Fifth Annual (?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)

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By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We give our two cents about the most important events from 1917

Four years ago, we had an idea for a post that came from our frustration with year end columns definitively declaring winners and losers for the previous twelve months while also predicting what the year’s ultimate legacy would be. As historians, though, we felt that these columns could not be written in the moment, as we need time to truly assess the important moments that come to define a give year.

With that, the Year in Review (100 Years Later) was born. (You can catch up on 1914, 1915 and 1916 before jumping into 1917) We adopted a March Madness style bracket and each year we select 16 finalists and narrow it down through a series of head-to-head match-ups to determine the most important event from that year.

Certain trends have emerged through the years. The first, and most important, is that we have eliminated all things from the First World War. We’ve done this for a couple reasons: first, our friends at Canada’s First World War have you covered on all things Great War. Second, the war would dominate the bracket and we want to highlight some lesser known developments that still influence our lives today – although to my great disappointment there is nothing aviation related this year.

Our brackets this year are the International Bracket, the Cultural Bracket, the Politics Bracket, and, everyone’s favourite, the Potpourri Bracket.

Round One

Potpourri Bracket

1) Order of the British Empire Inaugurated v. 4) Honus Wagner Retires

Sean: The first time I submitted a SSHRC application, I was applying to do a Master’s degree in England and actually wrote the words that it would be interesting to go to school in “the mother country.” It was a simpler time back then. Although, maybe I was just starting my campaign to be appointed to the Order of the British Empire. The OBE celebrates its 100th anniversary this year after being established by King George V during the First World War as a way to commemorate contributions to British society. With its five classes, two of which make you a knight or a dame, OBE appointments are made from recommendations by the United Kingdom and participating Commonwealth countries. Canada, though, not longer makes nominations because of the establishment of the Order of Canada. India, Pakistan, and Nigeria have similarly created their own honours.

Honus Wagner retired from baseball in 1917 after a 21-year career. Playing most of his career in Pittsburgh, Wagner won 8 batting titles and was part of the 1909 World Series champions. Apart from his Hall of Fame exploits on the field, however, Wagner may be better known today for his T206 baseball card, which is the rarest sport collectable in the world. With few copies remaining, the card rarely goes up for option, but when it does look out. A copy sold last year for $3.12 million, or as well call it around these parts, Aaron’s bar tab.

Between these two, I have to throw my support to Honus Wagner. The OBE has provided some cool things, like Dame Edna (she’s in it right?), but it’s a vestige of a by-gone era of British colonialism that has lost much of its relevance today. Wagner on the other hand, is still held up as one of the best players of all time and the story of his card will ensure that his name remains part of the culture in the future.

Slumming on Park AvenueAaron: What?!? Honus Wagner?!? I think you used by bar tab to come up with this conclusion. I have never heard of Honus Wagner and his 21-year career is no match for the OBE. I am no monarchist, but I believe that the Order of the British Empire is more important. What bothers me more is that you truly believe that Wagner is more important…

Sean: I really do. The OBE has been, too often, a way for rich people to celebrate other rich Slumming on Park Avenuepeople. It’s the Oscars of national awards. Plus, it’s part of a colonial tradition that rewards behaviour that has been damaging to millions of people. Wagner, on the other hand, was a terrific ballplayer who has remained a standard bearer for judging hitters. That is card is still relevant and sought after – not to mention subject to this terrific short documentary – tells me that he is more relevant to the average person in 2017 than the OBE.

Honus Wagner Retires Wins (75-74)

2) John F. Kennedy Born v. 3) First Synagogue Built in Madrid in 425 Years

Aaron: Whenever I think about JFK I immediately think of his iconic phrase, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” However, I hear that famous phrase in the voice of Abe Simpson while on patrol on PT-109

Season 9 Abe Simpson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was born on May 29 1917. He was born into the prominent Kennedy Family from Massachusetts and played a critical role during the Cold War. Kennedy is remembered as one of the most popular, and indeed influential presidents, despite his short tenure in office (1961-1963), especially considering that many of his reforms were passed after his death. JFK remains a larger-than-life figure in American politics and pop culture.

