Deeply grounded, then, so deeply that the Canadian is unconscious of it, put the belief in the economic principle of vested rights! Still more deeply grounded, put a belief in religious ideals as a working hypothesis! Does any other factor enter deeply in Canadians’ every-day living? Yes—next to economic beliefs and religious beliefs, I should put love of outdoor sport as a prime factor in determining Canadian character.
Professional sport has comparatively little place in Canada, though professional baseball has gained a firm foothold in the Northwest, where the American influence is strong, while the International League reaches over the boundary in the East. But it is the amateur who enjoys most favor. If a picked team of bank clerks and office hands and young mechanics in Winnipeg practises up in hockey and comes down from Winnipeg and licks the life out of a team in Montreal or Ottawa, or gets licked, the whole population goes hockey mad. This churchly nation will gamble itself blue in the face with bets and run up gate receipts to send a professional home sick to bed, and I have known of employers forgiving youngsters who bet and lost six months’ salary in advance. Montreal will cheer Winnipeg just as wildly when Winnipeg wins in Montreal, as Winnipeg will cheer Montreal when Montreal wins in Winnipeg. It is not the winning. It is the playing of clean good sport that elicits the applause. The same of curling, of football, of cricket, of rowing, of canoeing, of snowshoeing, of yachting, of skeeing, of running. When an Indian won the Marathon, he was lionized almost to his undoing. When hardest frost used to come, I knew a dear old university professor, who would have considered it sin to touch the ace of spades, who used to hie him down to the rink with “bessom” and “stane” and there curl on the ice till his toes almost froze on his feet; and one Episcopal clergyman used to have hard work holding back hot words of youthful habit on the golf links; and his people loved him both because he golfed and because he almost said things, when he golfed. They would rather have a clergyman who golfed and knew “a cuss word” when he saw it, than a saint who couldn’t wield a club and might faint at such words as golf elicits.