Olympic Patriot | By Andrew Booth

The opening ceremony Olympics arrived Friday with all the necessary (and costly) pomp and fanfare, bringing forth this running of the summer games with a dash of British flair and ingenuity[1].  And, as usual, the time has come for us to throw away our rooting interests in those boring, professional leagues and convince ourselves that “No, really!  Synchronized diving is totally awesome!  There’s a splash, and people get scored somehow, and it’s a real sport and everything!”  Potshots at fringe events aside, the reason we love the Olympics so much is because in nearly every event there is a man or woman decked out in our nation’s colors, competing, striving, and excelling for us.  And, if the fortune of victory smiles upon them in their event, you get the wondrous experience of hearing your anthem ring loud, your flag raised above all others, you and your country raised with it.

Puh-lease.

Friends, I come to you today pleading for sanity, but also to make a confession:  I don’t cheer for Canadian athletes.  Don’t get me wrong, we live in a truly amazing country, one that we all surely take for granted.  But the fact that every two years – as I throw myself into the athletic wonders that are Biathlons, Ski Cross, Water Polo, Handball[2] – I’m supposed to throw on my patriot hat and cheer for people solely because they were born in the same country as I was seems completely arbitrary.  If Alex Despatie walked into the room naked all I would say is “Who’s the naked guy?” yet as soon as he slaps on those maple-leafed goggles I’m expected to grab my red and white pom-poms and hope his splash is smaller than others.

This cult-like behavior grabs Canadians the most when it comes to International Hockey.  Hockey Canada is cocaine and we are all Amy Winehouse.  I, like any other sports fan on February 28, 2010, was stationed firmly on a couch to watch the Olympic final, USA vs Canada, David vs Goliath.  I may have been the only person in the city of Edmonton disappointed when Sidney Crosby’s “Golden Goal” found its way through Ryan Miller’s pads, but in the aftermath there I was, sitting quietly wondering what would have happened had Ryan Miller, Ryan Kesler and the rest of my plucky underdogs pulled it off.  Meanwhile, the rest of my viewing party acted as if the war had just been won, and upon noticing my lack of hugging and celebrating, a friend wandered over to celebrate.  I replied I was cheering for the US, and before I could jump into my spiel of rooting for the underdog and the better story[3] I was getting berated for my lack of pride.

Look, I’m very proud to be Canadian.  Truly, I am.  But I don’t root for laundry, and I don’t root by proximity.  I root for stories, and luckily the Olympics has its share of great ones.  I’m not claiming that all Canadian athletes are bad, or that pride in your country is wrong; just be proud of our human rights record, not our medal count.  So what I ask you is this:  before you turn on your TV, take off your red and white colored glasses, and find someone you identify with.  Try Oscar Pistorius, the South African runner with blades for legs.  Or Usain Bolt, who is once again setting the track on fire.  Or try cheering for any of the three Independent Olympic Athletes, whose entrance during the opening ceremony easily made them the most likable athletes at these games.  This is why we have the Olympics.  To find those human interest stories that professional sports simply cannot create.  And, as shown by my three new favorites, we’re here to celebrate.


[1] Seems they arrived 60 years late, doesn’t it?

[2] If you have not jumped on the handball bandwagon yet, I strongly, STRONGLY encourage you to do so.  It’s fascinating.

[3] I will admit that there is some sexiness in winning the medal that your fans care about more than anyone else at home, but I’m a sucker for underdogs

Andrew Booth is a fourth year junior that owns an 85% winning percentage in Freecell solitaire, wants to sail the Pacific and writes sports. He has also been known to be an insufferable Canucks fan.

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