Olympic Quips: Quality Over Quantity, Happy With Harper, Big Kid Pictograms, and More Hockey Thoughts.
Our country, and the world, has certainly been critical of our little “Own The Podium” program that we developed. Now, the goal was to win more medals than any other country, and the likelihood of that happening is fading. But do consider the following: We’ve won more gold medals than anyone else, meaning we’re the best in the world at more sports than any other country, INCLUDING the first place US. We tied the all-time Winter Olympic record for most gold medals at 13. If a country had 32 bronze medals for coming in third every time, and another had a fraction of that amount in gold first place medals, wouldn’t you give the nod to the country with the gold’s? Also, we’ve set another Canadian record for our medal count in Torino, which also was up from the previous record. And thirdly, our female athletes are destroying our male athletes in medal winnings.
I think it’s pretty cool that our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper is attending so many Olympic events. Apparently he’s been paying his own way for tickets (as he should be), so he must have some deep pockets; tickets for medal events like he’s attended are all in the multiple hundreds of dollars range. That aside, you likely wouldn’t see US President Barack Obama, or certainly not our old friend George W Bush, amongst the common people at such a largely populated public event. Harper’s high-fiving Wayne Gretzky, and hugging athletes as they win medals. I like it.
Who did Pepsi think they were kidding when they tried to make us chant “Eh Oh Canada Go” because they had a contest and awarded a prize to someone
who came up with, what they believed to be, the best original chant? I’m sure the entrant meant well, but come on. Chants are as spontaneous as the wave, or events depicted in Bacardi commercials; like throwing a lot of rocks in the water, building an island, and having an insane party, all on a whim. Our standard “Go Canada Go” chant is fine the way it is. Also, I’ve enjoyed “WE WANT RUS-SIA CLAP, CLAP, CLAP-CLAP-CLAP”; also sub-in SWE-DEN and U-S-A at the sight of inevitable Team Canada hockey wins as my favourites so far.
What’s the deal with the presentation of flowers after the medals? I know in Roman times, the flowers were quite coveted by the winners. Surely, it’s a tip of the cap to that tradition, today. But I mean, I’m sure the athletes are like, “WOW THIS IS AWESOME I’M THE BEST THIS MEDAL RULES… oh, and thanks for the flowers… hold on, I gotta put these in some water… for something that’s gonna die fairly soon, these seem like something that we could’ve saved spending money on for something for necessary.” Here’s a little quip about where the bouquets are made.
I’m glad Vancouver 2010 decided to use pictograms to visually interpret the events that don’t look like kindergarten scrawls, as has been done consistently for like, ever. These ones are well drawn, and actually look like what they are supposed to depict.
Team Canada’s Women’s hockey team prrrrrobably shouldn’t have been drinking champagne and smoking cigars in the public eye after their gold medal victory, especially with an underaged player on the team participating. But you’re kidding yourselves if you think these things weren’t happening anyways in the dressing room. They just got caught. Oops. Add this to the IOC’s list of reasons that will be reviewed to support women’s hockey remaining as an Olympic event… hmm, probably should’ve kept it in the room. Well, they are the best in the world, again. And they beat the Americans. On those fronts, nice going girls!
Finally, after squeaking by Slovakia, CANADA IS GOING TO DESTROY THE US IN HOCKEY AND WIN THE GOLD MEDAL AND AVENGE THEIR ROUND ROBIN LOSS AND SETTLE THE PSYCHE OF ALL CANADIANS. Given, the US has a great team, a hot goalie, and it would be good for the business of hockey for them to win, but my allegiances are unquestioned. I have a friend who is a die-hard Calgary Flames fan/Vancouver Canucks hater, so much so that the mere thought of Roberto Luongo being credited for Canada’s success spurs on thoughts of “Lu” assassination, and instead wants Iginla to be credited for all triumphs. I’ve got another (American) friend who only gets interested in hockey when the US plays Canada. After some back and forth text-taunting since the first game, I NEED Canada to win for my own pride. Is it interesting to anyone else that North American teams only make it to the Olympic finals when the games are played on NHL sized ice instead of Olympic sized ice (an insane stat; what other reason is there to have Olympic sized ice if not to be used AT THE OLYMPICS?) I think we can all agree, it’s going to be one heck of a game. Lets go Salt Lake City on ‘em!
GO CANADA GO!!!
