Thursday, January 6, 2011

Shock, Fury, Righteous Indignation Sweeps Canada


The self-flagellation on Canadian media sites right now is awesome.

Canada is hockey royalty. No doubt about it. (You'll note I didn't say they invented the game, because they didn't. We actually have the Brits to thank for that. And a little bit the First Nationers - but since when does any north american give the natives credit where it's deserved?) And the average Canadian takes hockey way more seriously than the average American takes any sport.

Football? No way. We Americans are soft football fans as compared to Canadians. Notice I didn't say Canadian hockey fans. The "hockey fans" part is self-evident when you say Canadian. I'm willing to bet that there's a higher percentage of Americans who don't care for football than there is Canadians who don't care for hockey.

But the key differentiator to me is that American football fans don't get a chance to test their jingoistic tendencies with football. To take the measure of their self-worth (as viewed through the lens of their sport) against other countries. There's a smattering of American football in other countries, but there's no international competition of note. It's not an Olympic sport.

So, American football fans really only get a chance to work themselves up into a froth over the game against...each other.

Canadians, on the other hand, get plenty of chances to put their national pride on the line. And they tend to come out on top when they do. So one can hardly blame them when they get a little high on their horse about hockey. It matters more to them, they're damn good at it, they prove it consistently.

Plus, they're Canadians. That is to say, most Canadians I've ever met are nice, humble, unassuming human beings. The kind of people with whom you'd like to be friends. The kind of people who don't openly mock your Ugly American displays of entitlement, arrogance and ignorance.

Yet living next to us has to be...tiring. To say the least. And being sandwiched between us and the north pole? That's hardly an enviable hand they've been dealt. So I just don't mind the occasional Canadian display of chest thumping - particularly when hockey is its genesis.

You guys want to let your hair down around a game at which you excel? Go for it. And if you take a few barley pops along the way to help you reach the desired level of revelry, more power to you. Cheers, even.

But, when you tie so much of your national pride to a sport, you assume one simple-but-material risk: what happens when you lose?

It's going to happen. Just ask Doug Collins.

And, when it does to Canadians, they fly so far over to the other side of the pendulum that it's, well it's amusing. See for yourself. Check out and for starters. There are calls for the kids on the Canadian U20 team to be banned from hockey for life as a result of losing to the Russians in last night's World Junior Championship gold medal game.

Atlanta Thrasher's forward Evander Kane (who's so tough he fights with the half-shield on) tweeted that the loss was a "National Travesty."

The punditry is taking the high road, to be sure. But even there, you find little cracks in the foundation. The great Elliotte Friedman on CBC tweeted "I can't help but think of the losing team. Some of them won't get another chance at a championship" (in all fairness among other, more-circumspect tweets) last night.

I sort of pity the Canadians. There's really nothing that they call their own that doesn't require them to lay their ownership claim on the line from time to time. Hockey, curling,

I mean, when we Americans want to lick our (usually self-inflicted) wounds we can look to football and baseba....oops. Or basketb.....damn. Okay, so, football. And greed. But at least we have those two opportunities to sit around and pat ourselves on the back for being the unquestioned bestest in all the world.

So, go ahead and gnash your teeth, Canada. Probe the deepest, darkest recesses of your soul over your silver medal. The World Championships* of hockey are coming up in a couple months. So you probably won't have to wait too long for redemption.

*You'll notice I didn't say the Stanley Cup Playoffs were coming up. They are, but, well, when Vancouver is the best horse you have (as a Canadian team) in that tournament... yeah, World Championships.

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