Basketball is one of the most popular sports in Canada. It was invented by James Naismith, a Canadian man who worked at an American college as a physical education instructor. He adapted the game to keep his students active for the winter months (Klein, 2016). There are such an immense cultural connection to basketball yet for decades Canadians have tended to place their emotional investments and national identity on hockey with basketball distinctively seen as an American sport (Drolet, 2019). The Toronto Raptors, changed that narrative as they made history in becoming the first Canadian basketball team to ever win the NBA championships (Westoll, 2019).
A media article written by Jessie Vomiero with the title “We the North: A black flag, a Raptor’s claw, and the branding of Canadian basketball” elucidates the ties between basketball and sports nationalism in Canada and how the Canadian cultural identity was incorporated into the branding of Canadian basketball (2019). Furthermore, the re branding is one which shifts the collective Canadian identity to one with a more serious, goal driven tone. Advertising is a major component in this shift as the author refers to the commercial for the Toronto Raptors “We the North” campaign which uses vernacular language to depict the struggle for inclusiveness Canadians have felt throughout the years to make a name for themselves in the sport (Raptors, 2019). Anthropological perspectives and concepts on nationalism can be conveyed in this article of what resonates amongst Canadians about their own culture (Vomiero, 2019).
Though for many nations ethnicity and race have been a major derivative for their culture, for Canada the multiculturalism is how it differs from most. Rather than ethnicity, Canadian culture is normally consequent from its harsh and cold geographical layout and how citizens have manage their differences in such harsh conditions. Canada continues to stride towards an identity which encompasses the idea that they are outsiders which must challenge themselves more than any “other” to become champions (Raptors, 2019).
A change of status from a hockey nation to a sports capital marks the rite of passage Canada and the Toronto Raptors had to face and conquer to become elite as a symbolic action. A rite of passage has three phases: separation, liminal and incorporation. By Van Gennep’s terms the preliminary phase—separation was enforced by the belief that Canadians were outsiders to the sport, playing an American sport. The underestimation from other teams were hurdles the team had to manage considering that the raptors were the only Canadian team in the NBA. Followed by the transitional phase—liminal being a part of the championships, winning and losing games, and having the community have to go through the uncertainty alongside the team. Lastly the final phase—incorporation all the uncertainty vanished, replaced with triumph and celebration when the Raptors won the championships (1909). Vomiero quotes Cheri Brandish, sports marketing expert, as she goes on to say “I think that they knew it was a coming of age,” she said. “I think you kind of reached down and pulled out the emotions of the die-hard sports fans at the same time, while speaking really generally to the ethos of Canadian nationalism.” A coming of age ceremony is a commonly used description for rite of passage (2019).
The “We the North” campaign could be seen as a metaphorical revitalization movement in Canadian Culture to shift the worldwide perspective that Canada can indeed be a part of the professional leagues (Raptors 2019). As societal goals are redefined and periods of stress were placed on the nation collectively to determine the winners of the games a sense of solidarity was built amongst citizens to change how the world viewed the Canadian identity creating a new steady state with new prophetic revelations (Wallace, 2019. p265). Kawhi Leonard had been deemed “King of the North” a cultural hero. The title an important factor in determining the real significance of the Championship game win to Canadians. Revitalization movements are described as deliberate attempt to change a culture by members of the society. Interestingly enough the article touches base that the campaign managers for the Toronto Raptors were tasked with re branding Canadian Basketball (Vomiero, 2019)
Some say there are severe repercussions to holding strong nationalistic ideals, but in this case the nationalism built a closer and more prideful community providing future generations with less challenges and more opportunities. Whether this be the last championship Canadians were a part of, history has been made, and the only way to move now is hopefully up.
- Drolet, Mike. “How Canada Helped Kick-Start the NBA.” Global News. Global News, June 2, 2019. https://globalnews.ca/news/5333595/first-nba-game-ever-canada/.
- Chicago: Author-Date – Citing Sources – Research Guides at Davidson College. Accessed November 26, 2019. http://davidson.libguides.com/c.php?g=349327&p=2357431.
- Klein, Christopher. “How a Canadian Invented Basketball.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, December 15, 2016. https://www.history.com/news/how-a-canadian-invented-basketball.
- Tracy Evans. “Cultural Anthropology.” Lumen. Santa Ana College. Accessed November 26, 2019. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/culturalanthropology/chapter/rite-of-passage/.
- Wallace, Anthony F. C. “Revitalization Movements.” AnthroSource. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), October 28, 2009. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1956.58.2.02a00040.
- Westoll, Nick. “Raptors Make NBA History by Defeating Warriors to Win Finals.” Global News. Global News, June 14, 2019. https://globalnews.ca/news/5374267/toronto-raptors-win-nba-finals/.
- Raptors. “We the North.” YouTube. Toronto Raptors, May 30, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59bBWXFMmUo