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Whew. I just made it through Canadian customs. This flag thing had me worried. This was no time to be an accidental tourist, stumbling off an airplane in Toronto.

Before World Series Game 2, a Marine - apparently from the Atlanta barracks of "F Troop" - hung the Canadian flag upside down, creating an international incident. Great. This Larry Storch character didn't know which way to hang the stem of the Maple Leaf, and we bleary-eyed American sportswriters would be stripped, searched and tortured at the border.I was nervous. To get through, I was prepared to sing "O Canada."

I was prepared to end every sentence with "eh."

I was so desperate, I was willing to say I liked hockey.

None of this posturing was necessary. For this is Canada, where everyone is friendly. Toronto is clean and safe. It is Chicago, scrubbed down. Beautiful and cultured, Toronto is one of the world's great cities.

I mean, when the Blue Jays clinched Canada's first baseball pennant last week, mobs roamed through downtown Toronto . . . uh-oh. We've seen these scenes in America; sports fans of Detroit, for example, have burned half the city after winning championships. Taxis get rolled over. Win a title, throw a riot, right?

Here's what The Toronto Star reported about the victory celebration here: "Many people stopped to hug perfect strangers, including police officers, and shake their hands. At SkyDome fans were standing in their seats to celebrate; they hugged one another and clasped hands. . . . Two men who did not know one another turned across the aisle and gave each other high-fives."


These Canadians are dangerous. What party animals. In the future, they shouldn't get so carried away.

Seriously: How can you not love a city like this?

Still, there is an undercurrent of fear and loathing on the litter-free streets. Tuesday night, a World Series game will be played on Canadian soil for the first time, and the citizens are paranoid. Their inferiority complex is as vast as the SkyDome.

It's a shame, because this should be a moment of jubilation. Instead, Canadians are too image-conscious.

Canadians are obsessed with what Americans think of them. I guess that's understandable. The Atlanta newspaper all but declared war on the day Game 1 was played with a dumb "This is OUR game" headline.

The paper printed a Fan's Guide. This service addressed concerns that Braves fans may have in traveling to Toronto. Some of the questions were mind-boggling:

- Is English spoken in Toronto? (Better than in Atlanta, actually).

- Are Toronto fans tolerant toward visiting fans, or will they take away tomahawks? (Someone should take those stupid toys away).

Gee. Where did Braves fans think they were going - Beijing? If you look at a map of North America, Minneapolis is farther north than Toronto. But this irrational fear of Toronto just intensified the Canadian angst.

There's no need for xenophobia.

Memo to Canada: Chill out.

Memo to America: Chill out.