought behind the decisions.

And thus we will counteract the attempts by Bob Gainey to expatriate all Francophone players from 'Les Glorieux. It will probably lead to less problems with the media.

In a few weeks, Robert Sirois, a former player with the Washington Capitals and a successful businessman, will publish a bombshell of a book. Sirois has spent thousands of hours doing yeoman's work on the project. He gathered all the statistics, all positions of the French players in the National League since 1970. And the conclusions that he has drawn from these mountains of numbers are chilling.
Discrimination is absolute against the 'frogs.' The worst thing is that this discrimination begins at the Midget 'AAA' level. In recent years, the Canadiens has foolishly turned their back on Quebec. Go check. How many French players did Bob Gainey draft during his years in Dallas? Another accident, obviously.

And then I remember that Robert "Bob" Sirois is neither a politician nor an evil separatist. He is just an intelligent man who is passionate about a situation that seems abnormal. It's okay if the three Molson brothers don't buy the Sirois book, let them keep their dollars to hire a full-time scout for Quebec, I'm going to personally to send them a copy. Changes in an organization starts with awareness. And when it's the owners who are aware, everything else follows.

Believe me this attitude is not uncommon.
Paranoia and persecution, a lovely combination that can only be cured by a dose of reality or Ativan.

Let me start by making a few factual corrections.
  • Mr. Tremblay's statement that five million Quebecers don't speak or understand English is false. Half of francophone Montrealers and thirty percent of francophone residents of Quebec City are bilingual. That five out of six francophone Quebecers can't understand an interview in English is hogwash and an insult to their intelligence.
  • His statement that 70 million Germans don't understand English is also false. At least half the German population understand English.
Now it's time to call him out on other nonsense;
"Only Quebec and Montreal can build a team by using the special relationship between fans and players who are part of the same nation. The situation exists nowhere else. There is no Swedish nation in the Detroit area or a Cuban nation in Sunrise."
Cubans in Sunrise? Swedes in Detroit?
How about Anglos in Ontario, Alberta and BC?

If there's a Francophone nation in Quebec that supports and embraces the Canadiens, it certainly is not the exclusive situation that he purports.
That Quebecers have a special relationship with the Canadiens cannot be denied, but it isn't any more special than those enjoyed by the other Canadian teams with their fans.

There's an Anglophone nation in BC that supports the Canucks with every bit as much fervor and loyalty as the francophone nation in Quebec. It's nothing unique.
If he believes that Canadiens fans are more loyal or in any way more special than the 'Leafs Nation,' he is sadly mistaken. He should be reminded that Alberta, a province with less than half the population of Quebec supports two NHL franchises.
If Quebec is the be-all and end-all of the hockey world, what happened to the Nordiques?

Finally the silliest thing that he wrote in this article, is that francophone players and coaches don't get an equal opportunity.

Both the entertainment industry and the sports industry are the two professional fields where minorities do the best. That's because talent wins out, and the last time I looked, there were plenty of francophone coaches in the NHL, which is actually surprising because they must coach in a foreign language. The only place where francophone coaches have a problem is in Montreal, where they burn out with amazing regularity and not because of management, but rather because the francophone press corps hounds them mercilessly (Mr. Tremblay, is an important member of this cabal.)

Mr. Tremblay is two-faced. He accuses the league of discrimination, yet urges the Montreal Canadiens to discriminate themselves, by hiring and drafting francophones over every one else.

Extending his logic, Canadian teams outside Quebec teams should give preference to Canadian Anglos over Francophones and Europeans. If that's the case (which it isn't) why exactly is he complaining?

I'm sure he'll find a rationalization why the Montreal Canadiens should discriminate, while the other Canadian teams should not.

Commenting on the whole situation, Montreal Canadiens President Pierre Boivin was understandably furious. "I'm fed up!"

Can the Canadiens survive the language war?
Not successfully. As long as language remains a distraction, on ice performance will suffer. Its already hard enough to compete.

I shall let Mr. Tremblay in on a little secret. The reason that there are so few francophones playing on the Canadiens is quite simply because they don't want to. The francophone media attention is too unnerving and distracting for many. Those who have a choice stay far away. Francophone players that who do want to play in Montreal are generally those at the end of their career or talently challenged.

If those are the players that Mr. Tremblay wants the team to pursue, then heaven help the Montreal Canadiens and their fans.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I think this a a great piece of writing for our community. I would like to post it on my website and request permission to do so.

    presently we have more than 19,000 readers at www.ParkAvenueGazette.com with a steady flow of more than 2 dozen readers every day since january 1st of 2009, about 45% every day being newcomers and the remainder returning readers checking new news stories and updates.

    Please let me know if this is ok to post and also a would need a by_line for the author.

    Keep up the good work,

    -Jim Brown
    Editor www.ParkAvenueGazette.com
    E-mail: editor@vif.com

  3. TO Jim Brown;
    Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, somehow your comment slipped by me.
    Please feel free to reprint anything in this blog as long as it's linked and thank for the kind words.