Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh! Canada!

In Canada there is no sport like ice hockey. The intensity of the Canadian sports fan for ice hockey surpasses what we know in American culture regarding football or baseball. So, when the Canadians men's team lost an important preliminary round earlier this week Canadians watched their defeat unfold in greater numbers than ever before. They lost to Team USA.

Before the game, it was apparently well known among ice hockey fans that the woman's final round was
more competitive and rivalry-filled than the men's competition. You don't find that to be true of many sports. Maybe tennis.

So, when the
Canadian woman's team beat the US team to win the gold medal it was an even bigger deal. It was golden to be sure but it also vindicated the country against the men's loss.

The Canadian women's ice hockey team is filled with my kind of athletes. Not only are they attractive, competitive, butt-kicking type of folk, but they know how to party as well. Nothing quite says "gold medal" like publicly enjoying a few cigars while knocking back a few beers and chugging champagne
after the victory. How much more can you possibly savor the moment?

The Toronto Sun published
a great series of photos capturing this "Olympic Moment."

Somehow
it seems an apology is in order. And I find that quite puzzling. Apologize for what? For not having a lofty Olympic torch stuck up your butt like IOC executive director Gilbert Felli who said: "It is not what we want to see. I don't think it's a good promotion of sport values. If they celebrate in the changing room, that's one thing, but not in public. We will investigate what happened."

Ooooo...an investigation. Well Gilbert (don't you love his cute, sexy name), let me clue you in on what happened, maybe shorten the investigation a bit. What we had here was a bunch of young women who just finished
beating Team USA, winning a gold medal in a sport that is sacred in their country. They then proceeded to have a good time in front of their countrymen while, in effect, their countrymen proceeded to get properly pissed themselves.

Surely European sentimentality toward the glorification and dignity of Sport is just another form of prejudice. I say party on, let democracy triumph for a moment over aristocratic leanings. I never met a Canadian I didn't like.

I haven't watched as much of the Olypmics this week as I did the first week. I never thought about it but, except for gymnastics in summer, I prefer the winter Olympics. I watched every time Apolo Ohno skated, not just his medal runs. I watched, and enjoyed, most of the women's moguls. I watched the "X-games" influenced half tube snowboarding competition. I watched a Russian take gold in the final round of the 15k biathlon competition on last Sunday afternoon, while the French athlete turned a valiant effort into silver. I learned of the terrific human interest story of Swiss skicross competitor Michael Schmid, who won gold.

But really, for the past week I've been too busy with real life to watch much of the games.

So, Sunday comes around and lo! behold! it's the Canadians against Team USA for the men's gold medal round. The Canadians survived a late scare from a tough Slovakian team to advance to silver with a chance for gold. (Slovakia later lost to Finland in the men's hockey bronze medal round.) Today's final round was considered such a big deal that NBC announced it would uncharacteristically show the whole thing live.

Last night we had my parents over for dinner so I didn't get to watch much. Afterward, I enjoyed some scotch, listened to some music and read. Before all that, I did see Germany's women win an amazingly close gold medal over Japan in pursuit speed skating. This all made possible by a spectacular fall by a German skater in the semi-finals who still managed to get across the finish line quickly despite the mishap.

As far as the overall medal standings were concerned, the men's ice hockey gold medal round didn't make any difference. Germany ended up second in the overall medal competition behind Team USA. Canada surged with the most Gold Medals (which is made incredible when one considers that Canada has never won a gold medal whilst being Olympic Host) was a strong third with traditional winter powerhouse Norway coming in fourth.

50 kilometers is a long way if you want to cover its length very fast and it begins with a "mass start". This afternoon's TV watching began, for me, with that event. It struck me as being kind of the 'nascar event' of the winter Olympics. Norway won in an exciting finish. Norway's skiing is second to none in the world and is largely responsible for their finishing fourth overall in total medals.

By the time the thing finally started, the Canada-US hockey match was fully hyped. I know very little about hockey. This was the first game I've watched in years. But, I'd say this was an exciting game. Team USA tied the game with only seconds remaining to send it into sudden death. Team Canada won the overtime. Canada was ready to party. The country went wild. I watched the whole thing until after the Canadian national anthem was sung (which I've always thought was a great national anthem as those things go). Then I switched off the TV and went of a walk in my woods, watching the sun set on a cool, clear late winter afternoon. The low sun red-shifted everything into an orange hue. I was humming "O Canada."

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