Some Lessons From The Vancouver 2010 Olympics

So it winds up today with one of the most anticipated hockey games in years if not since last week. My cynicism has been somewhat dissipated though I am hardly a bandwagoneer either. Co-opting the skills of the athletes for the alleged purity of the Olympic movement or Federal politics has fallen flat in the face of the performance and individuality of the athletes.

  • Canadians really like sports: This may sound obvious but consider this observation from a BBC columnist:

    Canadians are the best soundbites ever. You can take a camera out, stand on a street corner, and people will come up and ask if you want an interview. If you take it out after a hockey match you get people screaming into the camera – if you want to see fans going crazy, this is the place. It feels as though Canadians are crazy about their sport, whereas at Beijing 2008 you never really got that impression, and it will be interesting to see whether the British bury their cynicism for London 2012.

    We just love watching a game. We don’t even have to win. It just has to be a good game. Did anyone really curse at the Slovaks when they almost came back to tie the Canadian men’s hockey team in the late seconds Friday night? No way. Does anyone want to see the US goalie not stand on his head this afternoon like he did last week? Not a chance. We like a good game.

  • Canadians really like beer: I had no idea that one of the themes that would come out of the games was a national obsession with beer. I certainly was aware of the fondness of booze but we have had to cut off an entire city, gloried in the brassy individualism of the golden march down the street with the pitcher and then were outraged by the sexism and hypocrisy of those who would subject our women’s hockey team to a double standard or, more sillierly, actual liquor regulations.
  • Canadians don’t need derivative pride: the political theory leading up to the games was that Canadians had to loosen up or even learn to express pride and excitement. It is important to note that this was stated by someone who has not generated much national pride or excitement. Canadians are very proud. We just waste it on the incidentals. Like political agendas, especially those with a heavy dose of thinly veiled social engineering. We are proud of our beer and our athletes. We are not particularly proud of bureaucrats and businessmen who come up with odious claims to placing success above all things, including being a good host to the world’s athletes.
  • Canadians do not need to and have not become more patriotic: Nor are they less patriotic. Patriotism is one class of pride. Politicians often fail when they fail to know when to follow and following Canadian’s comfort level with their relationship to the nation is vital. This is one of Mr. Harper’s key failings. In a way it is like he is a visitor from some other Commonwealth nation mostly like Canada, the Royalist rump of Idaho perhaps. He expresses a sort of Canadian insecurity and neediness when he suggests some sort of national failing in emotional expression. Has he never heard people (falsely) trash Americans because of our (allegedly) superior health care system? Has he never heard early middle aged men regale each other (again) over past hockey games watched on TV, over the night the Blue Jays won or over the other night the Blue Jays won? Has he never noticed the silence of the crowd at a Remembrance Day service? If patriotism and pride in sports are related then we must be less because we did not do as well in cross-country skiing, because our ski jumpers suck. Like most Canadians, I can live with it.
  • Luge can be too fast. It is telling that the upper starting spot for the luge was never used in these races for which it was designed. The headline reads “Sliding Centre must deal with Legacy of Luger’s Death” and that is the case. Those behind making it too fast have to deal with it as well. Were they also caught up in the good, better, best rush to seeing a lower number on the fastest time sheets. Did the drive to pride – the owning of the podium – mania help cause a poor design? Maybe a court case will decide that in a few years time.
  • Canada is not always frozen: These were really the Spring Olympics. Late February in Canada can do either way. It rained in Vancouver and it rained here in Easlakia too. The slalom yesterday was played out on a giant 7/11 slushie which was good as half the field seem to get a faceful of the stuff as they fell half way down. The next Olympics are in Sochi, Russia. It’s going to be 15 C and sunny there today.

So, all in all it has a good event. We came third overall. We got a few more medals than last time by throwing over 100 million bucks at the program. We were officially less than gracious hosts but (apparently) non-officially inherently culturally good ones. We now have a second set of winter Olympic training centres which will likely not create the bump long term that the Calgary one caused. We are proud of beer drinking skeleton winning men as well as the women hockey players – and defend their right to have a cold one at 18 years old.

Have we learned anything else?

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What Beer For Canada Against Russia?

hendersonThere are few phrases more evocative for a Canadian of my early middle age than “Canada Russia”.

When I was nine I heard the final game of the 1972 series broadcast from Moscow on the car radio sitting in a parking lot in Middleton, NS. We won. We were not always successful in the international head to head tournaments after that and into the ’80s but we quickly came to love or at least fear the Soviet National anthem. We loved or at least feared Vladislav Tretiak and Valeri Kharlamov. To fill the emotional need, there were any number of tours across the country where Canucks and Ruskies beat their heads against each other.

In 1984, I saw a touring Soviet national team play in Halifax against Canada’s Olympic training team. The evil team had eight guys called Sergei which the announcer at the rink pronounced as “Sir-jay-ee.” We cheered when the Canadians rushed toward their end. When they let loose slap shots from beyond half we winced silent winces expecting the goalie or the boards behind the net to crack from the awful force of a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian Moscow Red Army player’s sheer power.

