Monday, March 1, 2010

Of Course I'm Right The One Time I Don't Want To Be

I'm sure you all fondly recall Saturday when I stated my big concern with Canada facing the U.S. in today's Gold Medal Game because I didn't think the Americans could knock off a more talented Canadian team on its own soil.

Well, I was right. In heart-breaking fashion.

I don't know how exactly to quantify or describe all of the emotions and tensions that came throughout what was, without question, one of the greatest hockey games I've ever watched, but I'm going to try. Sort of.

This game was played with the type of taut atmosphere you find in Stanley Cup Finals and Super Bowls. In fact, Super Bowl XLII was the last time I recalled being as emotionally involved or excited in a sporting event. I spent much of the afternoon gnawing on fingernails and sitting with nervous energy. I was unable to sit near the end of the third period and when Zach Parise tied the game with 24.4 seconds remaining the outburst of joy was not only palpable but loud. Very.

This was a game that created that type of atmosphere and bred that emotion, and what may have been most remarkable about it, was that nearly everyone I knew, for whatever reason, couldn't stop watching despite however high or low their fandom might be. In fact, my friend Jenn, who aside from attending a Bruins-Devils game with me in Boston a year ago, has almost never talked with me about hockey, was mentioned on that bastion of hockey news known as BBC Sport for her opinion on the game (see 1320).

In spite of falling behind by two goals, I was never convinced the U.S. was out of the game, if for no other reason than their consistent, attacking forecheck was bound to break for them at some point. That break happened when Ryan Kesler, who continued to inspire anger amongst the Vancouver faithful, deflected a shot from the point in the second period to make it 2-1.

What followed in the third period was nearly 20 minutes of angst as the Canadians played one of their few strong third periods of the tournament, keeping the U.S. at bay and very nearly breaking the game open on more than one occasion. While Canada didn't pepper Ryan Miller like it did a week ago, were it not for his stellar play -- he would be named tournament MVP afterwards -- this game would have been over far earlier. But Miller kept it close long enough just in time for Parise to force the extra session, and it seems dramatically unfortunate that the one soft goal Miller gave up the entire tournament happened to be the game-winner from Sidney Crosby, who will never have to buy a drink in Canada again.

Hockey's golden boy capped off a legendary game, which, if you must find anything wrong with it, can only come from Crosby getting some help from the referee on the winner because the puck hitting the official's skate set up the play. I do not want to seem bitter -- my teams have benefited by lucky bounces more than once and it's part of the game -- but it's fairly clear the refs skate altered the play.

While the U.S. was expected not to medal according to most prognosticators, one could argue that a guarantee of Silver at worst was already an impressive accomplishment. But to get so close only to is difficult to handle as a fan and clearly as a player. Coach Ron Wilson may have had a point in saying the best team doesn't always take gold, and Zach Parise, whose four goals in the elimination rounds may have served as the budding star's coming out party, went so far as to say, "It sucks."

Perhaps to make matters even worse, Barack Obama now has to kowtow to Canadian Prime Minister, and musical genius, Stephen Harper by buying him a case of Molson Canadian beer. As one of my coworkers put it, they should have wagered healthcare. At least that Yuengling will be staying in the U.S. Besides, Harper probably has bigger concerns to worry about.

Despite their unfortunate end for me, the Olympics provided many cool moments, such as fan-inspired art of those totally sweet 1960 U.S. hockey uniforms. Not to be left out of that are those phenomenal pants wore by the Norwegian men's curling team, which, if I ever find myself curling on any sort of regular basis, I will wear. In case you're wondering, you can get them here. Coolest of all, however, was listening to the Canadian crowd sing O Canada after the men triumphed in that gold medal curling match against Norway. No, it's not my country, but few things can create such goosebumps.

Something that created goosebumps for me of a different kind came during the closing ceremonies, when the Russian handoff for the 2014 Games in Sochi brought on an imperialistic and frightening rendition of the Russian national anthem, which, in case you're wondering, was also the anthem of the Soviet Union.

Fortunately for us, those quirky Canadians were there to soften the blow afterwards, providing us a closing ceremony that featured giant cardboard cut outs of hockey players firing around a human puck, enormous inflatable beavers, enormous inflatable moose, attractive women wearing sexy Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniforms while dancing on top of an even larger mountie hat and Catherine O'Hara, known to most of us as the mother from Home Alone, telling us all how Canadians just love saying sorry all the time. As I watched, all I could think to myself was that if The Simpsons were to make a parody of what the closing ceremonies would look like at the Vancouver Olympics, much like the one they did of the opening ceremonies last week, well, it would probably look exactly the same as the real ones did.

Giant inflatable beavers? Really?

I did enjoy the self-deprecating humor of the ceremony's first moments, and I will admit to being touched when Michael J. Fox came out to speak to the crowd in a somewhat similar moment to when Muhammed Ali lit the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Games, but beyond that, most of the festivities seemed, well, silly.

And with that, the Olympics, almost as quick as they started, are done. While the Canadians did experience some controversy in the first week of the Games amid concerns that their drive to "Own the Podium" was bearing little fruit, Canada wound up breaking the record for gold medals at a single winter games, though the U.S. did take the overall medal count with 37, the largest total in history and the first time the U.S. topped the winter medal count since the 1932 Lake Placid Games.

Then again, when I look back at the Vancouver Games, all I'll really remember is that Canada took the only gold that matters. With this experience in the Americans' back pockets, however, maybe, just maybe, they'll finally take it in Sochi.

1 comment:

  1. Still never seen Ryan Miller so sad, and I don't think we will again. Just awful.