Archive for Olympics

The Maple Leaf Forever

Posted in Olympics with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by drawesomeness

Well my maple-blooded friends, that was one hell of a wild ride. As a die-hard hockey fan, Olympic junky, connoisseur of the human spirit, and all-round proud Canadian, I feel confident in declaring Sunday the greatest day in sporting history this country has ever experienced. February 28, 2010 – I don’t think anyone will forget it. What an amazing day for Canada!

It could not have been scripted any better. Actually, it’s almost too absurdly perfect how everything played out. Imagine pitching it as a movie idea to a Hollywood exec:

Movie Producer: Okay, here’s the premise – a country perpetually living in the shadow of its superpower neighbour to the south is given the rare opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Its people pour millions of dollars into developing athletic programs so they will “Own the Podium.” As the Games approach they are confident everything is in place for the perfect Olympic experience. But then, several things go wrong – accidents result in the death of one athlete and injuries to several others, protests break out in the streets, it refuses to snow, the opening ceremonies are marred with bad lip syncing, malfunctioning props, and an uncomfortably long truck ride through downtown featuring a hockey legend holding a torch, and worst of all – the country’s athletes cannot win a goddamn thing!

Hollywood Exec: So it’s a movie about a really shitty Winter Olympics?

MP: No, no! It’s about the resiliency of a country and its athletes and how they showed an entire world they could rise above adversity!

HE: Sounds awful. What happens next?

MP: Okay, well the country’s athletes win a couple of medals. A big moment comes courtesy of a moguls skier who draws inspiration from his disabled brother. He wins the country’s first gold medal on home soil as his brother cheers him on from the stands.

HE: That’s what I’m talking about! Really tugs at the heart strings. What else?

MP: Well, to be frank, the host country’s athletes continue to do poorly. Many of the athletes who were favoured to win medals fall short, often finishing in fourth or fifth place which is incredibly frustrating for the citizens who had such high hopes. On multiple occasions they have one or two athletes in final races involving only three or four other athletes and they end up finishing out of the medals every time. It’s very frustrating. Many of the country’s people find themselves screaming at their televisions while sitting at home in their underwear. Even worse, athletes from the superpower country to the south seem to be winning everything and they start trash-talking, suggesting that the host country is “Loaning the Podium” rather than “Owning” it.

HE: They don’t!

MP: They do. And to make matters worse, the host country has a highly touted hockey squad that is expected to win gold. In fact, if the people of this country could choose any single medal to win it would be a gold in men’s hockey. But in the preliminary round, the superpower country actually beats them! Suddenly, the host country is in jeopardy of not even winning a medal in hockey – and that’s their game! They are now the underdog! Meanwhile, the superpower country becomes the tournament favourite!

HE: Oh my!!! It sounds like that superpower country is pretty cool.

MP: Actually no. It’s a lousy country filled with boorish, self-centred simpletons. They tend to win at a lot of things which can be largely attributed to the fact that they have 10 times as many people in addition to having much more athletic funding – money that corporate fatcats distribute indiscriminately to spoiled athletes despite an ever-increasing gap between that country’s rich and poor.

HE: Jeepers. That country truly does sound horrible. So how does the host nation respond?

MP: There is a nation-wide moment of introspection. And it takes a very special young athlete named Joannie. You see, a week into the Games the people resent the athletes for underperforming and the athletes resent the people for putting so much pressure on them. But Joannie, a figure skater, makes the difficult decision to compete despite the sudden death of her beloved mother just days earlier. Fighting back tears she puts in an inspired performance that lifts the hearts and spirits of an entire nation.

HE: Bravo! Roll credits! A true Oscar contender!

MP: But wait, there’s so much more. You see, her performance coincides with the realization that the host country no longer has a chance to win the most medals. Rejoicing in Joannie’s brave performance, they come to understand that “Own the Podium” was a misguided goal. They realize that the Olympics are not just about pieces of medal strung around the necks of their athletes. The Olympics are about international communities coming together to compete and to share in the human experience. They are about nations getting behind something, uniting in support of their athletes, and to watch them rise to the ultimate challenge. With such a daunting goal no longer looming over their heads, the athletes can finally compete for the pure joy of competing and their country can cheer simply to watch their athletes excel. The competitions are no longer a means to an end. The means become the end. You see, the host country needed to lose to be able to understand the true meaning of the Olympic spirit.

HE: Interesting…

MP: And suddenly, they start winning.

HE: Yes!!!!

MP: And oh boy do they win. They win bronze medals in four-man bobsleigh, ladies’ figure skating, ladies’ 3000m long-track speed skating, men’s 500m short-track speed skating. And one athlete in particular, in her final race of a storied Olympic career that saw her win multiple Olympic medals in both the Summer and Winter games, wins one more bronze in ladies 5000m long-track speed skating.

HE: Now that’s just preposterous. No one is that good of an athlete. Who is she, Bo Jackson?

MP: I know, right. The host nation also wins silver medals in women’s bobsleigh, women’s curling, ladies’ moguls, men’s snowboard cross, ladies 1500m long-track speed skating, men and ladies’ 500m short-track speed skating, and ladies’ 3000m relay short-track speed skating.

HE: Wowsers!

MP: No doubt. And that’s nothing. They start winning gold-after-gold. They win gold in women’s hockey, women’s bobsleigh, ladies’ ski cross, ladies’ snowboard cross, men’s skeleton, men’s team pursuit long-track speed skating, men’s 500m short-track speed skating, men’s 5000m relay short-track speed skating, ladies’ 1000m long-track speed skating, and ice dancing.

