Humbled in Vancouver
I know I was unable to get a post in last night but if that’s going to be a major issue for anyone, they’ll have to take it up with Alex Bilodeau and the first gold medal ever won on home soil. And then they’ll have to deal with the three couples at Chill Winston’s in Gastown, who are responsible for the four-hour blur that occurred between 8 p.m. and midnight on Sunday.
But I’ve slept, I’ve recuperated and I’m back in the action once again.
However, while I have a few videos to show you from some of the fun going on between my train stop and the media centre, I want to backtrack a bit and talk of a humbling moment I shared with some fellow Canadians last night.
My temporary roommates and I had been out enjoying the first rays of sun I’ve seen since leaving Alberta – which are tucked back behind a layer of grey once again by the way – and decided to stop for food and drink at a trendy pub along the way.
Since my entire trip is whimsical anyway, I shouldn’t be surprised that I wound up the last person there at the end of the evening, with absolutely zero concept of past time. But, nonetheless, it certainly hadn’t been my intention when we arrived for lunch.
Anyway, somewhere along the way we wound up watching the men’s moguls – along with everyone else in Canada – on a giant, pull-down projector screen. When Bilodeau won, obviously the place erupted. Then myself and another gentleman from St. Albert, Alta. began to bellow out O Canada at the top of our lungs, followed by the joining voices of all Canadians in the area.
When it was over we all cheered and went back to our tables. However, moments later we were approached by a couple wearing matching jackets, displaying the red, white and blue of the U.S.
They were Allen and Allison Scott, parents of Jeremy Abbott – the two-time defending U.S. figure skating champion and serious threat for a medal. After being out for a drink, they had witnessed our Canadian moment and were so moved by it, they felt compelled to come tell us.
It was one of those great moments that make you stop and think about some of the generalized feelings we often have of others.
Canada and the U.S. have a funny relationship. As neighbours, we are obvious allies when it comes to the big issues of the world – even if we refuse to fight illegal wars started by a less-than-Mensa President – and I am generally proud to be considered a friend of Uncle Sam. But when it comes to sport, we are also obvious rivals and don’t often spend much time in the other’s cheering section.
I doubt too many Americans spend much time worrying about where us Canucks are sitting in the standings of any sport but I know I’m not the only Canadian who has been heard saying, “As long as we beat the U.S., I don’t care if we finish second last.”
It’s a natural feeling if you think about it. The Americans are world powers in so many sports that it’s impossible to count, while Canada’s list – let’s face it – consists of games on ice and anything playable with a beer in one hand.
And I don’t want to say the U.S. can be arrogant winners sometimes but when 99 out of 100 successful athletes from there thank God for divinely choosing them to be on top, arrogance is about the only non-curse word one could use to describe that kind of inflated ego. So, when God is seemingly too busy to make sure his favourite nation is front and centre, the rest of us are left feeling just a little bit satisfied in the wake of their failure.
And that’s what was so humbling about yesterday.
Here we were, a group of Canadians, going out of our minds over a national hero and we were bringing chills to two American visitors. But moments before the Scotts approached us, a table of English folks and I had just finished calling out Dale Begg-Smith, the Aussie silver medallist, for being a traitor and had moved onto discussing how great it was to see the American bronze-medal winner finish behind our favourite Montrealer.
Needless to say, after our great conversation with these two extremely gracious people from Colorado Springs, we felt like idiots.
And since I’ve exchanged blog sites with the Scotts, who can be read at http://ontheedgeofskating.blogspot.com/, I know they will be reading this and will learn of our embarrassing moment. But the fact is I hope they realize they have taught our entire group a valuable lesson.
The world of sport is full of egos and the best of the best often have to be extremely confident, if not cocky, in order to be on top. But just because my own look at Americans happens to be mostly at elite athletes in various sports, doesn’t in any way mean I’m getting an accurate assessment of the American people.
Are they really that different from us? They love their country. They carry an enormous amount of pride for who they are. And they care for each other enough to die for one another.
Sounds pretty Canadian to me.
So, to my new friends from our big brother to the south, I say thank you for reminding me what it means to not only be a Canadian but also what it means to be a human being.
And I will showcase my new attitude by singing the Star-Spangled Banner after Jeremy brings home the gold.