Wanna Be Friends ? (Again) ??

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As I sit here in my library talking to my girlfriend about this weeks column topic, I suddenly realize that I, ….. don’t have a library and my girlfriend is not my girlfriend because we just broke up. Friends, a long distance relationship with a pro tennis player is tough and has many challenges, one of them being instructions from Eugenie’s lawyer for me to cease and desist further contact with her. I’m not really sure what all that lawyer talk means but I assume it’s something referring to her being heartbroken and needing time to find herself. Well, until she comes back to me, I’ll reluctantly respect her wishes. It will be hard, but I can always look at pictures of us together and remember the good times , such as the year I surprised her by showing up in Brisbane and cheering her on. Man was she surprised !!

Anyway, about this weeks topic, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Canada/US relations and how they have soured considerably since I was a kid. The first instance that I can remember noticing it was right after 9/11. The change in attitudes between our two countries did not happen as a direct result of the terrorist attack, but as a by product. After the attack, there was a conspiracy to get revenge or blame someone and Iraq was that choice. To make a long story even longer, there was clearly no evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Canadian government went against the grain and would not support the war (invasion) and send troops. A very high percentage of Western countries jumped on the bandwagon and nodded like bobble heads, and now that the truth has been revealed they all have egg on their faces.

So in a nutshell, the American attitude towards us was strained because we would not support them in the war and our attitude towards them changed because we were against them invading a sovereign country based on false pretenses (lies). Now to wrap up this history lesson, I remember being at a Ted Nugent concert (Kewadin) not too long after this all started to unfold and the Motor City Madman decided it was his duty to add fuel to the fire. Loudmouth, (I mean Ted) has a song called “Kiss My Ass”. Being the all drama queen patriot he is, he sang that song during his set to ( I would say a mostly Canadian crowd) and inserted “Canada, you can kiss my ass ! , France, you can kiss my ass” etc to make his political point. That left a really bad taste in my mouth and people actually walked out of the show. Yo, heads up Ted, anyone with any intelligence would not group a whole population based on what their government does ; look in the mirror !

Ok, Ok, Ok, to the topic. Does anyone remember the Friendship Games ?? Perfect, I see a lot of hands out there, that’s good. For those of you that are not old enough to remember, basically the Friendship Games were a sort of mini Olympics between the Sault and Saginaw Michigan. The games started in 1978 and ran until 1999, when a collective agreement was reached between both cites to stop holding the annual ritual due to dwindling participation.

The games consisted of baseball, soccer, basketball, golf, swimming, horseshoe toss etc and were very successful for many years. Participants were mostly children and teenagers and it was a great way for our two cultures to learn about each other and have fun. Each year the venue would rotate from one city to the other and the best part was the requirement that the kids had to stay with billets. Usually the billet host had a child or teen in a participating sport so it was quite exciting. I was lucky enough to compete in baseball at three F.G’s and two times it was in Saginaw. I remember the bus rides down with the other athletes, the large high school stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, and best of all, my experiences with the host billet families that I stayed with.

One year I was billeted with a few team mates of mine with a host family, and all we did was eat junk food and play video games all night. The other year, I stayed with a kid named Eddy Duby and his family at a big country estate. They were very friendly and I still remember going down the street to pool party a friend of his was hosting. All the kids at the party ( and cute girls 😉 ) we very friendly and respectful to me.

The year that I participated and it was our turn to host Saginaw, my memories were not so great. It had nothing to do with unfriendly Americans or anything like that , it was ….well because of embarrassment. Here’s what happened. As you know, Americans love their baseball and take it quite seriously from a very early age. I am quite sure there have been a few kids to grow up in the Tri state area that made it to the Major Leagues. Anyway, we were playing them at Elliot Field and I was dreading having to bat against this pitcher that was throwing some serious heat. Well, when it was my turn to bat, I walked to the plate like I was walking to my execution. As I was shaking, his first pitch came up and inside and caught me on the shoulder. After the initial sting I thought…”s**t, I’m on base now,! it’s over! ..Right ON !!!!! That feeling of elation overwhelmed me and I marched like a hero to first base, life was great………… The next thing I remember was being tagged on the hip and the umpire yelling OUT !!!!. You see, I was so busy daydreaming while I was leaning off the base rubbing my shoulder, I didn’t see the pitcher turn and correct his error by easily picking me off. My moment of greatness lasted a whole three minutes ; not even an Andy Warhol.

Thinking of it now, it reminds me of the Simpson episode where Homer got his hand stuck in a vending machine while trying to steal a pop his work cafeteria. After the fire department and everyone tried to help him with no results, some detective work revealed that all he had to do was let go of the can of pop he was clutching !!! LOL I’m pretty sure I felt just as humiliated as I walked off the field as Homer did while walking out of the lunchroom with his co workers laughing at him.

All in all, the memories and experiences were nothing short of priceless.

Anyway, I think a great idea would be to bring back the Friendship Game ; Version 2.0 if you will ; this time though, the two participants would be sisters, you know like sister cities ; maybe the Twin Soo’s ? …..Great idea right ?? I think the games would be very successful socially and economically. It would heal many years of ill will between our nations and answer many untrue stereotypes. These games would also help our economy here in the Sault. . A high percentage of Soo Michigan citizens have never stepped inside our great city, let alone our country. Once they are introduced the fact that we are friendly and have great shops and restaurants, not to mention that their dollar is superior to ours, they will be here in droves. Who knows, maybe they’ll shop here weekly like so many Canadians do in their Soo.

Now, the games would consist of the same activities as the previous games (baseball,soccer, swimming etc), but I think we can do better and add some spice to it. How about the first annual Friendship Games Pub Run Crawl (patent pending). Basically, the game would consist of four teams of four guys and girls of legal drinking age. The object of the game is to run from one bar to the next to the next to the next. Sounds simple enough ? Not so fast ; At each bar, there are two jugs of beer and they have to be internally emptied before the team can run to the next bar. All team members have to make it to the last bar before a winner is declared…..Think about it; that last leg of the race would be quite interesting don’t you think ? This would be the crawl part of the game 😊. There are many possibilities ; we just have to put on our collective thinking caps.

With the advent of mass social media and crafty spin doctors, it’s very easy to get jaded and swayed opinion wise regarding other cultures and demographics. The only true way to get a honest realization is to experience it first hand. We are so lucky to have a neighbor so close, yet we take it for granted. I think the time is ripe for a new beginning and a new understanding. So, with that,

Let’s Play Ball !!!

Ernest Skinner Jr.

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Ernest Skinner
Ernest Skinner was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie and attended Humber College after high school. He has a passion for other cultures and has traveled throughout Mexico and many South American countries.. He has written many articles over the years that deal with events happening here in Sault Ste. Marie. Reading about ancient civilizations, world politics, and mysteries of the unknown are also defining factors that are his general makeup. Outside of being serious, he has a bright sense of humor that was molded from shows like Seinfeld to The Simpsons. Ernest is a SaultOnline.com columnist

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