HE: Ice dancing?! What the hell is ice dancing?

MP: It’s dancing on ice.

HE: I don’t follow. How is that a sport?

MP: Well it’s basically pairs figure skating without any jumps.

HE: So they take a sport that’s rife with scandal due to corrupt judging procedures and they make it even more subjective?

MP: Exactly. But trust me, they ice dance their asses off. No one ice dances better than the host nation’s ice dancers. The other countries are simply out-ice-danced.

HE: Okay.

MP: So add those gold to the one won by the men’s mogul skier and you have 11 total gold.

HE: That’s a lot of gold. Well done. This movie should make a lot of money at the box office.

MP: Hold on! We’re not done! Turns out the record for number of gold medals won in a single Winter Olympics is 13. If the host nation can win three more gold medals they will break that record!

HE: You mean they can still own the podium?!

MP: Yes! They can still own the podium! But they don’t have many events left. On the second last day of competition, another veteran snowboarder in his final Olympics unexpectedly wins gold in men’s parallel giant slalom. Then the men’s curling team beats the ugly pants off another team to win gold!

HE: Hurry hard!

MP: Indeed. And now, there is only one event left in the entire Winter Games. The gold medal game of the hockey tournament.

HE: And I’m assuming the host nation somehow made the final?

MP: Absolutely. And you’ll never guess who they’re playing against for the gold.

HE: You have to be shitting me…

MP: That’s right, the superpower country. And this time no one thinks the host nation will win except its own people. They believe. They believe together they’ll fly. They believe in the power of you and I.

HE: Ummm, that’s not grammatically correct. Should be “the power of you and me.”

MP: Don’t worry about that.

HE: Alright, I don’t think I need to ask who wins, but how does it end?

MP: Well, first of all, let me explain how important this game is. It’s not just about breaking the Olympic record for most golds. It’s not about beating the superpower country. It’s about an entire nation standing together as one in support of a common goal. They may disagree about many things, but this game is something that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, gets behind. They love the game of hockey more than any other country in the world. It is their game and this is their stage. This is their time to show the world that they matter – to be the best at what they are most passionate about. The game symbolizes their hopes and their dreams. A loss to the superpower country would be nothing short of devastating. The psyche of an entire nation hangs in the balance.

HE: That’s heavy.

MP: You can’t imagine. From coast to coast, people crowd into the streets, bars, arenas, and living rooms to watch the game. It is later reported that 80% of the country’s population watched the game. It’s the most watched event in the country’s history.

HE: So get on with it. What happens?

MP: Well the host nation jumps out to an early lead. They’re up 2-0 half-way through the game when the superpower scores to come within one. With mere minutes left in the game, arguably the best player from the host nation, Sidney, comes in on a breakaway with a chance to finish it off in style. He misses his shot! Oh the humanity! There are a lot of expectations for this young man of 22 years to lead this team to victory and prove that this nation can still produce the very best hockey players. But it’s not to be. Then in dramatic fashion, the superpower ties it up with less than 30 seconds to play and sends the game into sudden death overtime!

HE: Oh, I see where you’re going with this – The superpower wins in overtime and in that moment of disappointment, the host nation realizes they did everything they could and it’s not winning that matters, it’s trying your very best. And then a slow-clap starts in the stands and the players are given a standing ovation as they leave the ice. They lose the game but it’s a triumph of the Olympic spirit.

MP: Hell no! 26 million people strong are glued to their televisions. They cannot lose! Not like this! Not to these idiots! A collective pukey feeling swirls in their stomachs as they brace themselves for the most important overtime period ever played. It all comes down to one single goal. Will the host nation win? Will good persevere over evil?

HE: What happens, what happens?!

MP: Mere minutes into the overtime period, a play develops. Sidney picks up the puck in the neutral zone and storms into the offensive zone. He’s stripped of the puck which careens into the corner. A steady veteran player muscles the puck back towards Sidney who, in one fell swoop, slides the puck underneath the cocky goaltender. The game is over! The host nation wins! The golden goal! Millions upon millions of people rejoice across the nation! Cities tens of thousands of kilometers away literally shut down as people flood the streets to celebrate! Against all odds they have won the game, the gold, and the Olympics! They are the greatest country that ever was!

HE: Uhhhhhh.

MP: They have waited hundreds of years for a moment like this – and now that it’s here, it couldn’t be any more perfect. It is a moment of joyful pride that resonates across the entire nation and will always remind each and every one of them that they are capable of anything. This golden moment forever changes this country. This moment is nothing short of magical.

HE: Okay…

MP: As the people celebrate and sing the national anthem, the Olympics come to a close. Roll credits over the closing ceremony featuring giant inflatable balloons depicting stereotypical icons of the host nation and awesome music by the Tragically Hip, K’naan, and Hey Rosetta (because music by Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, and Simple Plan would certainly taint such an amazing conclusion). Fade to black. The end.

HE: How old are you? Eight? I can’t make this movie. It’s ridiculous. Nothing you’ve said is realistic. We’re not making cheesy Disney movies here. All that stuff could never happen and certainly not at a single Olympic Games. No country is that awesome. You’ve wasted my time.

MP: I want to call it, “Sid the Kid and the Real Miracle on Ice.”

HE: Get out of my office and never come back.

MP: It was nice meeting you, eh.

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