Let’s be real for a second: the Winter Olympics have always represented something of an un-sexy, boring halfway point to their summer cousin. That’s just the way it is. Too many layers of clothing (not sexy!), too much equipment (who’s running this show?), and too many unusual sports (the winter biathlon is comprised of running and SHOOTING) have made it difficult for the February games to ever capture the imagination. Particularly the collective American one, which demands entertainment and gratification at every turn. It’s just the way we’re wired.
Most of us, I’d imagine, were fully expecting more of the same last Friday when the 2010 Vancouver Games kicked off with three hours of angry tap-dancing and a never-ending tribute to the indigenous peoples of Canada. “These Games are sure to be a waste of our time, honey,” you said to your significant other on the couch. “When is American Idol on again? THAT is a show I enjoy watching.” Yup — another boring Winter Olympics.
Last night, your favorite pointless karaoke hour show was beaten — for the first time in a long, long time — by the same Olympics that just five days ago had bored you to tears. Do you want to know what changed? How the 2010 Vancouver Games are suddenly the least boring Winter Olympics ever (…in my 16 years of watching)? I am going to tell you.
1) Canadians Out (Oot?) For Blood!
The people of Canada are notorious for being the nicest and most modest you will encounter. Maybe you’re friends with one and know firsthand the kind of unsolicited generosity you can expect whenever you’re in their company? Or maybe you’ve experienced the kindness of a Canadian stranger? Take this scenario: A man wearing a Maple Leafs jersey sees you on the roof of your house. “Need help cleaning your gutters there?” You turn around. “Huh?” “Your gutters, buddy — do you want my assistance?” Though kind of confused, you say, “I mean yeah, that’d be great.” He smiles. “You’re not in a rush?” you ask. He shakes his head. “Oh, no — I’m always here to help someone in need, you know?” There’s movement in the passenger seat of his car. “Is that your wife over there, going into labor?” “Oh, yeah! She’ll be fine, eh. But back to you!” Every stranger to have ever given you directions or spotted you a quarter is also Canadian. They are just nice, nice people.
This has caused them great stress, however, when it comes to athletic competition and the kind of fierce, trash-talking spirit one needs to emerge victorious. We Americans spit, curse, and abuse in our quest for the top of the winners podium. Some of us might actually kill our mother for that spot. But Canadians — it’s just not in their blood. Twice before, Canada has hosted the Winter Olympics. In both instances, the country has failed to net a gold medal.
This Olympics, however, Canada’s Prime Minister has put his foot down: if the country is to stand any chance of winning that elusive home gold, it has to get MEAN.
“We will ask the world to forgive us this time, this uncharacteristic outburst of patriotism and pride, our pride of being part of a country that is strong, confident and stands tall among the nations.”
“Did you hear that, Canada? I’m telling you today, with all my vested powers of the Ministry, that you can be immodest! You can yell and scream (within reason) and be proud of our country! It’s okay these next two weeks, guys! Go nuts!”
There’s something really nice about a country needing to be told that cheering is now acceptable. Maybe this will inspire Canadian athletes to not fork over their lunch money to those American bullies in the athletes’ cafeteria? The Olympics is all about hope.
TOMORROW: 2) Men’s Figure Skaters Gayer Than Ever! (Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That!)