Because Canada lost to the United States in the final game of the Olympic hockey preliminaries, we (us Canadians, all 30 million) have to play Russia tonight in the quarterfinals. This means that one of the two best teams in the Olympic tournament (on paper) will be going home without a medal.
And because everybody cares about hockey now, I need to get a few things off my chest.
My entire country is freaked. International hockey is the only, only thing we allow ourselves to openly care about; it is the only occasion in which we give in to an expectation that we might be the best.
[Sports as specious metaphor for national psyche begins here:] We are accustomed to losing, to placing way out of the medals and just being
happy content that we managed to pull off a personal best. This helps us to understand that life, in the end, is just one long sudden-death overtime that you cannot ever win. Our hopes are private and small: the very idea of victory is something reserved for story books and Sylvester Stallone soccer movies. I’m not trying to paint us as a nation of losers, but rather as a nation that’s come to terms with not winning. We’ve internalized the absurdity of measuring life as a win-loss record, conducting ourselves from day to day outside the victor/vanquished binary, content when life sees fit to offer reasons for contentment, sad when it offers reasons for sadness. Sure, this mindset means fewer “winners,” but it also means a lot fewer losers at the bottom of society.
I contrast this with Americans [broad generalization about national psyches continues here:], who expect to win even the little, tiny sports they’ve never heard of. Americans expect, and want, to win at everything—sports, money, resources, war, politics—and they generally do. But winning all the time gives you a false sense of life, of entitlement. Life (as most Canadians understand it) is a series of tiny overtime losses, to be managed quietly, without much fuss (if you don’t believe me, ask Alice Munro).
Wait, wasn’t I talking about hockey? Oh yeah. So. We’re not used to letting ourselves care about winning it all, so I’m totally fucking racked by anxiety right now. I DON’T KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF WE LOSE. Two thirds of my entire country (including babies) watched the USA-Canada hockey game on Sunday, so if we lose tonight, it could have a negative effect on an entire generation.
Fuck, I don’t know. They say to be Irish is to know your heart will be broken in the end… Well to be Canadian is to avoid situations in which your heart might get broken. In this, at least tonight, we have failed.