To say that Europe has not been a particularly kind place to members of the Jewish faith is a bit of an understatement. Anti-Semitism ran rampant across Europe for much of the past two millennia, and yet Jews persevered. Despite this, the Beth Yaacov Synagogue in Madrid became the first to open in Spain in 425 years. For all that Jews have had to contend with in their history, this seems like a small bright spot. Sure, anti-Semitism did not end in Spain or in Europe, but the fact that a synagogue opened in a major European city that was home to passionate Catholics is impressive.

My vote goes to the birth of JFK. In the long run Kennedy had more of an impact on world events in the twentieth century than the Beth Yaacov Synagogue. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to pahk mah cah in Hahvahd Yahd.

Sean: I hear what you’re saying and there is no doubt that JFK was a hugely influential figure around the world, but I have often wondered about whether we look back more positively on his tenure in Washington because of his assassination. We’ve seen it far too often where an early death leads to a level of fondness that doesn’t accurately reflect a person’s life or achievements. The erection of the synagogue, however, is a remarkable moment in Europe at the time. As you noted, anti-Semitism was strong and that a new synagogue was not built for over 400 years shows the extent to which Jews were marginalized in Spain. I think breaking that is a more momentous occasion.

Aaron: Before “researching” for this piece, had you ever heard of the Beth Yaacov Synagogue? Kennedy, on the other hand, had a much more influential presence in world history.

John F. Kennedy Born Wins 54-51

Culture Bracket

1) Pulitzer Prize Founded v. 4) National Hockey League Founded

Aaron: To borrow a line from a Canadian legend, “The good ol’ hockey game, it’s the best game you can name, and the best game you can name, is the good ol’ hockey game.” For the past century, professional hockey players have been entertaining millions of Canadians and Americans (and, with the international series, people around the world) in what most describe as the best pro league in the world: the National Hockey League (NHL). The modern NHL was created in 1917 after its predecessor, the National Hockey Association, folded. At that time there were only four teams, all of which were based in Canada: the Toronto Arenas, the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, and the Ottawa Senators. These four teams competed for the Stanley Cup, which was won by the Arenas. The league expanded into the United States in the 1920s when the Boston Bruins joined. Today, the league boasts 31 teams (Editor’s note: far too many) in five provinces and eighteen states and its popularity is at an all-time high. To commemorate the centennial, players league-wide are wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys and the Ottawa Senators bested the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 in an outdoor game. I have spent probably too many hours of my life watching the NHL, talking about the NHL, and yelling at my television because of the NHL, but I know I’m not alone. Although the league is the “runt” of the big-four North American sports, its influence is certainly growing and fans’ appetites for NHL hockey seems insatiable.

Anyone that has ever read a newspaper or a book published in the United States has heard of the Pulitzer Prize. This prestigious distinction was first awarded on June 4, 1917 and is awarded annually in twenty-one categories. This was originally only four categories, but has since expanded. The prize gets its name from its original benefactor, Joseph Pulitzer, a wealthy Hungarian-born newspaper publisher who, in his will, left $250,000 to Columbia University in New York for the prize’s establishment (just under $4 million in today’s dollars). Unlike other prizes that are international in scope, the Pulitzer Prize is awarded solely in the United States to American authors. I’m sure that we have all picked up a book and seen “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize” and thought, “Hey, if it won this award – the name of which I recognize but have no idea what it’s for – it must be good!”

Not surprisingly, I’m going with the founding of the NHL as the more important event in this bracket. Rewarding journalism and writing of all sorts is certainly significant, but since the prize is limited to the United States, the NHL with its “global” reach is more influential. Players from all over North America and Europe comprise the teams, and fans from young to old relish watching their favourite stars lace up the skates each night. Plus, this allows me to counter Sean’s baseball fetish with a little pucks.

Sean: If we’re talking about ruining a beloved sport, I would go with the NHL too. After all, who doesn’t look forward to watching the pucks when it’s 30 degrees in June. I say that unless there is a chance for natural ice outside, hockey should not be played. And because the NHL has so brazenly defied that logic, I have to go with the Pulitzer. Plus, writing leads to reading and rewarding that is a good thing for us all. That’s the only way that we can ensure that more people have all the best words.

Aaron: In our long friendship that is soon to end we have never agreed on the pucks. Too bad I don’t have more time to make you see the error of your ways.

