On Hot Wings, Super Bowls, and Betraying One’s Country

It started out with such innocence. Monday, January 20, about 9:33 a.m. The coffee was good, and the sun was shining. I made quick work of deleting a backlog of shopping spam and holiday deals until I got snagged on a Groupon Getaway, which sent me into a faux-vacation planning hole for “Upscale Log Cabins amid Great Smoky Mountains” in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Nothing outside my usual morning routine, except that by day’s end I’d wind up a goddamn traitor.

Yeah, that’s right, a traitor. A traitor to the institution of Canadian football, and quite possibly to the identity of Canada itself. That morning, I surrendered an RSVP to a Super Bowl party invite. Even worse was that while I sat there in the sun, sipping my coffee and imagining some of the 200 bird species I wouldn’t be seeing in the Tennessee Smokies, it seemed that half of Canada was already swept into the intoxicating fervour of the American football machine. Disgusting, obviously, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

It all started the prior Sunday in Seattle, a mere three-hour drive from where I sat surfing allaboutbirds.org to bask in the dainty voice of the Tennessee Warbler — a fitting species for the football dilemma I was about to face, since the bird flourishes in Tennessee’s Canadian-like boreal forests during the winter months. That evening, a record-breaking 2.7 million of us tuned in to watch the NFC championship game in which the hometown, blue-shirted Seahawks edged the San Francisco 49ers by six points with a final score of 23 to 17.

The following day collided with a digital onslaught of memes, tweets, and status updates featuring a post-game Richard Sherman manically screaming into the faces of fans through an on-field camera. What seemed like a shit tonne of Canadians ranging from friends to well-known comedians, fast-food franchises to my own mother, posted something online about the game. It was an assault on all fronts from people I never thought would talk sports, let alone football, let alone the NFL.

Distracted from the Tennessee adventure I had no intention of going on, I closed my browser window displaying a photo gallery of the aforementioned log cabins — where I imagined myself waking to the sound of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, whose brilliant red chevron and enormous triangular bill produces a distinct song that sounds like an operatically trained American Robin — and visited nfl.com to see what everyone was talking about.

Probably because the site had sniffed the stench of my polite Canadian IP address, I found, much to my horror, an entire section devoted to Canadians. That our growing interest in the NFL demanded real estate on their homepage came as a shock. “Canadian players in the NFL,” “Canada’s Favourite Teams” (note the u), tips on how Canadians can tailgate at home (homegating), and reasons why you should now do it virtually (virtual homegating) while eating Canada’s official NFL hot wing. Wait, what?

It turns out Pinty’s, an Ontario-based bird enthusiast of another nature, has been processing chicken wings in Canada since 1943, and apparently Canadians consume over 250,000 pounds of these things during the Super Bowl. Gross. (Learn to identify them by their distinctive flavours with colourful names such as Bourbon Cola, Beer BBQ, and Whisky Mustard in their natural habitat, the frozen food section of most reputable grocers across Canada.)

All this wouldn’t bother me so much if we weren’t so deeply involved in something that isn’t ours. We have our own Super Bowl — it’s called the Grey Cup. From my experience, however, it’s not easy to get a Canadian to attend a Grey Cup party. When I hosted one, only two people showed up. It was an audio-only affair because I don’t own a television, and I insisted guests B.Y.O.A.D. (Bring Your Own Audio Device), but still!

The largest audience ever to watch our big game gathered in 2009, when 6.1 million Canadians witnessed the Montreal Alouettes defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders by a score of 28-27. An impressive audience, until you learn that 7.3 million Canadians watched last year’s Super Bowl XLVII.

In 2012, the CFL celebrated its 100th Grey Cup. I’m filled with self-revulsion for failing to watch it, mainly due to the fact that I plumb forgot. There was no anticipation, no photos, no meal planning, no official wings. I certainly didn’t see anyone within my online social network talk about it.

All this doesn’t matter, though. The war is over. The CFL will always be a second-class citizen to the bigger, slicker, better-attended, more-watched, nipple-revealing spectacle that is the NFL. I’m tired of telling people that our nerdy little four-down game is cool whenever they start talking about the Super Bowl, and weary of having to ask the bartender at my local pub to turn on the CBC in mid-November.

Which is why I accepted that Facebook invite for a costume-themed Super Bowl party, where guests are encouraged to dress as cliches of the Denver or Seattle lifestyle. I’m actually quite excited, and would compare the anticipation for my first Super Bowl-related event to my first spotting of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, known to kick its youngest hatchling out of the nest if food is scarce. On Twitter, I’ve now contributed to the milieu of NFL chatter.

Oh, and that wistful, adrenaline-inducing Tennessee vacation that consumed most of my imagination that fateful Monday morning? Deleted. Which is fine, because I’m sure come Sunday I’ll be spotting plenty of Bourbon Cola Pinty’s as they enter my traitor bastard mouth, just like the rest of the country.

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David Look writes about cities and everything in them, including himself. He could use more friends. Find him at: davidlook.net.

  • Steph Paige

    You must have missed out on this! Pinty’s partnership with the CFL is far bigger than theirs with the NFL :) http://pintyspubandgrill.com/cfl/home

  • Andrew Unger

    CBC just reported that 46% of surveyed Canadians watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. In contrast, no one watches the Grey Cup for the commercials. Therefore I don’t think you can use championship game viewership to suggest that the NFL has more of a following in Canada than then CFL does.

  • davidlook

    Thanks for your comments guys!

    @stephpaige:disqus I had no idea Pinty’s even existed, before writing this article, and glad to see CFL is in on the game, but I wish the NFL wouldn’t mess with our wings.

    @andrew_unger:disqus interesting about the commercials. I know it’s a big draw, but I’m sure you’re aware that unless you’re watching the game with a US feed, all the commercials are swapped out for local spots.

    The Super Bowl party I was at certainly didn’t have any cool commercials, and it was
    still packed. Leading up to the Sunday in question, even after writing that people talk about Super Bowl more than Grey Cup, I was still amazed at how many of us Canadians bought into this game and were talking about it all weekend, hosting parties for it, and hyping on it. (interesting also that I found so many were women)

    And, pardon me, the game was fucking BORING. I left at half time.