BOY, the 90th World Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies sure has been fun so far.
No, not the games - I mean the Canadian news media's jubilant fascination with the long hair, facial hair, tobacco-chewing, and paunches of several Phillies players.
By contrast, Toronto players are mainly polite, lean, clean-shaven, even genteel. Newspapers here are playing a ``barbarian Phillies at the gate'' theme to the hilt.
The Toronto Star offered up ``Here Come The Broad St. Bellies'' when the Phillies won the pennant. Days later they wrote: ``Artisan Jays vs. Hacksaw Phillies.'' ``Don't let looks fool you: Phils have all the tools'' was one backhanded attempt at balance.
The Toronto Globe and Mail, Canada's stately newspaper of record, was more understated on the subject of scruffiness: ``It's just the way the Phillies are,'' said a front-page headline.
Indeed it is - unapologetically - the way Phillies' first baseman John Kruk is: He of the gaping hole in the seat of his trousers. After ripping the pants earlier in the last game of the National League championship series, the bearded, long-haired Kruk didn't change before going to bat in view of an international TV audience. Canadian viewers (I gather) collectively gasped.
For this and other reasons, Kruk was the center of media attention when the Phillies arrived in Toronto. The day of Game One, the Star ran a front-page article headlined: `` `I'm not a slob,' Kruk protests as scruffy Phillies invade Toronto.''
In the article, Kruk elaborated: ``I'm not a model, I don't get paid to look good.'' Why does he look the way he does? ``Hey, that's American society. A lot of people look like us.'' he said.
The Phillies' image and Kruk's comments play to a longstanding Canadian sensibility: the desire to see a sharp distinction between Canada and America.
``As Canadians and Americans continue to live in increasingly similar worlds,'' says Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist at the Royal Ontario Museum here, ``differentiation becomes more important, but more a matter of emotional comfort than anything real.'' But if Canadians take secret comfort that neither they nor any of the Blue Jays look much like Kruk, they weren't showing it by being jubilant.
The Globe and Mail noticed. ``Let's get worked up,'' urged a front-page story on Saturday, noting that ``something is amiss in fandom. There's a flatness in the air that smacks of disloyalty. Where is all the hysteria?''
Outside the SkyDome, an hour before the start of Game One, the throngs were smiling and happy, but certainly not charged up at the prospect of a second world title.
``It's this way,'' says pennant-vendor Leslie Cringan: ``Toronto fans just seem to expect their team to win, again and again and again. They're kind of like Los Angeles hockey fans - they haven't figured out how to be baseball fans yet.''
``There definitely isn't as much excitement'' compared with last year, says James Willis of Barrie, Ontario. ``We're used to winning - we expect it, so we're not going to jump through the roof.'' Phillies fans, by contrast, seemed pumped up. Of course it was their first Series in 10 years. And while dimly aware of the focus on their team's grooming, they didn't seem to mind much.
Charles Zendrosky and his 11 family members and friends had driven nine hours from Frackville, Penn. Just out of the car, decked out in Phillies red, the group moved in flying-wedge formation through a crowd of Torontonians.
``I don't think the Blue Jays' fans mean any harm'' by razzing the Phillies, said the long-haired and bearded Mr. Zendrosky. The Phillies ``are just doing a job. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. And that's what they're doing.''
The Phillies lost Game One 8-5 in a manly way. They won Game Two, 6 to 4. But during the first game, a CBS commentator pointed out (for those who pay attention to such things) that the average Phillies player weighs just over a pound more than the average Blue Jays player.