My goodness, Canada obliterated Russia. Canada lives to fight another day, and Sid wins the latest chapter of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin showdown (actually, they both had zero points in the game, but Sid wins by default with the team win; also Ovechkin was invisible throughout the whole game). I hate to say it’s typical of Russia, but since the loss, the Russians have been skewering Canada in the media (no offence to any of the nice Russian people I know). All the people who thought that the loss to the US might have been the “inspiration” Canada needed to get things back on track may just have been onto something.
My most common thought through that game was MAN I FREAKING LOVE TEAM CANADA. I had a long term relationship with the LA Kings during the Gretzky era, had cups of coffee with the Blues, Rangers, and most recently, I’d been warming up to the Coyotes and Leafs. But all in all, Team Canada is my favourite hockey team of all time. I absolutely love it when they win, and I nearly lose my mind when they lose. All the whining about how American NHL teams are all comprised of Canadians, and when those teams win Cups, it’s really Canada winning, sort of; well this is actually all those Canadian players all together on one team, and all NHL season gripes, grudges, and affiliations are off. I’ve even come to realize that I really like the new sport neutral Team Canada logo designed for the Olympics.
I really have come to think that the Olympic tournament is the premier
international hockey competition as well. As opposed to the World Championships, you have EVERY country’s best players representing their flag; not the small percentage of NHL players who aren’t in the Stanley Cup playoffs that year. Also, the players are in peak mid-season conditioning; whereas WC players may be “mailing in” their efforts after knowing they’re not going to win the Stanley Cup. The World Cup/Canada Cup is cool too, but it has no frequency to it; only being contested every 7-8 years. It would be better if the Olympics didn’t have single elimination games, and best-of series’ instead. I wish there was a way to have every country play every country at least once, instead of the pool play, but I guess there really isn’t that kind of time. Maybe next NHL lockout, there could be a Global Hockey League, where we see countries compete in an NHL season format. How awesome would that be?
Now we face Slovakia, after what must be considered an upset after defeating defending gold medal champs, Sweden. So Sweden, you’re telling me a squad comprised of Zetterberg, Franzen, Alfredsson, both Sedin’s, Forsberg, Lidstrom, and others were not good enough to beat… wait, who does Slovakia have? Zdeno Chara? (ok they have the Hossa’s and Gaborik too, but come on, not nearly as deep as Sweden) This was the first legit upset of the tournament, in my opinion, but man were there a few close calls. The Swiss were a handful for Canada and the US, Belarus made it tough on Sweden, Latvia took a run at the Czechs, and even Norway almost edged out the Slovaks. Now by the math, Canada should roll over Slovakia, but hey, we said that about the US, didn’t we?
I think it’s great for hockey as a whole, but obviously not great for Canada. We’re no longer afforded the luxury of thinking we’re automatically the best in the world when it comes to international matchups (someone tell all the women’s teams besides Canada and the US to follow suit). We’ve known this since 2006 in Turin really, but people like to pretend as if those Olympics never happened; isn’t it odd that the only Olympics Canadians seem to “remember” in terms of hockey is 2002? Obviously our best showing, but you have to take the bad with the good and make adjustments if you’re going to remain king of the hill. Another thing that escapes Canadian hockey fans memories is that both Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo were our goalies in Turin as well. Luckily, we’ve already bested our placement from that time.
Go Canada GO!
***Heading into their Olympic quarter-final showdown both touted as their respective country’s top players, I thought I’d relaunch my Sid vs. Ovie blog that I previously posted for another site. While the latest chapter may not be have the gold medal on the line, for Canadian fans, it might as well be in the “do or die” situation we’ve found ourselves in. Enjoy!*** -SDC
There are battles of Alberta, Summit Series’, and “Magnificence” vs “Greatness”; but is there an NHL rivalry greater than the current individualistic battle between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin?
The two phenoms entered the league as at least respectful rivals of each other. Prior to their simultaneous NHL arrivals, they had only ever competed against each other on the international stage, playing for Canada and Russia, respectively. With cameras and tape recorders rolling, making campy NHL commercials and delivering birthday cakes at the NHL All-Star game together slowly morphed into on-ice physicality and off-ice verbal sparring. Welcome to the business of “selling” the new NHL to the American market.
