The first new outfits of the 2022 Canadian Premier League season have been revealed, and it’s another success: there won’t be a single team that will feel embarrassed or second-rate because of what they’re wearing. Even better, there’s a new lettering and numbering design which is unique, energetic, and fun while still being perfectly legible. However, the presentation of this design was botched in a manner that sparked a lot of discussion in Nova Scotia, and though there’s been no harm done, there might be a benefit to reviewing this discussion — for the sake of identifying anything to improve within the league. Let the trial begin!
The copy on the CanPL.ca website included the following description and diagram:
“The letters and numbers will also feature a horizontal line that represents the 49th parallel, a circle of latitude that goes across Canada and through all 10 provinces. It is meant to unify players across the league, and symbolize Canada’s connection from east to west.”
The two errors are glaring: That’s the 60th parallel, not the 49th, and the 49th parallel doesn’t go through all 10 provinces. In fact, the 49th parallel goes north of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia, and it touches the border of the Prairie Provinces. The only four provinces which it goes through are BC, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland.
Does it really matter? First of all, it’s an answer which would fail an elementary school geography quiz, so that’s already a problem. Secondly, here are some quotes from the response in Halifax:
“Did the CPL make the Wanderers the unwanted child that the husband had with his mistress and it’s not welcomed in the family? Did they realize that they [expletived] up by excluding us?”
“No, they didn’t.”
“So this is what [Prince Edward] Islanders feel when their province is left off of maps, I finally understand.”
“We’ve long felt that the Wanderers are not included in this league in many ways… can’t send that message any clearer than [messing] up basic geography and excluding as a result.”
“This is like saying the 63rd meridian is where the Great Plains begin.”
“A generation of league managers so much dumber than their parents.”
“A tragical slip.”
“Document this for future focus groups!”
“Being a soccer fan who doesn’t live in Ontario or BC is bloody exhausting. Usually we get ignored, yet we can turn out some of the largest club crowds in the country. We can be as engaged as anywhere else. But if we speak up on these points, we’re told to sit down […] It’s exhausting, and it pushes me (and I’m sure others too) away and out of the fold.”
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first time the league’s messed up with maps of Canada. In their graphic for the 2021 Final, the physical locations of several cities don’t match the white dots that locate them.
No one is claiming that the league needs to hire a cartographer… stylized maps, loosely drawn visualizations, and emphasized areas can all be correctly interpreted by a literate audience. If they claim to be factual in their graphics, though, then the facts should be accurate, and the editorial approval seems non-existent to permit such errors.
That being said, there is an explanation. If Macron’s designers in Italy wanted to use latitudinal lines to depict Canada, they may have just used loose concept art without thinking that the details would matter, when translated to the final product. It’s true that the letter and number designs look amazing, and it’s understandable that Macron wasn’t concerned with the details of their internal process. If I were to create some concept art about Italian mountains and I mixed up the Alps and the Apennines, my concern would be about the quality of the final images, not whether residents of Umbria would take umbrage. (Whether Serie A chose to share my concept art with the public would be up to them, though.)
The final images, indeed, are their own defence: It’s actually ingenious to represent Canada with a single horizontal line. Very few countries in the world identify as strongly as Canada with the concept of “East vs. West,” and if they do, it’s usually about historical disagreements. In Canada, the East and the West are in constant tension, but always working together. We go along the national grain, not against it.
Indeed, the story of the country can be told countless ways in terms of East and West: in our highways and railways, in the flow of commerce and recreation, and in our political factions and sporting conferences. That horizontal line is not just our strength, but our weakness, and our identity. As Pierre Berton once said:
“Canada is deceptively vast […] For all practical purposes Canada is almost as slender as Chile. Traditionally half of its people have lived within a hundred miles of the United States border and ninety per cent within two hundred miles. It is a country shaped like a river — or a railway — and for the best of reasons: in the eastern half of the nation, the horizontal hiving of the population is due to the presence of the St. Lawrence, in the western half to that “sublime audacity”, the Canadian Pacific.”
Geometrically, what is a line, if not a connection between two points? And the points of Canada are unmistakeable. Below is a map (provided by Jeff Desjardins of visualcapitalist.com) which shows the population of Canada divided four ways. Fully half of its people are in that eastern horizontal sliver, and another quarter in that horizontal swath along the 49th parallel. Connect the two, and the resulting horizontal line becomes Pierre Berton’s river, roaring across the name of every jersey in the CPL.
The folks in that vast yellow quarter are not overlooked, for they understand that fundamental truth: that a company (or league) could operate very efficiently within that patch of green and red. To expand further than that could only be explained by two forces: governmental regulations, or a genuine desire to serve and include the entire country. That line is a symbol of connection between us all.
The defence makes an excellent case for the end product, but we should still remember that it’s the league’s presentation which is on trial. We’ve forgiven Macron for their errors, but what of the league’s decision to present those flaws uncontested? And their own fabrications?
What’s really funny about that bizarre 49th parallel factoid is that they started with the truth. The 49th parallel truly is an important line in Canada’s history and identity – but that’s because it’s a border for the western provinces.
That definition doesn’t apply to Ontario or Quebec, though, so in order to include those two provinces, the CPL invented a factoid about the 49th parallel which wasn’t true.
Think about that. This whole mess about overlooking the East began with an attempt by Ontario to undercut the West. It’s hard to imagine a more perfectly Canadian scenario!
Perhaps the lesson here is that the league should be more willing to acknowledge Ontario, rather than force it to become the surrogate for the entire country. Let the rest of the country learn about Ontario as it is, rather than force elements of every other province into the Ontarian story. Then, should Ontario misrepresent another province, it’ll be more easily forgiven as a personal mistake than a dereliction of duty.
It’s fitting that the judgement at this trial asks for the personal betterment of the Ontarians running the league, seeing as how the actual victim of the crime here is not the people of Nova Scotia, but those in the league itself. They betrayed their own ignorance, and thus embarrassed themselves. It’s the equivalent of a guy bombing at karaoke night, and joking that it’s the song’s fault. No one in the audience is truly offended, but neither are they deceived or amused.
Fortunately, it’s not a stranger who’s singing at that karaoke machine. He’s one of the family — and he’s wearing a really nice soccer jersey.