Last week, I strolled among the crowds on Granville Street, watching people drunkenly cheering like lunatics after we'd won some other significant hockey game. There was dancing and shouting in the street, Canadian flags everywhere, music and laughter and wild yelling whoops in the air (this was before the city decided to close liquor stores early to curtail the unruliness). It was infectious, I have to admit - you can't walk through a crowd of people that happy without a bit of it rubbing off. But I also must confess - I am not part of the party. From my point of view, we've sunk our province to the tits in debt to host an event entirely devoted to questions that mean nothing. Who cares what region can produce the best skier, or speed skaters, or figure skaters, or lugers, or hockey players, or so forth? Why is everyone so excited about this shit? With the Olympics coming to an end, I have to briefly just register again my otherness from it all. I do not care that Canada has won gold in hockey. Please don't beat me up.
I have never been good at identifying with a team, understand - especially a team that I wasn't on. The closest I ever came to personally embodying the sort of hysteria one regularly witnesses at sports events was when there was a "battle of the air bands" contest at my high school, in which a group of fellow students "performing" songs by The Who squared off against a kid "performing" as Michael Jackson, whose Thriller! was, back then, a matter of recent experience. I was adamant that The Who win, but not because of any objective assessment of their performance: it was a matter of what they represented - intelligent, passionate, real rock music, versus meaningless commercial pap. Though I was - save for the kids onstage, perhaps - the biggest Who fan in the school, I was hardly alone in feeling that something was at stake; The Who people cheered with such vigor, fury, and abandon that I recall various authority figures looking on, worriedly, which only stoked the fires further. The Michael Jackson people would not be outdone, cheering back even louder for his performances. In the end, as I recall, a tie had to be declared, because anything else would have possibly gotten ugly. The Who vs. Michael Jackson was a competition I could get passionate about: I understood the principles at stake, and righteousness required one side win over the other.
Team Canada vs. __________? Couldn't care less. At the same high school, I also recall the Canucks (aka King Richard's Army) squaring off against the New York Islanders during the big na-na-na-na-hey-hey Stanley Cup game of the 1980's. To prove my indifference, I bet $5 against the Canucks with another kid in my class - in part just to flaunt how unattached I was to the outcome, but in part because I'd actually seen a bit of the games (my father watched sports regularly) and it seemed clear to me on short exposure that the Islanders were the better players, which it grieved me not at all to admit. Since there is no inherent meaning in the act of playing hockey - the question of who skates, shoots, and scores best is a meaningless question, since skating, shooting, and scoring has no value outside itself - the only way I can understand the involvement people feel in such sports is one of regional identification ("our tribe of people from this territory is better than that tribe of people from that territory.") That's a question that in other realms might have resonance for me; I'm not immune to harbouring a certain resentment of the United States, for instance, and enjoy it when Canada one-ups them - say, back when they were sending troops to fight an immoral war in Vietnam while Canada was sheltering draft dodgers - but to construct a meaningless symbolic event to "prove" which country is better makes the whole thing ridiculous. Canada is better than the US - or at least used to be - because of the more progressive social policies we have, the more moderate, rational political climate, the greater value we as a people place on culture, compassion, courtesy and communication over our gun-totin', money-grubbin', flag-wavin' social Darwinist bretheren below, NOT because we skate, shoot, and score better. Even if they skate, shoot, and score better than we do - it doesn't change anything. To the extent that regional differences matter - and pick whatever region you like - I do not agree that we can settle them through sports. It's preferable to WARFARE, natch - but it's still bloody silly.
So: I have no clue how many gold medals Canada has won in the current Olympics; it does not matter to me in the slightest. I gather that Team Canada got gold in some hockey game the other night, and I suppose I'm happy for those people who have made a symbolic investment in the game, since I do realize that for some Canadians hockey is quite important, and it would be embarrassing for them, given that it is perceived as "our sport," for us to lose on our own turf. It'd be like Team Texas losing a chili-making contest in Texas, or Team Russia losing a borscht competition held in Russia. Bully for them, then, that their team won - but personally, I couldn't give less of a damn. SOMEBODY had to win the gold - its the nature of the competition. What difference does it make what territory they came from? Put another way, given all that is good and all that is bad about Canada - what difference does it make that we can produce the best hockey team? It's a silly question, unfitting mature, thinking adults. It changes nothing, proves nothing, resolves no questions beyond itself.
Team Canada won gold in the hockey? I scratch my ass and roll over.