Sunday, August 05, 2012
Its going to be a whirlwind trip, here, there and everywhere. Just pile on the exhaustion. We've barely returned from the annual trip out east and I'm a bit worn out. Better to be worn out from a couple of weeks of eating and drinking and laughing with family and friends than from the daily grind though, right? Right.
This was our eighth time driving to the Island and back. It went about as well as it could in that everything we could not control came up roses. The weather was unbelievable. One rainy afternoon the entire time. On the way there we made fantastic time, probably the best we ever will. On the way back we did very well, made good time indeed. Luck was on our side. We even saw four deer and (for Jenn a first) a pair of moose, luckily (there it is again) on the other side of the moose fence in New Brunswick.
And of course we had the opportunity to once again enjoy this wonderful country. We wandered Charlottetown for our anniversary and had a terrific meal and night at an old Inn in the city centre. We spent a few days out at Wood Islands, laying in the sand, swimming in the cold water of the Northumberland Strait, digging clams. I went out to the Montague River for an evening with my man in PEI, Mr McLeod, and we drank beer and ate steak and caught up on the past year as we do every year. And we trekked out to Greenwich and walked out to the dunes, past the land my wife's family farmed for nearly two centuries, now a national park.
We left a little earlier than usual and drove over to St John to visit Jenn's sister and we had a great time there on the banks of the St John River. And on Saturday we followed the river north (saw our moose), skipped by Riviere De Loup and sped west along the St Lawrence, pressing into Montreal, finding our hotel at 4pm. The kids have never been to what is my favourite Canadian city and so we walked down Peel and St Catherine and down to Old Montreal. We ate crepes and wandered the cobblestone streets and the kids took it all in and made us promise that we would return for a longer stay next time.
It took me a few days to get into the Olympics this year, partially, I think, because we were on the road for its first weekend, partially because we will be away (and on the road) for a great part of the second week, partially because of the time difference and the fact that I am at work when 'everything is happening!!!!'
But I've become invested in them, as always, we love the Olympics in our household, always have. Its been an enormously satisfying first week, uncharted territory really. When I was growing up watching the Olympics meant watching Canadians get their heads handed to them by the Eastern Bloc juggernaut and the Americans and, well, everybody. We'd win a handful of medals, maybe a gold or two, maybe. Our teams, if they made it, were run out of the rink or off the fields or courts. Our individual athletes would finish in the thirties and forties and it was all very pleasant and everyone was happy to be there.
When did things change? 1984 in L.A. I think. It was the year the Soviets boycotted and without the state supported, super doping juggernaut in California, Canada soared. Of course many of the medals would not have happened if the godless Commies had been there but nobody was going to beat Alex Baumann or Victor Davis and other Canadians were class and what happened, I believe, is a couple of things. A lot of Canadian kids got inspired (don't believe it - look at how many Canadian speed skating veterans, the Hughes generation, talk about Gaetan Boucher) and money began to slowly trickle into the system. Success began to beget success and so you had more medals in both winter and summer sports and suddenly sports which had been disasters for years suddenly became powerhouses - rowing and speed skating come to mind.
Even with that success (which increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union) there has been still a strange relationship between the Olympians and the media and fans back home. The media hypes the athletes and part of the hype is anointing favourites and the problem is, as usual, the fact that they over simplify things. So a guy who won a medal at the Worlds the year before is a gold medal favourite even though he has done poorly this year and is coming off an injury and then he falls short and all hell breaks loose.
Read or heard something very smart the other day, can't remember where. A commentator said that unless you're an absolute sure thing being a gold medal favourite means pretty well nothing. So you have the American medley relay team, Chinese divers and after that its a crapshoot. ;) Not quite but even Michael Phelps won a race in Bejing by a fingertip.
Now for some fans this isn't enough, James Mirtle and I were conversing on Twitter the other day and he said that based on comments on the Globe website there was a lot of disappointment out there. I don't read comments on websites anymore, I barely even read them on blogs anymore. The stupidity and vitriol makes me sad. And to read some couch jockey complaining that someone has fallen short after years and years and years of training, well, nothing is more laughable. Its like the couch jockeys who call Tom Gilbert or Ales Hemsky pussies when either man plays through pain that would put the average Bud Lime Light, nacho eating fat spraining average Joe in bed for weeks, shitting himself in agony.
Is it disappointing that Jessica Zelinka and Dylan Armstrong didn't medal, for example? Sure it is. I doubt that anyone is more disappointed than they are at falling short though. One only has to see how heartbroken Paula Findlay was to see how much it matters to these kids.
Sorry, I am all over the place. Here's the thing. Times have changed. They changed in Vancouver. Well, really they changed in LA and its gone from there. The Olympics are the same every time. You have disappointments and you have surprises and you have those who meet expectations. The thing for Canada is that more and more we have athletes who are so good that they have expectations and more and more they meet them. Success has brought more success and wait a decade and we will see the gymnasts inspired by Shewfelt and more kids on the trampoline and bicycles and swimming and diving and in bobsleigh and crosscountry skiing and on and on. And the money is flowing from the government and companies and suddenly, strangely, we're an Olympic power in the winter, one of THE powers there, and a solid summer competitor and what the hell, when did that happen?
And this Olympics we haven't even gone through the handwringing that happens every Olympics because there hasn't been the usual slow start and the media and fans have seen medal after medal until a week in we are nearly where we were in Athens at the completion of the Games.
Tyler has a nice writeup on the Games and he touches on the patriotism and I talked about that in the Vancouver Games as well. The country has changed, Canadians have changed, and this has happened in the last thirty years. We are more confident, less deferential, a little more patriotic. For the most part this is a good thing I think. We live in a wonderful country and we should be proud of it and as long as we're not mindless about it (and this is where the danger lies) I think its a nice change from when I was young when people, in a lot of ways, had a negative attitude about Canada.
I'm not talking about not questioning your government or your national mythology because these are good things, God knows a lot of countries' citizens (hello 'Merica) could use a little more self awareness, it helps make your nation a better one if you recognize your weaknesses and do something about them. I'm talking about just a general 'Canada is shitty' attitude. It used to be pretty prevalent. The idea that Canada can do no wrong is not something we want either but the prior attitude, now history it seems, was garbage too.
I'm a big history guy and I have a half baked theory about the World Wars and the carnage they wrought. Now this was a different time, back in the day. Unlike the last few decades when wars have been fought by the poor and the scions of rich families ducked the draft in Vietnam, in 1914 and 1939 (or later if you were a Yank) if you were a young man you went to war. So an heir of the Molson family was killed in Belgium (Percy I believe his name was) and 'One Eyed' Frank McGee, the great hockey player, died on the Somme and Talbot Papineau was killed at Passchendaele.
It was our best and boldest and bravest who went to war. Read Pierre Berton's Vimy. Canada was a different country a hundred years ago. Its soldiers were known to be the toughest, the brassiest, the wildest men in the world. And these frontiersmen and builders and entrepreneurs died in France and Belgium and a quarter century later the sons of those who did not die fell in Italy and France and Holland and Hong Kong and drowned in the North Atlantic and were shot down over the burning cities of Germany.
And those who survived, well, many of them were the cautious ones, the careful, deferential ones. Certainly those who did not survive could not be replaced.
Half baked, right? lol /drinks
Anyways /drinks/ if anyone says anything bad about any of our Olympians, especially Rory Cichrane, God Bless him, you'll have me to deal with. /drinks some more
Actually I don't think young Cochrane needs my help, Christ, did you see that lineup of women with the bare flat bellies proclaiming their love for him at the pool. Methinks his Olympics may be over but his orgy is just beginning, the bastard.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:42 AM