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They Tried a Breakaway, but Voters Made the Save

Quebec nearly split from Canada this week, a fact I feel compelled to mention because it is the first time I have ever begun a column with the letter Q.

From a sports standpoint, Monday’s vote did have a serious impact. For one thing, Wayne Gretzky will not be referred to as the most famous athlete from the “tricountry area.”

For another, national anthem singers will not need to learn how to butcher a third song. It’s bad enough the way they sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O, Canada,” without wondering what they would have done to the new country’s anthem, “O, Canada . . . Not!” or “My Quebecky-Breaky Heart,” or whatever it would have been.

Just think of how proud Quebec’s athletes could have been, marching into next summer’s Olympic Games under their new flag, which Atlanta naturally would have flown upside-down.

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As for myself, I know very little about Quebec, except how to pronounce it. It is KA-bec, not KWA-bec, for those of you whose principal language is broken English.

The province is inhabited by French-Canadian people, 49.4% of whom voted to become French-non-Canadian people. The other 50.6% shouted: “Love it or leave it! No, on second thought, love it!”

Quebec people take incredible pride in being from Quebec. (I mean incroyable pride.) They crave their own identity. They think the host of the “Jeopardy” television show should be Alex Quebec. Their favorite character from children’s literature is Quebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

They want no English up there, except the spin on a cue ball. They think everyone should speak French. They want Marv Albert to watch an NBA player take a shot at the basket, then say: “Oui!”

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Many of the fans at Montreal Expo baseball games are sick of hearing everyone introduced in two languages. Going to an Expo game is like going to the Grand Canyon; you have to hear everything twice. By the time a batter gets introduced, the count on him is three and two.

With a country of their own, Quebec people at athletic events could behave in a more natural manner. Peanut vendors would be free to act like most French-speaking people who deliver your food . . . they could ignore you. In the new Quebec, you would still be able to buy peanuts, but only with a heavy sauce on them.

Football fans from Quebec could continue following their favorite Canadian professional teams . . . like Sacramento and Baltimore. I know how much they already enjoy watching someone run for a touchdown and hearing: “He’s at the 50! He’s at the 47.5! He’s at the 45! He’s at the 42.5!” (That damn metric system.)

As for the Montreal Canadiens of hockey fame, I suppose they would need to call themselves something different, or else continue having the most incongruous name since the Utah Jazz.

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Another big worry is money. Many of the top Montreal athletes, not being from Montreal, refuse to be paid in Canadian currency, because, as you know, the only thing you can buy with Canadian currency is Park Place, Boardwalk or a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Had Quebec successfully seceded from Canada, I have no idea what the effect would have been economically, except to put Maurice Richard’s picture on the new $1 bill. Canada would have kept that dollar coin with the loon on it, while I understand that Quebec was considering a $1 coin with a mighty duck on it.

How disappointing Monday’s defeat must have been for those from Quebec who dreamed of forming their own country. I have always wanted to form my own country. My first act as president or king would be to cut taxes. My next act would be to ban everything on television except PBS and women’s volleyball.

With another Olympic Games on the horizon, I don’t know whether Quebec would have had time to form a team of its own. The whole country might have been represented at Atlanta by six guys in pleated skirts, disguised as field-hockey players. Quebec’s basketball squad couldn’t defeat the United States’ towel boy.

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Canada, of course, would continue to field a very strong squad, as soon as a couple more runners move there from Jamaica.

Anyway, I am sorry how Monday’s vote turned out for Quebec, the home of so many of hockey’s top stick-handlers and curling’s top broom-handlers. However, I hope they will keep trying, again and again, year after year, no matter how long they lose. You know, like the Expos.


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