Sean: In doing this we are, for some reason, prioritizing the fourth most important sports league in North America over arguably the most prestigious literary award in the world. So that’s a thing.

Aaron:

National Hockey League Founded Wins 97-96 (4OT)

2) Dean Martin Born v. 3) Ella Fitzgerald Born

Sean: Two of the greatest singers of all time were born in the spring of 1917, with Martin on June 7 and Fitzgerald on April 25. Born in Steubenville, Ohio, Martin was an Angel Baby who would go on to one of the most successful film and musical careers of the 20th century. For the Good Times he was a member of the Rat Pack and was called by his nickname, the King of Cool, at least Once a Day. He understood That’s Amore and sang about how Everybody Loves Somebody. His music still resonates today as you can hear it around the world, even On an Evening in Roma.

Fitzgerald, on the other hand, said Don’t Worry ‘bout Me in crafting one of the greatest entertainment careers ever. Knowing that it’s Nice Work if You Can Get It, Fitzgerald had a great voice, whether she was Down in the Depths or it was A Foggy Day. Known for her big vocals and emotional songs, Fitzgerald was surely Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered at points during her career, but she will always be My Funny Valentine.

Between the two, my vote is definitely for Fitzgerald. You could argue that Martin was a more versatile performer given his extensive film career, but Fitzgerald did this:

 

Aaron: On this one I agree. I grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald with my Dad and even requested to have Ella serenade the guests at my wedding (Shout out to my ex-fiancee Megan!). Good pick, Dr. Graham.

Ella Fitzgerald Born Wins (66-44)

International Bracket

1) Russian Revolution vs. 4) Mata Hari Executed

Aaron: The name Mata Hari has become synonymous with the femme fatale: a sexy and daring woman who used her femininity to extract military secrets from unsuspecting lovers during the First World War (Editor’s note: this Bracket has not included anything from the First World War for good reason. These chuckleheads, however, have ignored this crucial element in this bracket). Born Margaretha Geertuida Zelle, Mata Hari gained her fame as an exotic dance in Paris in the early 1900s. In 1916, she was coerced into spying for Germany against the Allies. She was eventually caught, tried, and executed as a German spy by the French. What I find most extraordinary about Mata Hari is the sheer nerve that she displayed being a spy during wartime knowing the consequences if she was caught. Not many people (at least not those that I have spoken to) know much, if anything, about Mata Hari, yet they are more familiar with male spies. As a good father I will tell my daughter that she can do anything a man can…except maybe to not be a spy during wartime.

If there is one event that drastically shaped the twentieth century, the Russian Revolution is it. The collapse of the Russian Empire and the fall of the Tsar, which had ruled Russia for more than 450 years, brought about extreme economic, political, and social upheaval in Eastern Europe. The full origins of the Revolution are complex, but its immediate predecessor was due to Russia’s poor performance during the First World War. Coupled with this, Germany allowed the fiery orator Vladimir Lenin to travel freely from Switzerland to Russia to invoke a revolution and knock the Russians out of the war. Political infighting amongst the many factions ensued, which resulted in the Russian Civil War (1917-1922). Following the war the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was formed, which played a dominant role in world affairs until it, too, collapsed in 1991.

Of the two, the Russian Revolution is by far the more important event from 1917. The fall of the Russian Empire and the emergence of the USSR drastically shaped the world’s geo-political dynamic for almost 70 years. Mata Hari’s actions during WWI and her subsequent execution certainly deserve mention, but the Russian Revolution is moving on.

Sean: I am shocked and chagrined that you would limit the career choices of your daughter! I do, however, agree with your overall assessment. In addition to the Russian Revolution’s overall influence, it also gave us Animal Farm, one of the best books of all time.

Russian Revolution Wins (85-60)

2) United States Purchases Virgin Islands v. 3) Queen Lili’uokalani Dies

Sean: When thinking about European colonialism in the Americas, Denmark is rarely at the forefront of the discussion. There’s the Portuguese, the British, the French, and even the Dutch, but the Danes don’t get much attention. They did, however, colonize the islands of Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, and Saint John in the Caribbean. Like other islands, the local economy was heavily based on triangular trade, with sugar being the most profitable commodity sent to Europe. Based largely on slave labour, however, the economy lagged with abolition in 1848 and Danish parliament started to consider selling the islands soon after. The Americans were first interested in purchasing the islands during the Civil War when the idea of a Caribbean military base seemed appealing. Just over thirty years later, the two countries agreed on a deal that would transfer the islands to the United States for $5 million, but it did not pass through both chamber of Danish parliament. Negotiations opened again in 1915 and the two sides eventually agreed to a sale price of $25 million, which was presented in gold on March 31, 1917. The next day, the islands became part of the United States.