It’s a protagonist-antagonist scenario that seems to be inspired by Vince McMahon himself. In one corner, you have the abrasive, exciting, inimical Ovechkin; equipped with infinite energy and a talent level he must have exchanged his soul for, hailing from Mother Russia, a country that, according to Hollywood, produces more bad guys than perogies. His opposition, the humble, hard-working, and traditional Crosby; hailing from Canada, playing and interviewing the way the Canadian hockey heroes of the past did before him. Of course, as the NHL panders to the North American market, it’s easy to portray Crosby as the “good guy”, though Ovechkin, Federov, and every other Russian NHL star has been adorned in their homeland. Most Canadian fans would likely admit that there’s Russian NHL’ers that are better than Canadian NHL’ers, but they’d feel like they were betraying their country if they ever uttered it publicly.
Forget all the media hoopla; shouldn’t the NHL be sending royalties to the parents of Sidney and Alexander for deciding to have children that grew up to capture the attention of their entire audience? In the ongoing battle to
procure American advertisers and cable network broadcasters, the NHL can count on at least Penguins and Capitals games as easy ratings sells; providing that Crosby and Ovechkin are in the lineup. Did anyone care about the Capitals before Alexander the Great? A team with no Stanley Cups, and nothing more than a conference championship in 1997-98, former Hart and Art Ross Trophy Winner Jaromir Jagr couldn’t even make hockey exciting in Washington. All of a sudden, the Verizon Center has sell-out crowds, and the team is a contender. Ovechkin plays with a wreckless abandon that has resulted in a kneeing suspension, but what is coach Bruce Boudreau going to do with his star, bench him? Tell him to ease up? Come on. The Penguins at least got to pair Lemieux and Crosby together in 2006, but the Steel-Town had been pretty dismal since the back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-92. Sure hockey’s a team game, but to suggest that the individual ability and rivalry of Crosby and Ovechkin isn’t largely responsible for the teams’ success and the league’s rising interest, is naive.
The 2008-09 playoffs were an absolute treat to watch, and many people would point to the Pens/Caps Eastern Conference showdown as a highlight, as well as an indication of who would/did become the eventual Cup winner. Fans got to see Sid and Ovie go at each other for seven consecutive games rather than once a season, and they got to see both players at the top of their respective games; Game 2 featured both players notching hat tricks, and Sid’s 13 series’ points and Ovie’s 14 equaled the highest single-series point total since the 1995 NHL playoffs. It was awesome.
Penguins win the series 4-3, and the “evil” Ovechkin, was banished back to Russia (well, Washington), screaming promises of revenge (actually he wished that the Pens win the Cup, but just work with me) while he was being dragged away. Meanwhile, the “heroic” Crosby was adorned on a mountain top, cape waving, a dark curl dangling from mid-brow (just above his perv-stache), all while giving an interview where he characteristically puts over his opponents, commenting on how well they played, and not giving himself any selfish credit. Wouldn’t it have been great/justified if he had finally just snapped, either after that series or after winning the Cup, and said, “YOU SEE?!?! I AM BETTER THAN HIM!!”
Ovechkin wins rookie of the year, Sid’s named the youngest captain in history. Sid wins the Art Ross and the Hart, Ovie wins the Richard and Pearson awards. And so they dance. We’re still waiting to see what Ovechkin’s equal to Sid’s Cup win will be. Alexander’s pursuit of a championship, Sidney’s defence of his, and their continued rivalry will continually be fun to watch, and is easily the best rivalry in the NHL today. It’s Canada vs. Russia, tradition vs. new school, team vs. team, and man vs. man, all wrapped into one ongoing showdown. Their 2010 Olympic showdown will be the latest chapter, and perhaps the most exciting for fans thus far. It’s one thing to have the hopes of a whole city on your back in the case of an NHL team, but entire countries? If the NHL can’t sell that to Americans, then tearing fans away from the baseball diamond and football field for the hockey rink is a fruitless endeavor anyways.
So many Olympic thoughts running through my brain. After watching it on TV EVERYday so far, and even going to Vancouver to see a few events, I gotta say I’m really enjoying the Olympics overall. I don’t think I’d be
wrong to say that most Canadians are as well. Have you ever seen spontaneous jubilation in streets, or random outbursts of “O Canada” at curling matches before? Unreal. Truly something special; whether you’re viewing from afar, or are there to experience it in person.
Most people internationally would likely say the same thing as well. Unfortunately, there are a few members of the American and British press who want to rain on everyone’s parade by labelling Vancouver 2010 as the “worst games ever”.
