I suppose there are no other topics worth mentioning right now. Like everyone else in the country, it seems, I was glued to the men’s gold medal hockey game last night, hoping for the best from Canada but preparing for the worst. I was shocked that the Canadians were about to win gold in regulation when the Americans somehow hacked in a game-tying shot with 4 nanoseconds left on the clock. Hopes dashed, I prepared for the inevitable overtime loss, followed by the heartache of watching the Americans lord it up in a game that we so desperately try to tell everyone belongs to us.
As a Canadian, I expect to lose out against the big boys. We aren’t China. We aren’t Russia. We aren’t the US, or even Germany, France, or Japan. We aren’t a communist country that can force our best kids into their ideal sports, and we don’t have a vast population of youth that have fallen so far under the social safety net that sports are the only way out. There is no reason why we should take it so seriously when the Winter Olympics roll into our backyard.
That being said, I did feel a strong upwelling of pride when Sydney Crosby – the most hyped hockey player since the Great One – beat out the US goalie to put a final golden stamp on Vancouver 2010. I found myself genuinely happy that for once Canada did get the kind of storybook ending about which we can normally only dream. Nail-biter game, intense rivalry, underdog status; it was the kind of game that will be the subject of numerous television documentary series in the future.
I cheered. Even as cynical and grumpy as I am, I did cheer.
We did stick it to the world’s superpower, but let’s see it through the proper lens. We managed only to prove that we are better than them at manipulating a small, rubber puck down an icy surface while wearing metal blades and wielding wooden sticks. While I would never disparage the sheer physical prowess that it takes to play professional-level hockey, it is as arbitrary as winning against them in a contest to see who can throw a marmot the furthest while standing on a greased cookie-sheet and playing the kazoo. (We would also win gold in the Greased-Sheet Kazoo Marmot Toss, by the way, men’s and women’s.)
It cost a staggering amount of money to get that small boost to our national pride. There were great feel good stories with disabled brothers and deceased mothers and boyfriend/girlfriend athletes and gold-medal-winning guys drinking pitchers of Canadian on the street, but I wonder how better-off the world will be tomorrow when the cleanup begins. Will the nations have grown closer together? Will the world be holding hands, linked like the Olympic rings, drawn together by the international playing field and the sheer love of sport?
Or did we just set up another bitter rivalry to be played out again in 4 years time?
My heart is torn in two. One half is proudly waving the maple leaf in the air, and the other is wondering if these games were the peaceful expression of an aggressive desire.