Yesterday, September 29, 2004, was the last time Montrealers would see their Expos play baseball. It’s all over.
I’ve read no shortage of reasons from the “experts” why the Montreal Expos couldn’t survive in Montreal. And most of their assessments came down to two key issues: The cost of US money with which to pay player salaries. And the cost to pay the astronomically high salaries regardless of the exchange rate.
Those were only symptoms. They were not the reasons.
The reason the Montreal Expos failed to survive in Montreal came down to one primary issue. Ethnocentric Québécois Nationalism. Like everything else in Quebec, it all comes down to appeasing the French speaking majority.
This is no knock on Montreal’s French community; but baseball is not a French or Québécois sport. Hockey is. Therefore; why take a sport that is most popular with the English community, and locate it in a God forsaken part of Montreal, in a horrible stadium that is as far away from its English speaking market as possible?
Quebec nationalism even decided the colors that were worn on the Expos uniform. At first they were to be predominantly Red and Blue. Red for Canada. Blue for Quebec.
But the Red was too much for Quebec nationalists, so the home uniforms became mostly Blue with only a hint of Red.
Then there was the marketing. The Expos management spent most of their marketing dollars on appealing to the French community, figuring the English would be coming one way or the other. And besides, English Montreal media was so Expos crazy, the team would receive all the publicity they wanted for free.
The signage at the Olympic stadium was also a slap in the face to the English ball fans, since there was virtually no English to be seen anywhere. Not even on the emergency doors. And when greeted by stadium ushers, it was always in French, with many not being able, or being unwilling to speak in English.
A great many English speakers justifiably felt as if they were taken for granted by the team. And why shouldn’t they have felt this way, since they were. For my money to see a ball game, the very least the Expos and the stadium staff could have done was make the effort to make me feel welcome.
The Expos were brought to Montreal by the very generous Charles Bronfman, to be Canada’s team. But after he sold it, it quickly became Quebec’s team with the Quebec Fleur de Lys symbols outnumbering the Canadian Maple Leaf.
EVEN ON THE EXPOS’ UNIFORM! Instead of a Maple Leaf appearing on the Expos’ uniform, there was the Fleur de Lys over the heart of each player.
During one St Jean Baptist celebration (Quebec’s “national” holiday every June 24), Claude Brochu, the Expos’ President and managing partner at that time, ordered Canada’s national anthem not be played prior to the game on that day, so as not to offend Ethnocentric Québécois Nationalists who would be marching into the stadium just before game-time.
This order by Brochu not to play Canada’s anthem violated League Baseball rules; so, the anthem was played several hours prior to the game to an empty stadium. Only one American Expos player stood at attention in respect to “our” anthem as an employee of the stadium cleaning staff looked on.
I will never forget this horrible and demeaning image as I saw it on television news.
In participating in this insult to Canada, Brochu “honored” the Expos commitment to play the Canadian national anthem before game-time, since it was never really stipulated by the Baseball League how much before game-time was mandatory. But the US anthem was played just before the first pitch as is customary.
As a side-note: After not playing the Canadian anthem, so as not to offend people who hate the English community, the English language and Canada in itself, Claude Brochu was awarded Canada’s highest civilian honor: The Order Of Canada.
When the Expos initially played at Jarry Park, located in the easily accessible middle of the city, where English and French speakers share the area, the Expos sold out just about every game. Jarry Park was the perfect venue. But for Quebec nationalists, it was too English.
And besides; there was a monstrosity of a stadium built in the depressed French side of town to pay for. And who else was there to bring revenue to this construction disgrace, but the Montreal Expos.
There is no question that player salaries and the cost of the US dollar were two key factors in the demise of the Montreal Expos. But Ethnocentric Québécois Nationalism is the real reason why professional baseball is now dead in Montreal.
Had the Ethnocentric Québécois Nationalists kept their hands off the Expos. And had they left the Expos to play at Jarry Park. And if the Expos remained Canada’s team opposed to Quebec’s team, I wouldn’t be writing this, and the Expos would still be playing ball in Montreal.
The Expos are just one more victim of Ethnocentric Québécois Nationalism in Montreal. And the compliant appeasing Montreal English media refuses to state so.
It is sad that Montreal lost such an important icon. But the real reason why the Expos are gone is far more sad. And the fact that the real reason is still being ignored by Montreal’s elite English media is saddest of all.
I used to love it when the stadium announcer would bellow: John Bocc-a-bel-l-l-l-l-l-l-la.