So we owned the podium, eh? But the naysayers, our Canadian alter•ego, had a lot to say about it before we got there. Our typical Canadian hang•up got in the way during the dog days of the Olympics, during that middle stretch after the great gold performance by young Bilodeau, when the medals seemed to dry up. The naysayers seized the advantage, and many of my fellow countrymen involuntarily followed suit, falling into their pet blame game: blame VANOC for their aggressive American•style slogan, blame Vancouver for technical malfunctions and chain mail fences, blame God for denying Whistler its bucketfuls of snow, blame Canada for being assertive; why couldn’t we just show up for the game like we normally did in the past and went away empty handed, why did we have to win, we hewers of wood and drawers of water, how dare we desire to come of age on the world stage and say that we are a proud nation? The naysayers started to give me a belly ache and made me want to immigrate again.
Then our Canadian Olympians started to turn the tables on the unbelievers in their quiet, unobtrusive way (well, perhaps the Canadian women hockey players got a bit carried away, but who cares, at least they could drink and drive a Zamboni, even if some of them were underage – let any naysayer who did not take a drink when they were underage throw the first stone!) And before we knew it we had more gold medals than anyone has ever had in history. “Stop! This is too much for our Canadian modesty!” shouted the naysayers. “Screw off,” I replied, “I am enjoying this—finally!” And then to crown it all, our glorious men’s hockey team turned around what looked like another classic US come•from•behind victory pulled recently at the World Juniors, with a “take this and suck it” goal that sunk our southern neighbours for good in overtime. We were done, we owned the podium—no doubt about it.
After 22 years of being in love with this country, I was finally also proud of it. We stood in front of the world and we did our country proud, showcasing it for all its variety and excellence in sport, entertainment, culture, diversity, tolerance, fun, and humour. And we showed the world that we were just not a bunch of good natured, apologetic, nice, quitters; that we also had balls. I bet our American cousins did not know that William Shatner was Canadian, eh? We even managed to get President Obama to go shopping for Molson beer – waddayaknow!
After watching these Olympics, I became a firm believer that despite the shit that is going on in the world right now, with earthquakes and tsunamis and wars and economic meltdowns, we need symbols like these games, and role models like these athletes, to give us a jolt of encouragement. These young Olympians train for years for a few seconds of performance, where a fragment of a second’s improvement can catapult a player from fifteenth to first place. And they never give up. Thank God we have them, and thank God we invest in them, naysayers notwithstanding, for when the tough times come, it will be these future leaders who will say, “Hang in there, we can ride this out. And we can win!”
Way to go, Canada! Let’s own the podium from here on…