Turf & Rec

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Our Olympic highs and lows


March 30, 2010
By Ian Robinson

The Olympics have come and gone and we’d hardly begun when the pundits and organizers uncorked a big bottle of whine.

Headlines like “Woe Canada.”

Barely 72 hours into the entire exercise.

I always thought it was polite to postpone the post-mortem until the patient was actually dead.

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This was like going to the doctor with the flu and having him come at you with a scalpel to perform an autopsy before your cough turned serious.

We sucked. We were a nation of losers. If we were samurai warriors we’d all have to disembowel ourselves in shame … if the goofy haircut hadn’t driven us to it already.

There was less self-loathing in this country after Dieppe, for crying out loud.

The public cheerfully ignored the pundits, cheering and waving their hands in the air with those dumb red mittens and telling pollsters the Games were awesome, worth every nickel, they were proud to be Canadian.

The negative commentary had a lot of us wondering: Since when did a silver or bronze medal in the Olympic freaking Games become a badge of shame?

And let’s face it. Some of the most memorable moments in Olympic history haven’t had anything to do with being swifter, higher or stronger.

Sometimes the most memorable moments in Olympic history are about persistent lunatics.
Remember the Jamaican bobsled team?

Remember Eddie the Eagle?

Eddie the Eagle was a ski-jumper with Mr. Magoo glasses whose adherence to the ideals of sport—such as persistence in the face of adversity (if you define adversity as a complete absence of natural talent)—that the Olympic committee created rules to ensure that a guy like him could never compete again.

We didn’t need more medals than anybody else to make this Olympics memorable.

All we needed to do was to build the facilities, fill out our entry forms, order extra beer and distribute 100,000 condoms to the athletes’ village and hope for the best.

And if our best didn’t satisfy the commentators, Canadians seemed pretty happy anyway.
Which is why, by Day 2, I was watching the Olympics with the sound off.

(OK, maybe putting Wayne Gretzky in the back of a pickup truck to get rained on for half an hour in the final and anti-climactic leg of the torch relay … that was goofy.)

When they weren’t whining, the commentary from the talking heads on television seemed to consist largely of trying—and failing—to pronounce the names of people from countries with a shortage of vowels and a surplus of umlauts and consonants and glottal clicks.

Which meant instead of hearing a competitor’s name, you often heard them identified as “the Latvian speedskater” or “the Norwegian luger.”

The commentary also involved repeated use of the phrase: “The Canadian appears to have fallen.”

Which makes sense; it’s winter and there seem to be many dangerous expanses of ice and snow-covered surfaces at Winter Olympics.

Sounds like a health and safety issue to me.

Because the Winter Olympics come but every four years, and we forget everything about them in the interval, we find ourselves baffled by many of the sports.

My 12-year-old son was watching biathalon for the first time.

So the boy says, “Those cross-country skiers. Are they carrying GUNS?”

“Yep.”

“Are they afraid of bears?”

“Nope. They ski then they shoot at targets. If they miss, they get nailed with a time penalty.”

He thought for a minute.

“You know, if they shot their competition before they started skiing ….”

The boy isn’t actually a bad person.

He just has a practical nature.

He’s also a defensive tackle on his football team so his solution to any sports problem that arises usually involves short and sudden bursts of applied violence that ends with the other team’s quarterback lying on the ground trying not to cry.

With the sound off on the TV, the commentary has to be supplied by friends and family.

A representative sampling overheard at my house:

a) “Ouch! Didja see that wipeout? Well, at least he saved money on a future vasectomy.”

b) “Fire up the computer, Fred! Let’s see if we can find any bikini pictures of that American medal winner. No, not Shaun White, you psycho! That Lindsey Vonn girl! Nothing? Darn. Oh well. Look for Shaun White then.”

c) “Ski-cross? What in the name of God is ski-cross? Oh Lord, look at that! It’s like motorcross racing … only on skis! That looks dumber than drunk driving and Question Period in the House of Commons combined! You try to change the channel and I’ll kill you.”

d) “You know what would be cool in the Olympics? If instead of bobsleds, we used snowmobiles.”

e) “The Canadian appears to have fallen.”