In the Pacific Ocean, there was similar discussion about whether the islands there should also be part of the United States. Hawaii was a kingdom, but towards the end of the 19th century, pro-American elements were pushing for annexation. Queen Lili’uokalani, the final monarch, was overthrown in a coup in 1893 and spent the rest of her life working the American court system to recoup the land seized. While she was unsuccessful, she was granted a lifetime pension from the American government. She died on the morning of November 11, 1917.

While both of these highlight American imperialism and colonialism, between the two I think that I would vote for the Virgin Islands. The idea of a monarchy ending is part of wider trends through the 19th century – even in this case if it was through direct American support. Purchasing the Virgin Islands, however, and the rather complex position of its citizens with regards to voting rights and taxation, means that the long term impact of that purchase is still being litigated today.

Aaron: Once again I agree. The Virgin Islands, much like Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa, are overseas territories of the United States, which produces some tricky political situations (we’ll see one later). The death of Queen Lili’uokalani marked the end of the Hawaiian kingdom, but, as Sean mentioned, was part of the wider cast off of colonialism in the 19th century. Can Canada get some Virgin Islands? At the time of writing it is -15 and we’ve had 15 cm of snow fall in the last 24 hours.

Sean: Fun fact – my dorm was nicknamed the Virgin Islands when I was an undergrad.

United States Purchases Virgin Islands Wins (54-43)

Politics Bracket

1) Income War Tax Act v. 4) Supreme Court Rules on Eight-hour Work Day For Railroad Workers

Aaron: Fighting a war is expensive. Paying for a war is expensive. Income tax is an annoying part of our yearly lives and we can thank the First World War for it. Unlike Britain and the United States, Canada did not have an income tax until 1917. To help pay for the war, the Conservative government introduced the Income War Tax Act as a temporary measure to raise more funds. The majority of Canadians were impacted by this tax, except for the Governor General, foreign consuls, active service members that were overseas, and married families with an income below $2,000 ($31,000 in today’s dollars) were also exempt. Surprisingly, the tax did not disappear after the war ended (Did that come across sarcastically enough?) and we Canadians continue to pay taxes on our hard-earned income. Maybe we should have had a Revolution in 1917 like in Russia?

The fight between States’ Rights and the Federal Government has a long and storied history in the United States. Ever since the Constitution was adopted in 1787, the fight over what the Federal Government can and can not enact has been called into question. The Adamson Act of 1916, which established an eight-hour day for interstate railroad employees was one such example. Labour representatives had long pushed for a mandated eight-hour working day, and the Adamson Act continued this trend. The Act was named for Georgia Representative William Adamson, and it was the first law that regulated working hours in private companies. The Act, however, was challenged and was eventually heard before the Supreme Court in 1917. The Court ruled that the Act was in fact constitutional. This was a win for both the workers and strict federalists.

For my money (ba dum bum) I’m going with the Income Tax Act as more important. Although the Adamson Act helped expand the eight-hour work day, the Income Tax had more of an impact as Canada joined other industrialized countries in adopting the tax.

Sean: It’s patriotic to pay your taxes. Besides, the amount of time you and I have subsisted on public funds through graduate studies, we should be grateful that the tax wasn’t revoked. For those reasons, we should be fully supportive of the income tax moving forward in the bracket.

Income War Tax Act wins 34-30

2) Congress Passes Jones Act of Puerto Rico v. 3) Congress Overrides Woodrow Wilson’s on immigration Act

Sean: In the United States, immigration was a major issue during the 2016 presidential election, where the idea of limiting the number of immigrants to the country was a fresh idea in American politics. That is, only if you ignore the previous 240 years of American history. One such moment came in 1917 when Woodrow Wilson vetoed the Immigration Act. A week later, however, Congress used a two-thirds majority to override the veto. The law limited the number of labourers from Asian countries – with an exception made for countries with treaties with the United States – while also forcing new immigrants to pass a literacy test. Grover Cleveland had previously vetoed a bill requiring a literacy test in 1897, but with xenophobia high in the midst of the First World War, the movement to limit immigration gained new steam.

