Relax, Canada. Exhale. Smoke ’em if ya got
’em. Our pride is intact for the world to see. We shall not go gently into that
good night with nary a medal to show for our trip to the Orient.
Heck, as of early Wednesday morning, we have a
firm grip on twelfth place in the overall medal count. We’re number 12! We’re
number 12! We’re number 12!
In the wheezy air of Olympic status, things
used to be measured with a more blunt instrument, a golden one. Individuals won
medals; countries counted gold. It was an easy equation, tracing its roots back
to the golden age, the time U.S. athletes brought home the lion’s share of gold
and the also-rans divvied up the more base metals. The practice survived the
early days of Olympics as geopolitical chest thumping between the bear and the
eagle and even managed to remain the reluctant gold standard when the “amateur”
athletes from the Soviet army began to nudge the Olympic movement into
full-fledged professional sports.
But losing to an upstart like China is
something else altogether. Inevitable, perhaps, but unpalatable nonetheless.
And so now, in a nod to self-esteem, the rankings are being touted on a total
medals basis, thus allowing — again, as of Wednesday morning — the
U.S. to claim a first-place tie with the host country, notwithstanding the fact
China’s hoarding gold like King Midas while the U.S. is accumulating a very
nice silver service.
But who cares what the superpowers are on
about? Canada’s pride is intact. Oh sure, there might be enough other countries
claiming a tie for 12
to cobble together a barbershop quartet, but
who are we to quibble? And while we might, in moments when we indulge ourselves
in another deadly sin — envy — look longingly at the medal count
of, say, South Korea or Ukraine, we can secretly, modestly, bask in the
collective glory of knowing we’re puttin’ the hurt to North Korea, Kazakhstan
and those misguided sheepherders from New Zealand. Oh yeah, baby; take that,
But really, honestly, deep down in our souls,
is this actually the kind of thing we
proud of? I know, it hurts when you’re the only country in the world to host
the Big Show twice and not win a single gold medal before hometown crowds but,
like most disappointments in life, we’ve gotten over it. Of course, we had to
indulge in major retail therapy to salve our wounded pride and we’re still
spending like drunken sailors to make sure it doesn’t happen a third time the
winter after next but we’re coping. It’s not like we’ve started wars, annexed
territory, locked up prisoners of conscience for disagreeing with our sport
strategy or generally slinked off to suck our national thumb.