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Canada Wins Olympics, Gets Wasted
Yesterday I found myself ravaged by national pride in a startlingly uncharacteristic night of bar shots and celebratory chants in the streets of downtown Toronto.  The crowd at Dundas Square undulated affectionately and throbbed with a conceit that would offend the gods themselves, if they too weren't busy celebrating.  As I leaned back into the cocooning embrace of my fellow Canadians, lifting my head and raising my voice in an exultant howl, I found myself wondering who I was and how I got there.  And when did I start caring about the Olympics?

Rewind a few hours to Sunday afternoon.  Work at the restaurant was eerily quiet; families had elected to eat brunch by the warmth of their television sets.  And who, other than me, could blame them?  The final Gold medal game, Canada versus the US in hockey.  Despite the medal counts, despite the other countries, despite all of the other athletes who worked their tits off for their victories, this is the moment we have all inadvertently (or totally vertently) been waiting for.  This. Is. It.

I tried not to watch.  I didn't want to see, I didn't want to be a part of whatever was happening.  The celebration of the celebrated, the glory of the glorified, the simple congratulation of power.  2 legs bad, 2 skates and a big dick good. 

However, if I thought by some strange miracle that I had a choice in the day's events, that I could avert my eyes from this orthodox slaughter, I was utterly mistaken and it was soon apparent that this was not a moment I could just ignore. 

This in itself was a revelation.  I mean, I know "we" (you) like hockey, but I am not sure I understood the magnitude of this passion.  It has always seemed to me that hockey brings out the worst in people.  Perhaps it was the coach I witnessed as a child, throwing a bag of pucks at the ref and shouting swear words that were quite new to me.  Perhaps it was the fire in the eyes of my seventh grade Social Studies teacher, who insisted we debate the virtues of last night's game (en francais) before reviewing the sexual reproductive system.  Or perhaps it was the Halifax Moosehead's game I attended a few years back, where I fondly watched a Daddy and Daughter pairing watch the game in the row in front of me, recalling the many wonderful Daddy Daughter days I spent at Cape Breton Oilers games, eating snow cones and asking questions every time the whistle blew.  And just as I began to think of the enchanting bond of sports, a player on the opposing team went down on the ice, hit hard.  He stayed down.  The crowd turned fierce, the BOO's had it.  Daughter turned to Daddy and asked, "Why are they boo'ing?"  Daddy, thick in the boo's, relented a moment to explain:  "We're booing because that guy is a liar and a wuss."  "GET UP! QUIT CRYING!" he yelled, as though to demonstrate his point.  My heart sunk, and I got another 7 dollar beer.

Anyway, that's why I don't like hockey.  I just think it's ugly, and I like my sports a bit prettier.  That being said, I decided at work yesterday that if the whole country was going to get together and watch Canada Go for Gold, then I should just swallow my feminist, pacifist, hippie ways, and watch the damn game.

I left during the second period to catch the third at a friend's house.  As I walked, I began to feel something.  There was something in the air - the quiet beat of a nation holding its breath.   Houses glowing blue came to life and died again with the roar of whoever was inside.  Birds chirped their indifference.  I'd never heard birds chirp at 4 in the afternoon on a Sunday on Dufferin Street.  The streets were almost empty.   A few defiant mothers walked with strollers, bundled in layers despite the temperate weather.  Their necks seemed swollen with scarves, dwarfing their heads, so that they almost seemed to be emerging from a womb.  Men, too, walked along, alone, heads enshrouded in protective garb.  It was a shabby resistance, these were martyrs without gods.  One man sighed, and said "Oh well," to himself or to me as he passed. 

I felt a sudden surge of patriotism.  I wanted to be wherever these people were not.  The damned walked the streets, defiant of life itself, contemptuous of living.  I, as usual, wanted to live.  LET ME LIVE!

I was just in time for the third period, and if I was bored for a minute or two, distracted by my rarely present sense of shame, I was rapt by the end.  My heart beat in time with the clock in overtime, and in rhythm with the rest of the country's.  My body hunched forward in anticipation of death or rapture, I found myself shouting, "Just put it in!", desperate for the end.  More than that, though, desperate for the win.  I wanted to win.

And we did.

My friends and I took to the streets, a lynch mob of good tidings.  We cheered on the subway, on the streetcar, headed blindly towards Gretzky's in search of more love and high fives.  An American woman on the streetcar sat filming our enthusiastic outbursts.  She told us she liked us and we cheered.  The woman ahead of us clapped along and joined our chants.  Come along, we said.  One of us!  we chanted.  

No one was willing to join our parade of Good Times, but we left smiles behind wherever our love brigade attacked.  Fire trucks and streetcars and taxis saluted.  We didn't even have a flag.  We were just shouting and happy about it.  I didn't even know what we were cheering for anymore.  Ca-na-da!  Four-teen gold!  Beer is gold!  We cheered for maple trees and colours.  We high-fived every passing pedestrian - even some drivers.  No one could resist.  Everyone was celebrating, we were just being loud about it.

And so I found myself watching as my friend, who hadn't watched a single Olympic event, crowd surfed over the bodies of Dundas Square before climbing up the streetlight to lead them in cheers, before being asked to leave and not return by the police.  And I thought, well, if this is hockey, if this is the Olympics, if this is winning, then maybe I can get behind that.

And as usual, I am just a little bit too late.

(Note: this is not my friend.  But I probably gave this guy a high five last night.  Ca-na-da!)

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Ca-na- da

I read it to JDR Sr. Loved it. Joining the madness is better than poopooing- we'll be dead a long time.

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