The Jones Act of Puerto Rico – also known as the Jones-Shafroth Act – on the other hand, extended American citizenship to all people born in Puerto Rico after April 25, 1898. Enacted on March 2, the Act also created the Puerto Rican senate and bill of rights and turned the Resident Commissioner into an elected position. Puerto Ricans were allowed to voluntarily decline citizenship within six months of the bill’s passing, although only a couple hundred did. For those who did not, the Act meant that when Congress enacted conscription a few months later, Puerto Rican citizens were eligible and, as a result, over 18,000 Puerto Ricans served in the American military.

That the American Congress passed a xenophobic bill designed to limit immigration isn’t that earth shattering – it wasn’t the first nor the last time that that happened. And even though parts of the Jones Act have been superceded over the years, Puerto Rico’s relationship with the rest of the country remains complicated. Despite their citizenship, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections and the island’s finances have been greatly hurt by actions taken by financiers in New York. As a result, I think I would have to vote for the Jones Act here. It certainly wasn’t the start of the contentious/destructive relationship, but it was a major turning point that still resonates today.

Aaron: I feel like I am betraying my core values by once again agreeing with you, Sean. The situation with Puerto Rico and its relationship with the mainland id only getting worse, largely thanks to 45. Granting citizenship to Puerto Ricans was, however, the right thing to do. Now to allow them to vote in presidential elections!

Congress Passes Jones Act of Puerto Rico (51-40)

Round Two

Potpourri Bracket

2) John F. Kennedy Born v. 4) Honus Wagner Retires

Sean: While I know that the Man, Myth, and Legend will make a case for JFK, I have to go with Honus Wagner here. He was probably the best player of his era and his retirement shaped the year much more than Kennedy’s birth. If we take 1917 in a vacuum, Wagner leaving baseball was much more notable than a baby – I mean, Kennedy wouldn’t have had a personality by the end of the year. And, again, Wagner has an active legacy, not just as a baseball player but as a cultural figure because of the baseball card. Just because my esteemed(?) colleague is not familiar with his work, that shouldn’t disqualify him from advancement.

Aaron: Before sitting down to write this I had never heard of Honus Wagner, which, partially, speaks to my ignorance about baseball history, but also speaks to the wider sentiment of “Who the hell was Honus Wagner?” Sean’s love of baseball has clearly put blinders on if he thinks that Wagner’s retirement is more important than JFK’s birth. Kennedy went on to be one of the most important figures in the twentieth century and one of the most beloved presidents in US history. I know we often run into trouble placing importance on births, but this one is a no doubter. I would only concede to Wagner if Sean was able to somehow acquire the super-rare baseball card and split the profits of its sale.

Sean: How do you know I haven’t already sold the card and that’s what’s funding my impending ‘sabbatical’? Also, do you feel comfortable moving one thing forward based purely on your ignorance?

Aaron:

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John F. Kennedy Born Wins (58-57)

Culture Bracket

3) Ella Fitzgerald Born v. 4) National Hockey League Founded

Aaron: My turn to put on blinders! I love hockey and I love watching the NHL and so I truly believe that the league’s founding in 1917 beats out Ella Fitzgerald’s birth. I have been watching the NHL since I was a kid, something that I hope to share with my own daughter, and prefer to be home on Saturday night to watch my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. I am aware, however, that Gary Bettman and Co. are slowly, year by year, making the NHL less and less watchable – why, oh why would you allow linesmen to call penalties for faceoff violations?!? – but that should not detract from the league’s popularity and support. Ella Fitzgerald is an icon and a musician that I admire. I also grew up listening to Fitzgerald with my Dad, which provided me with a true appreciation for jazz. Overall, however, due to its continent-wide appeal, and, if Bettman has his way, international presence, I think that the NHL is more important for 1917.

