Wow! If you haven’t heard yet, maybe you’re living in a remote part of Baffin Island where podcasts, radio or television doesn’t penetrate. We blew the socks off the ‘Mericans in the Men’s Gold Olympic Hockey finale (and damn doesn’t it feel good). Being Canadian, however, we’ve just about run out of back-pounding in the ensuing days since the Olympic win. Now it’s time to think about what we really won in that game, and rest of the Olympics.
Medal counts immediately leap to mind. Canada nearly did own the podium. Not bad for someone with less than half the population of the number two overall medal winner and a tenth of the number one country.
Other observers are looking and saying a new nationalism was born over the past fortnight and that’s probably true. Having been a journalist for more than three decades, I haven’t seen my fellow countrymen so excited over anything – except maybe a brewery strike or the ’72 drubbing of the Russians.
Yet in a rather perverse way we’re ignoring another victory in these games.
Sports in ancient Greece and the modern First World have always been dominated by the “total war” philosophy — or as Vince Lombardi put it, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
The Olympic men’s hockey final game gave sports fans, and the occasional viewer, something new to think about. It could have gone either way. Team Canada players could have been the ones staring up at the crowds like pole-axed oxen.
The same holds true for a lot of the competitions. But, if you paid attention to the hockey game, the Women’s Curling loss to Sweden or Bilodeau’s golden first, it became evident to the viewer that for the athletes there was something as important as a gong and an anthem. There is a subtle morphing going on here.
Maybe because of the increasing quality of the television coverage, the viewer is suddenly being treated to an inside look at how the competition feels from the athletes’ point of view. We now get to see that special something beyond winning – the simple beauty of the play.
The American Men’s Hockey Team has nothing to hang its collective heads in shame over. They played with determination and elan (yeah, yeah, an ancient term but appropriate here), carrying the game to the Canadians as much as we took it to them.
There was not a moment’s respite for the Canadian defensemen, and Roberto Luongo had what, in coming years, will be regarded as the greatest game of his life forced on him. And it was a joy to watch it all.
When we can stop the national gloating for a moment, we would do well to look at Ryan Miller – the US goalie who was finally overcome by Sidney Crosby’s winning shot. Despite his disappointment, Miller displayed the hallmarks of a true gentleman. He accepted the loss without cursing his opponents, and did what we feel to be a very Canadian thing by praising them.
Cheryl Bernard mirrored this attitude and Alexandre Bilodeau’s acceptance was certainly as humble as any Canadian can expect after his finish over former Canadian Dale Begg-Smith. But each came on the heels of a closely fought contest where the difference between victory and defeat was measured in centimetres, milliseconds or the fickle luck of a final shot.
I would have paid good money to watch any of these events. Not because someone won or lost, but because I personally got to take part in the pure, intimate beauty of the game – the ultimate in talent, speed and physicality that gave them a grace and elan beyond what we encounter in our daily lives – and that has been returned to us common folk who don’t compete ourselves.
“March 1, 2010″ borderfilms @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Alexandre Bilodeau wins gold at 2010 Olympics.” Source: Associated Press
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