In the 1987 Canada Cup, Mario and Wayne destroyed them in a game so exciting that I had to turn off the TV and only knew Canada won when the wintery neighbourhood erupted out there, outside the windows of the house, car horns blaring to the horizon. Then there was Gorby, then there were Russian players in the NHL, then the bear seemed to fade a bit. Then they got good again. I have no idea what will happen tonight but over half all Canadians will watch the TV tonight to watch a quarter-final game. Because it is Canada against Russia.

What beer to have?

What Beer For Canada Against Russia?

There are few phrases more evocative for a Canadian of my early middle age than “Canada Russia”.

When I was nine I heard the final game of the 1972 series broadcast from Moscow on the car radio sitting in a parking lot in Middleton, NS. We won. We were not always successful in the international head to head tournaments after that and into the ’80s but we quickly came to love or at least fear the Soviet National anthem. We loved or at least feared Vladislav Tretiak and Valeri Kharlamov. To fill the emotional need, there were any number of tours across the country where Canucks and Ruskies beat their heads against each other.

In 1984, I saw a touring Soviet national team play in Halifax against Canada’s Olympic training team. The evil team had eight guys called Sergei which the announcer at the rink pronounced as “Sir-jay-ee.” We cheered when the Canadians rushed toward their end. When they let loose slap shots from beyond half we winced silent winces expecting the goalie or the boards behind the net to crack from the awful force of a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian Moscow Red Army player’s sheer power.

In the 1987 Canada Cup, Mario and Wayne destroyed them in a game so exciting that I had to turn off the TV and only knew Canada won when the wintery neighbourhood erupted out there, outside the windows of the house, car horns blaring to the horizon. Then there was Gorby, then there were Russian players in the NHL, then the bear seemed to fade a bit. Then they got good again. I have no idea what will happen tonight but over half all Canadians will watch the TV tonight to watch a quarter-final game. Because it is Canada against Russia.

What beer to have?

None

Wisconsin: Stone Soup, New Glarus, New Glarus

A Belgian pale ale from the USA’s Upper Midwest. This one smells good. Either that or I smell really bad. I’ve just finished two 16 hour days so it is not beyond the realm of possibility. But I’ve been in a jacket and tie the whole time. So it’s likely the beer or the guy next to me was inordinately polite.

Medium pale golden ale under a thin rim of white. Apple and pear on the nose with a little nutmeg. More in the mouth framed in a sweetish effervescent rich ale. Plenty of bready yeastiness. Dryish ending with black tea and twiggy hops and that lingering spice. A reasonable session beer at 5.3%. Part of a New Glarus mixed 12 pack that made the trip from near Lake Superior to the east end of Lake Ontario. A respectable level of BAer respect but probably not enough.

Friday Bullets For The Beginning Of The Orgy

And so it begins. An embarrassing manufactured jingoistic spend-fest. Imagine the regret in March, the bills, the questions as to whether all the bronze medals and seventh to seventeenth place finishes were worth it. But then it will be spring, there will be baseball, representational democracy will be returned to us and we can get back to ignoring the good of the nation in favour of our petty regional and political interests. Teams I am backing? Canadian hockey (who’s kidding who?), Norwegian cross country (great sweaters), Latvian everything else (plucky and maroon). Name your real favorite teams in the comments. Five extra points for your list of Olympic sports that are not real sports. Me? I’d trade real wooden toboggan races down the downhill ski run for aerial ski flips and twists. Team snowball, too.

  • What an odd speech. Interesting to see the Great Chilly One needed to have the “very well” in thanking people for a job very well done so he could be reminded to actual attempt human contact at that point in the presentation. For someone who has spent most of his life undermining the national identity, it’s fun to watch him choke out a call to patriotism. I have no idea what he means by it but good to see him try.
  • The culture of casual hate framed in a cartoon.
  • If the Mohawk were Amish or another conservative community no one would care much. Yet it is quite the thing to be reminded that the mini-mall world of Olympic-style cultural identify is not the only game in town.
  • Ben, at yet another site, gets the difference between blogging journalists and political leadership. But does anyone really believe the GOP is working hard behind the scenes to create program alternatives that fulfill the wish that “All Americans should receive the same tax benefit as those who are insured through work, whether through a tax credit or other means”? I love all non tax based health care being described as “other means”.
  • Another moment of the “new Canadian pride“: “They have a magnetic component in their sled that does something. It’d be nice to have that investigated.” Something. Something?? Now there’s a stand to take.
  • China fears cyber attacks (cyber attacks!!!) as Iran hones it skills at turning off the internet. In the future when the Iranians keep us from gathering on Fridays, do have a kind thought for me.

That is it. I am off for an eight hour drive today. What fun.