Sean: If you insist that your daughter watch the Maple Leaves with you every Saturday night, you will leave me with no other option but to call Child Protective Services. I think this is Fitzgerald – Autumn in New York should not include hockey, It’s Too Darn Hot. I know I’m Old Fashioned, but some high quality jazz is much better than a watered-down pucks product. I’ve Got Five Dollars and It Never Entered My Mind to give it to the NHL. Why Was I Born? To keep the NHL from Slumming on Park Avenue.

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Aaron: The NHL may be watered down, and the league office is trying to ruin the game of hockey every year, but I still truly feel that it’s founding is more influential. Ella’s career was amazing and iconic – I’m not trying to say that. I just think that, like me, more people sit down and watch the pucks on Saturday night than listen to Ella on vinyl. Oh, and nice joke about Child Services; I’ve never heard that one before.

National Hockey League Founded Wins (33-32)

International Bracket

1) Russian Revolution v. 2) United States Purchases Virgin Islands

Aaron: As far as I’m concerned, this one isn’t even close. The start of the Russian Revolution clobbers the US acquisition of the Virgin Islands. For the reasons outlined above, the Russian Revolution is an early favourite to win the Enrico Pallazzo Championship Game. Once again I am not going to try to outline all of the complexities of the Revolution – I will leave that for a more capable historian – but I encourage our readers to at least familiarize themselves with this event as it truly changed the course of geo-politics in the twentieth century.

Sean: What a cop-out answer. A better historian would regale us with an insightful and entertaining analysis of all things associated with the Russian Revolution.

Aaron: Good thing I’m not a better historian (?) Besides, I don’t see you writing a thesis on why the Russian Revolution is more important DR. Graham…

Sean: 

Russian Revolution Wins (66-44)

Politics Bracket

1) Income War Tax Act v. 2) Congress Passes Jones Act of Puerto Rico

Sean: For this one, I think, for me, it comes down to scale. The Jones Act of Puerto Rico and it’s rather contested legacy – despite how straight-forward some may claim it is – is more localized than income tax. Sure, it has all the tenants of colonialism that has shaped life for millions of people around the world, but income tax is universal and its adoption here is fundamental to our respective finances.

Aaron: Once again I feel like this is a no-brainer. The introduction of the Income Tax in Canada is simply more important and had a much more significant impact on history. Hopefully my esteemed co-author will agree. If not, I will seriously have to reconsider my current contract with the producer of the History Slam.

Sean: Like that guy is ever going to read this…

Income War Tax Act Wins (71-59)

Round Three

John F. Kennedy Born v. Russian Revolution

Sean:-If we ignore everything I said in the previous section, I think this one goes to JFK. I mean, the Revolution didn’t cause 70 years of Red Panic throughout the West, it was the people who took over the regime, so the Revolution isn’t as important in that sense. It’s not like the Cuban Missile Crisis was a result of the Revolution, it was the result of the USSR trying to position itself as a global power in the second half of the twentieth century. And who was the one on the other side of that Crisis, but none other than JFK. In addition, his presidential library in Boston is spectacular and the Fifth Floor Museum in Dallas was featured in a particularly good episode of the History Slam, so my gut says JFK.

Aaron: This is a great match up! The start of the Russian Revolution, which led to the creation of the Soviet Union, versus the man that faced off against the USSR head on from 1961 to 1963. Many agree that the stare down between Kennedy and Khrushchev in October 1962 was the closest that the world has come to full on nuclear war (that is until the US and North Korea began their little spat in 2017…). That being said, I still believe that the Russian Revolution was the more important event of 1917. As U.S. President Kennedy had much more on his plate than simply battling the Soviets during the Cold War, while the Russian Revolution turned Europe upside down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean: My comrade friend has, apparently, been brainwashed in researching this section. For as strong as you pushed to get JFK over Honus Wagner (failing decision #SAD) in the last round, you’re now all in on Russia. I fear this won’t make you happy. After all, in Soviet Russia, event votes for you.

Aaron: I simply wanted to squash your baseball bias as soon as humanly possible good buddy! I was doing the people a service.  Thankfully I can flip-flop on earlier arguments without foul (considering the scoring system we invented is entirely unreliable), but I still do think that the Russian Revolution wins this round, however close it may be.

Sean: Wait, these results aren’t based off detailed scientific analysis?

