Really. If you don't live or die by hockey, or scrum together a false sense of superiority from seeing your country beat other countries at sports that only matter every four years, the last 16 days have been excruciating. That's not to demean or denounce the importance of sport, or the mean athletic feats of human beings in peak physical performance, but the degree to which we've been bombarded by news of something euphemistically, and simply, called "The Games" is insane. These Olympics more than most, even the last one's held in our own backyard, seemed particularly insufferable. And as the rest of the day's news fills with stories of people under fire, under pressure and debating issues of ongoing, and far-reaching importance, we've spent the last two weeks breaking in over what is, really, just a bunch of games.
Just a few hundred miles away from where the Olympics were taking place in Sochi, people were getting shot down in the streets of Kyiv as the Ukraine struggles violently between those who embrace the influences of old, and those who want to embrace the new. Several hundred miles from there, Syria continues to be a black hole, a realm of such calamitous violence that you're never sure if a ceasefire is really just a ceasefire in name only. On top of it all, the U.N. released a report confirming what we already know: North Korea sucks at human rights. I didn't think the jury was still out on that, but hey...
Meanwhile, work stops in Canada because some people (millionaires in the case of the men) are passing a puck around, and if you don't go along with the sheep, too bad, you're dragged along kicking and screaming by a media that thinks "Breaking News" is giving you an update on the score. After all, it's not like the Olympics are playing on about 50 different channels. And streaming online. Several times, I've witnessed the news interrupt actual news for a sports update, and each time I've been caught aghast. From abortion debates to political analysis, it doesn't matter because nothing's more important than hockey. Or bobsledding.
I wish I could say that was the only way that the media's been obnoxious, but it hasn't. There's been a tone amongst reporters and anchors, especially on the CBC, that any Canadian athletes who don't win medals better not bother to get on the airplane home. Patrick Chan more or less had to flagellate himself in front of a national audience for not winning gold, as if his silver medal diminishes me or anyone else watching him perform on TV in Canada. Chan is allowed to feel as if he's let himself down, or even his coaches, his teammates or his family, but Patrick Chan doesn't owe me anything. He's got one more silver medal in figure skating than I'll ever get, and good on him.
What's happening here, as was demonstrated by the Tim Horton's Cup art piece, is the confusion of the true pillars of national identity with something as fleeting, novel, and arbitrary as winning some sports. Again, CBC spikes the Kool-Aid well with all that talk about hockey being Canada's national sport (despite the fact that the Americans who run the NHL just took it away from them, but that's another story...) Hockey maybe enjoyed by a great number of Canadians, but watching hockey doesn't make you Canadian, and not watching it doesn't make you less so. You can't paint a white stripe down a black cat's back and call it a skunk.
There's also the bigger issue, like if things keep going the way they are we might not have the right weather for the Winter Olympics in about 20 years, and by that I don't mean that more people will be like Vladimir Putin and cram the event into a sub-tropical summer resort town because he "likes it" there. No, global climate change is an issue that's only getting bigger, and despite the very traditional winter weather we've been having this year, the grand trend for the planet is that we're getting warmer from the north down.
Speaking of Putin though, he seems to have skated - so to speak - on the somewhat large matter of the massive corruption in the build up to the games. There was $50 billion spent, and as much as one-third of that went to line the pockets of God-knows-who. And so much for the security nightmare that we all feared. Unless something changed between the time I'm writing this Saturday morning and the time you're reading this now, the Olympics went terrorism-free. Critics will say that the overboard security measures were much ado about nothing, proponents though will note that they must have worked because there was no terrorist attack. That's, of course, a logical fallacy, but lapses in logic hardly makes for dissuasive evidence in the eyes of many. By any stretch, the security measures were insane, but I highly doubt anyone will want to peel back some of those measures when it's Rio's turn in 2016, or PyeongChang's in 2018.
What I do expect though is some sense of control and context when the next Olympics come around. On Wednesday, when Russia lost to the U.S. in the men's hockey, CP24 kept using the word "devestating" in reference to Russia's feeling of loss. I tweeted to them that the word "devestating" seemed a little over the top for something as trivial as a hockey game, after all, there are people in the Ukraine, Syria, the Phillippines, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and on, and on, who know what it is to be truly devestated. The anchor changed the word to "disappointed" in the next half-hour, and I take credit for that. I also take it as a sign that our media friends know they're going overboard, and if we can now just all agree that we've all had a tendancy to go overboard lately, we'll be admitting we have a problem, and that's the first step to recovery.