OK, Rick Mercer, I know you’re reading this. Someone in your office at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. found this mention of you on the Internet. That person brought it to your attention, because you’re a stand-up guy and won’t let a challenge go unanswered.
I challenge you to come to Toledo to take back what you said about our city. To the crew of a freighter bound for Lake Erie, you said: “Enjoy Toledo. Better you than me.”
You made that slam on Canadian TV, but we here in the states, especially Canadian-friendly northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, see your show, The Rick Mercer Report.
Some background: Mr. Mercer is Canadian TV’s answer to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. But Mr. Mercer is better than they are.
Mr. Colbert and Mr. Stewart are behind-the-desk guys who satirize Amercian politics. Mr. Mercer skewers Canadian politicians from behind a desk too. But he leaves the confines of his Toronto studio to produce two episodes for each of his 30-minute weekly shows.
And he doesn’t just stand with a microphone in hand. He takes part in whatever his subject is doing.
In one of my favorite episodes, he accompanied a crew in Newfoundland to gauge the health of the moose population. From a helicopter speeding feet above the ground, he shot a tranquilizer dart into a galloping moose. He later reached in to the moose’s backside to pull out a stool sample.
He took a harrowing ride with the Canadian Olympic bobsled team in Vancouver. He jumped from the high diving board under the tutelage of an Olympic diver.
I can’t imagine Mr. Colbert or Mr. Stewart doing such things. When Mr. Mercer jumps into the story — sometimes literally — the show is fun and educational.
But what prompts this rebuke is Mr. Mercer’s most recent episode before the show lapsed into reruns for the holidays. He rode a freighter through the Welland Canal in Ontario.
The canal is a man-made series of locks that allows ships to sail between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. My older son sailed through the canal twice this summer, and I wanted to see what he had experienced.
At the segment’s end, Mr. Mercer was on the superstructure of the canal, waving to the freighter as it made its way to Lake Erie. He then called out that slight.
We’re struggling with our image in Toledo. We don’t need a swipe — even so mild — from a Canadian neighbor.
The freighter’s name was Whitefish Bay. That’s a point in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula mentioned in the 1976 song by Gordon Lightfoot — a Canadian — “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” That freighter went down with several crew members from Toledo, so you’re coming pretty close to hitting a nerve with us.
We’re trying to get cruise ships to put Toledo on their itineraries. We’re dealing with toxic algae in our end of Lake Erie. And we’ve wrapped up our events observing the bicentennial of the War of 1812 — which your country claims to have won, leading to Great Britain granting you independence.
Yeah, well, we fought for our freedom. You were given yours.
Now, Mr. Mercer, you seem to be a man of good character. So as you’ve challenged Canadians to do positive things, I challenge you.
Come to Toledo. Check out our arts, our nightlife, our restaurants. They’re not quite on a par with Toronto’s, but you’ll see we’re trying to make life on this end of Lake Erie pleasant, rewarding, and hopeful.
I can’t promise that you’ll get to perform with the Toledo Symphony, or get a behind-the-scenes look at the Toledo Zoo, or take to the ice with the Toledo Walleye — all variations of things you’ve done on TV.
But you can visit The Blade. Write an apology. Heck, I’ll let you write the headline.
Dennis Bova is a copy editor for The Blade’s Pages of Opinion.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org