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Russian Revolution Wins (77-73)

National Hockey League Founded v. Income War Tax Act

Aaron: It will come as no surprise that my vote goes for the NHL here. Having to pick between paying taxes and entertainment is not a contest. I am aware, though, that the Income Tax does play a role in the business side of the NHL, as many players have been vocal about not wanting to play in certain Canadian markets due to the high taxes (why play in Toronto when you can play in Tampa and make way more money?). Even with this in consideration, the NHL and the escape that it provides to hockey fans should outweigh the impact of the Income Tax.

Sean: This is a Skip Bayless level terrible hot take. The NHL is less relevant today than perhaps it’s ever been. The league has spread itself way too thin with too many teams, too many games, and a season that runs from when it’s 30 degrees outside to when it’s 30 degrees outside. That means that the season is either the length of a golf tournament or runs through all four seasons. That’s really bad for a winter sport. Income tax, on the other hand, gets a bad rep. Think of everything it pays for – especially you. You want to live in the middle of nowhere and drive into Ottawa, but don’t want to pay taxes? So you’re good with a toll every time you drive into the city? Ultimately, we get a lot for the taxes we pay and, yes, they are annoying and the government needs to operate much more efficiently, the idea of a communal pool of funds for the public good isn’t a bad idea.

Aaron: Your hate on for the NHL is a thing of beauty. I have tried numerous times to make you see the errors of your ways, and yet it appears that each time it has fallen on deaf ears. I agree that the NHL season should be wrapped up while snow is still on the ground, but its entertainment value, for all of its shortcomings, cannot be doubted. I get that paying taxes is part of life, and it’s part of being a responsible citizen. I have a hard time rooting for taxes over hockey.

Sean: What if we look at it this way. The NHL wouldn’t be possible without taxes. The Edmonton Oilers managed to hoodwink the city for over $300 million for their new arena. The fine folks of Quebec City put up almost $350 million for an arena in the hopes of getting a team. And according to Flames Nation, 17 of the league’s 31 arenas were built using public funds. Taxes make that possible. And just think, if the NHL went away (or we stopped wasting money on a billion dollar industry) perhaps our tax situation would improve.

Income War Tax Act Wins (101-98)

Enrico Palazzo Championship Game

 Russian Revolution v. Income War Tax Act

Aaron: I’m still a little sour about the NHL losing, but maybe this will act as a wake up call to Gary Bettman – your league didn’t make the Enrico Pollazzo Championship Game! Being a professional, however, I will move on. Once again the Russian Revolution wins…easily. By this point it is not even a competition. The Russian Revolution trounces the Income Tax because of its global impact. When you remove all of the events of the First World War (ok, ok I know we broke our own rule. Please forgive us!) 1917 was not a very strong year for events (at least in my opinion). That being said, the Russian Revolution was the powerhouse in this tournament that should rightfully win.

Sean: Hold your horses there slugger. Think about the Russian Revolution – it’s all based on the collective. Everyone puts in to support the whole. Through that rather unsophisticated, superficial interpretation, taxes are central to the ideas of the Russian Revolution. So if one is needed for the other, then that one is more important. Therefore, the answer here has to be Income Tax. On a slightly more serious note, the income tax has stayed with us whereby the USSR, despite its run, has been gone for over 25 years. We’ve taken longevity into account before, so I think we should apply the same principle here.

Aaron: You make a convincing point, my friend, but looking strictly at the impact in 1917, the Russian Revolution beats the Income Tax. The Russian Revolution had a massive impact on a global level, while the Income Tax impacted Canadians only. For that reason I have to throw my weight behind the Revolution. Besides, I bet that Russian hackers – if you’re listening – will make sure that the Revolution wins the championship game.

Sean: There is no evidence of Russia collusion, it’s just an excuse for the NHL losing. Failing bracket #SAD 

Russian Revolution Wins (51-48)

The Russian Revolution Wins the bracket as the most important event of 1917

Past Winners

1913: Zipper Patent

1914: First Successful Non-Direct Blood Transfusion

1915: Women’s Suffrage Legalized in Kingdom of Denmark

1916: Margaret Sanger Opens First American Birth Control Clinic in Brooklyn

Aaron Boyes is a historical researcher with a PhD from the University of Ottawa.

Sean Graham is an editor with Activehistory.ca and host of the History Slam Podcast.

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