And now for an icy, once-every-four-years edition of…
Here’s to You!!!!
So I raise my glass and say, “Here’s to you, Team USA Women’s Hockey!”
Winter Olympics. The gold medal match for women’s hockey. USA vs Canada, of course. Two countries who are in absolutely every other context the best of friends, which dissipates the moment a hockey puck is dropped between them.
Team USA up 2-0 into the third period. Then within the last couple minutes, Canada scores two goals and sends it into overtime. And then scores again. Sudden death. Suddenly they’re all on the podium, the gold medal winners grinning as O Canada blares around the arena, the silver medalists in frustrated tears, and the bronze medalists being all “Hi, we’re Finland!”
USA was up until almost the end, pretty much had the gold for sure. And then lost it. A cringeworthy result that, honestly, I as a DC sports fan know all to well. *stares blankly at brief memory of NLDS Game 5 in 2012*
That was four years ago in Sochi.
Last night in Pyeongchang (well, it was mid-afternoon there) came the long awaited rematch, after USA and Canada again prevailed through the earlier rounds to face each other again in the gold medal match. After having already faced each other in the preliminaries anyway, with Canada winning 2-0, in which the last several seconds of the game pretty much turned into an all out brawl.
The match began, and soon enough Team USA scored a goal. Then a little while later, Canada scored two goals, giving them the 2-1 lead. And then about halfway through the third period, USA scored again, tying it at 2-2. Once again, this was the score going into overtime.
It was the score at the end of overtime as well. Time for shoot out! Blocked, score, score, blocked, blocked, blocked, score, score, blocked, blocked. Okay, still 2-2.
Team USA shoots…
And with that, unbelievably, staying up way later than I should have last night when I had work in just a few hours, right before my eyes, right there on my TV… Team USA cheered and hugged and waved big US flags around.
Then they’re all on the podium. The gold medalists are grinning as The Star Spangled Banner blares around the arena, the silver medalists in frustrated tears, the bronze medalists being all “Hi, we’re Finland!”
Amazing. Such a great team. Certainly better than our men’s team who 24 hours earlier lost their quarterfinal to the Czech Republic, FFS.
But, all of that said, there’s something in all this that is very much not amazing.
I’ve been watching every day of these Olympics, as I have for every Olympics going back to Vancouver, with Beijing and Torino having just been on and off, further back mostly just watching the Opening Ceremony. I’m old enough to remember a time when the US athletes marched in the Parade of Nations in cowboys hats. *shudder*
But I digress. Anyway, what is very much not amazing happened in both of these gold medal finals and surely others. Same deal with some events in Rio and maybe others I’m forgetting.
I realize I don’t know the first thing about planning the events and schedules and ceremonies in the Olympic Games. It looks unimaginably daunting. Getting things to happen at certain times and organizing everything makes my head hurt to think about it.
If the silver medalists are crying, maybe give them some time to compose themselves before you have the damn medal ceremony!
I say this whether Team USA are those gold medalists or those silver medalists or neither. Even though they were the teary silver medalists four years ago, and now it had turned about and it was Canada in that position, there’s nothing satisfying about this. When the match is won, the joy is in winning the gold medal, not in the other participants being sad, unless you’re a complete and utter sadistic asshole anyway.
The silver medalists’ feelings are entirely understandable and justified. Once the match was over, for me anyway, any competitiveness vanished and I was looking at the forlorn Canadian players and wanting someone to give them a goddamn hug. Consider any time you’ve worked so hard for something and at the final moment it wasn’t good enough and you still failed. Then multiply that by a whole lot because it’s the Olympics and it’s a fierce emotional fight. Then consider that these are athletes on the international stage who would be used to the highs and lows of it all, and still they can only be so composed upon the end of the match.
As for the medal ceremony, it’s bad enough for them they lost the match at all. But to force them to stand there and receive their medals when they’re still in the throes of processing the loss and project them in that state, that’s just an extra and very unnecessary shot at their dignity. It doesn’t help that the commentators then remark upon this obviously involuntary display of sadness, like “what business do they have being sad? they still got silver!”
And it so very doesn’t help that, well, this is the women’s portion of the sport. On Sunday when the Canadian men beat the Czech Republic (I’m calling that now), when O Canada is blaring around the arena then, let’s see if the silver medalists are crying. I’m sure they do and will be. And I’m sure it won’t be all that obvious to those of us watching at home, because they won’t be so keen to show it. Because that would undermine the men’s dignity.
Update, 2-23-18: Okay, Canada and Czech Republic both lost their semifinals and will instead face each other in the bronze medal match. So we’ll see this weekend what happens with the medal ceremony after the gold medal match between Germany and “Russia”.