Something to Cheer Canada

MOMENTUM is a curious thing, in sports as in politics. When the World Series returned to Atlanta after the Braves pounded the Blue Jays in game five, that mysterious mix of confidence and energy seemed to shift to the southerners. But it was the dynamics of game six itself that proved decisive, with hits and rallies see-sawing. Momentum happens one inning at a time.

In baseball, perhaps more than other team sports, a game's direction depends on flashes of brilliance by individual players. Work-a-day players sometimes become stars in post-season, and stars sometimes fade. Jay's catcher and most valuable player Pat Borders hit whatever Atlanta's pitchers tossed his way.

Toronto outfielder Dave Winfield, an enduring star with a history of nonperformance in past Series, seemed headed for another lackluster post season. But he mustered enough momentum to drive in the winning runs in the 11th inning Saturday night.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney proclaimed: "... this is a sweet moment indeed. You have united a nation behind you, capturing the imagination of Canadians from coast to coast."

Thus Canada has something to rally around even as Canadians vote today in a referendum that is seen by some as a measure of national cohesiveness. The Blue Jays themselves are a study in diversity - a blend of black, white, Hispanic, American, Caribbean (alas, no Canadians), led by the first black manager to win a World Series, Cito Gaston. Canada has historically led baseball towards greater diversity. The old minor-league Montreal Royals were Jackie Robinson's stepping stone to the big leagues.

In the wake of the Blue Jays victory in the first World Series that actually crossed international borders, some speculate about a "real" world championship of baseball to include the Dominican Republic, Japan, and other nations that loved the game.

That might build wider interest in what Americans have long called their "national pastime." Polls indicate that football rates far ahead of baseball among US sports fans. Americans' attention, and their speculation about momentum, will now gravitate to the gridiron, and to politics.

In Canada, however, the Blue Jays' victory has earned a certain immortality.

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