If you're ever in Vancouver during the Olympics and Canada is playing the USA in the men's hockey gold medal game, and they're playing in downtown Vancouver, plan ahead. Turns out a lot of people care about that kind of thing. Setting out from a downtown hostel at 10am Sunday morning in search of a bar with a TV could've been thought out a little better. We were saved by public viewing areas, which are actually wonderful - they're just like being at the game, only the players don't hear or respond to the things you yell at them, which makes it just like being at the game.
There haven't been this many Canadians in one line since SoulDecision dropped No One Does It Better.
There was also a screen to the left, which came in handy when the sun came out to the right and no one knew how to react.
- Canadians like marijuana. There was security and metal detectors and everything at the entrance to the viewing area. The man in front of me in line got stopped when the guard felt something in his pocket, and when he took out a small tin box, the guard opened it, revealing a half-dozen joints. She laughed, gave them back, and waved him along. The same guard made a man three places behind me throw away a sandwich.
Canadians are patriotic. They really, really cared, a lot. At least about the hockey games. Not so much about the 50 kilometer cross-country skiing, which I might remind you requires the competitor to cross-country ski for 50 kilometers, sometimes uphill. "50 kilometers" is a Canadian expression that loosely translates to "a fucking lot of skiing". Anyway, there was so much red and passion and flag-waving and lighthearted America-bashing everywhere that you'd almost think Canada wasn't supposed to win the gold from the start. It always makes me uncomfortable to witness such a degree of mass nationalism, but I guess it's good that they accomplished something once.
Thought: a few months ago, nobody really cared about the Olympic national teams. A few weeks ago, everybody cared about the Olympic national teams. Now the Olympic national teams don't exist anymore. Weird. Also, something worth studying will be how long it takes before everyone in Canada goes back to hating Sidney Crosby again. I know it took me about thirty minutes to go back to hating Ryan Miller.
- But some of them aren't. The Canadian receptionist at our hostel said after the game that she was rooting for the US because she wanted to see everyone on Granville Street disappointed. That really would've been spectacular. You should've seen the faces when we tied it up late in the third period. They were melting. It was like The Persistence Of Memory with people. Had the US pulled it out, Granville would've been something out of a zombie movie, only without the biting.
Canadians are clean. When we arrived Friday night, Granville was closed to traffic because the entire country was in the streets celebrating the win over Slovakia. When we woke up and walked around on Saturday morning, the street was as spotless as any main thoroughfare, with a little more gum. That's remarkable. On the other hand, gum is annoying.
Canadians really are as nice as everyone says. When we got to ground level with our luggage on Friday night, a woman came out of nowhere and asked if we needed help or directions. On more than one occasion people nearby would volunteer to take our picture. And yesterday, when America tied it up with 24 seconds left and we were flipping out in the middle of the public viewing area, none of the 8000 Canadians around us said a word, nor did they rub it in minutes later when Crosby put it home. They were elated without being complete dicks, which, what? How? I think they invented that.
- If you're in your hostel bed trying to sleep, and it's 3:30 in the morning, and a woman comes in and slams stuff around, and she's talking to someone named Andrew, but Andrew isn't there, and you don't know if she has Bluetooth, and she turns the light on and off, and on and off, and on and off, and keeps talking to Andrew until six, play dead until you hear snoring, but five consecutive minutes of snoring, because sometimes there will be one minute of snoring followed by twenty minutes of talking to Andrew, and Andrew isn't there, and you don't want to take chances.
USA hockey is on the way up. Many of you will have stopped caring by now, but this country is producing some astonishing talent, and at this point we're almost like a real national team. The world grants few opportunities to express fierce national pride without feeling like a complete douchebag, but the Olympics are one of them, and in four years, we're going to have a hockey team we can root for. We're not an also-ran. Not anymore.