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I Have Never Really Bothered With The Pour

There are many things that can get attached to an idea or experience. I presume the more precious or particular the key advice, the more likely you are dealing with a barnacle that needs scraping off the hull of your given ship of life.. or a consultant hunting for someone to bill. Like this mystic wisdom about pouring your beer:

There’s more to pouring a beer than you may think. Pouring a beer improperly can pollute wonderful aromas, cause an improper release of CO2, and hinder the flavors of the beer. If you want your beer to fulfill its potential, consider this advice…You want to cock the glass a certain way depending on the style of beer. If the beer is highly carbonated, tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle and start pouring down the side. Wait until a third of the pour you want is in the glass, then tilt the glass upright and pour in the center. If the beer is lower in carbonation, start pouring downwards into the center of the glass earlier. A head the width of two fingers is a good rule of thumb for what you are looking for, Deman says.

I have never been particularly anal about how to pour a beer but even I would not look for a two inch head on a low carbonation style like mild. You’d drive the life out of it. But no doubt I’ve been a lifetime beer polluter and had no idea. Better rule of thumb: do what you like when you pour your beer and it probably works for you.

Group Project: Western Alienation And The Olympics

We’ve spent a lot of the last 20 years hearing how that bit of Canada known as the West – the bit between BC and Saskatchewan – isn’t understood, doesn’t fit and (quite conversely) wants to rule us all. What has that done, all that cultural decentralization. Well, the Globe speculates this morning that it has made us all so not an “us” that the Olympics are viewed very differently inside host province of BC and elsewhere:

Firstly, Canadians outside British Columbia have been mostly immune to the debate that has raged on the West Coast over the cost of the Games. And secondly, the torch relay has only recently returned to British Columbia after 90 days or so whipping up Olympic fever across the land. Still, the degree to which the rest of Canada has embraced these Games has been impressive. Which leads to the question: Are these Canada’s Games or British Columbia’s? And whose interests and considerations should prevail when it comes to decisions where there may be conflicting interests or differences in opinion?

I was wondering what the heck the guy was suggesting by “the degree to which the rest of Canada has embraced these Games has been impressive” until I remembered the Globe is part of the corporate glom that includes CTV which is the host TV network. I was scratching my head as I have not heard one Canadian say they are excited about the events thousands of kilometres to the west. As with Santa at Christmas, I’ll be nice about it with the kids but after years of political training that out there is some place else, I have a deep sense that these events are somewhere, you know, else. Right now, I am far more interested in the run the Syracuse Orange are putting on in the NCAAs than whether a Canadian comes 17th or 27th in biathalon.

You? Do you care after all the years and the billions in hype?

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The Trouble With Science Is In The Evidence

We are generally clever, we humans. We figure things out by what we see about us. But there are two problems – what we haven’t seen yet and what that we make decisions without considering what we haven’t seen yet. Consider this:

…in recent months at a clinic in Liège, Belgium, the patient, now 29, showed traces of brain activity in response to commands from doctors. Now, according to a new report, he has begun to communicate: in response to simple questions, like “Do you have any brothers?,” he showed distinct traces of activity on a brain imaging machine that represented either “yes” or “no.” Experts said Wednesday that the finding could alter the way some severe head injuries were diagnosed — and could raise troubling ethical questions about whether to consult severely disabled patients on their care.

One hopes that way down in there the person experiences a pleasant dream-like state. After all, we are not told whether he answered the question about brothers correctly. But it is more likely that it is more like being stuck in a shopping mall at night with no access to any of the stores, roaming the grey hallways, just missing running into the night cleaners over and over. We suspect it yet until we have a device that gives indications, a glowing toggle switch attached to a tiny flicking light bulb on a panel, we presume there is nothing to be indicated. It’s too bad William Blake did not live in the era of amber glowing toggle switches of panels filled with tiny flicking light bulb. He’d have something to say about them in addition to those senses five.

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Your Random Monday Morning Sports Roundup

I need to break loose and do mad cap things like post sports bullets on Mondays. But not every Monday. That would be a rut. But as it is no longer January, I am no longer in a rut. Spring Training starts this month. It is the month before spring. Plans are already started for the vintage base ball season. I’m practically in training for heaven’s sake.

  • Bay may have had a bum knee which would make him a strong fit for the hapless Mets.
  • Morton did not play due to a frozen pitch… which this season is something of a comfort.
  • Toronto makes a big trade involving a whole bunch of people I either don’t know or barely know. Because I am a Leafs fan I can’t watch the stuff.
  • A week and a half from the Olympics and I really do not care one bit. Looks like it’ll be the downhill scrape and the cross country slush as the rains continue. The are actually going to ski on hay that is covered with snow brought in from elsewhere. Expect a boycott by athletes after the first shredded knee.
  • Syracuse kep rolling withe a less than wonderful win against DePaul Saturday. Are the Orange the best in the land?
  • Super Bowl week. It could be a good game but it will be a dumb week. Personal interest stories. Hype. Yet I am more interested in the upcoming game than the prospect of soon watching Latvians struggle over hay bales in the British Columbian rains.

Anything else go on over the weekend as I folded laundry for days? Days I tell ya.

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