Sure, the weather hasn’t been ideal; but events have continued, and medals have been awarded. Sorry we forgot to import the weather machine that does our meteorological bidding. Our courses are too hard? The competitors are the best in the world at their sports, right? Should we make
them easier for everyone? Sorry for training on our own tracks a lot; didn’t know that was such a bad thing. The world doesn’t like our “Own The Podium” program, where we give more money and training opportunities than we historically have to our Olympic athletes in hopes of them winning a lot of medals? Oh, sorry, should we just go back to being a mediocre sporting nation for everyone else to roll over like they used to? What we gave our competitors is still nowhere near that of other nations, and hey, it’s not even working out THAT well for us so far, so chill. We’re doing alright though, and no one here is going to be less proud of our athletes for any reason.
A malfunction in the Opening Ceremonies? Um… whoops. We swear they were working in practice. Some people thought the flaming icicles looked like male genitalia, or drug paraphernalia? Well, think what you want, but be careful what indigenous people you vocalize those opinions around. No one can get close to the flame? Hey, they’re working on it. I got a few good pics; I’m not complaining. The US beating Canada in men’s hockey? Wait, that’s Canada’s complaint. Blame it on the goalies when things go squirrely, right?
And the death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili; well that was simply a tragedy, nothing else. That track has been ridden countless times safely, and it’s a very unfortunate and sobering example of just how dangerous that sport is.
So England and America, oh yee dwelling in glass houses and flats; how did your prior Olympic Games hostings turn out?
London’s Olympic Games in 1908 saw England piss off the Finnish, Swedish, and USA by not displaying their flags at the Opening Ceremonies. Finland decided not to march, and Sweden left all together. The Americans were then asked to “dip” their flag to the Royals, which they outright refused. Solid international relations, England.
The USA’s Games hosting tenures haven’t been “squeaky clean” either.
Atlanta’s 1996’s Summer Games were considered over-commercialized, had a highly criticized Olympic Village and Opening Ceremonies by spectators and athletes alike, and… what else, what else…. OH YEAH, there was a BOMBING that killed 2 people and injured 111 others.
Salt Lake City’s Winter Games of 2002 were marred by a bribery scandal (all-expense-paid ski trips, scholarships, Super Bowl trips, plastic surgery, deals on real estate, jobs for family members, and cash for IOC delegates from the Utah bid committee) to bring the Olympics to Utah which saw several IOC members expelled, and others resign. Allegations of foul play in figure skating judging saw scores and results reviewed and medals re-awarded. Suspect refereeing in speed skating DQ’ed a Korean, and angered that entire country to the point that the Olympic website crashed from the overload of threatening emails sent to them over the result. Russians threatened to go home after they felt they were unfairly accused of doping in cross-country skiing.
Los Angeles’ Games of 1984 were boycotted by 16 countries. In LA’s 1932 Games, President Hoover became the first head of state in Olympic history not to even show up at the event. The 1904 Games in St. Louis became a sideshow of The World’s Fair, and lasted four and a half months.
Now, all that to say to the critics look, we know things have been going wrong. We’re working on it. No one said Vancouver 2010 was going to be perfect. And let’s be honest, everyone throwing stones at us right now has got plenty of skeletons in their own closets from when they tried to host the Olympic Games previously. Can we at least agree that it’s a rather dubious task? And London, you get them again in 2012, so you better be expecting an earful the second after the first thing goes wrong. I’ll take a few unseasonably warm days in Whistler over any of those other issues any day. There’s just so much good to be taken from these Games, maybe we can all just quit pointing fingers at our follies and just enjoy our athletes rising above the childish media behavior?
I think US Men’s Hockey Team GM, Brian Burke, said it best with this earlier quote in response to the criticisms of Vancouver 2010:
“I think that’s bullshit. I’ve been to four Winter Olympics. This is the best one I’ve been to in terms of organization. You’re going to have glitches in an event this size. With this many people, logistical things with multiple venues, you’re going to have glitches. I don’t know why people are whining about it. I think it’s been extraordinarily well run — again, this is my fourth one so it’s not like I’m a novice. I think they’ve done a marvellous job here. I wish people would quit bitching about it.”
Man, for a million reasons, I wish Brian Burke was Canadian.
From the 2:30 mark, “The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the 21st Olympic games in 2010 are awarded to the city of….(dramatic pause)….Vancouver.”
I still remember ducking out of my hated construction labor job for 20 minutes in July of 2003; strategically hiding from my boss, taking refuge in my car which I parked out of plain view, reclining the seat and turning up the radio to hear the announcement being broadcast on a local station. My hair stood straight up and chills ran down my spine when IOC President Jacques Rogge finally said “Vancouver.” Unfortunately I had to go back to hating my job and life prompty after that, but they were 20 minutes I’ll never forget. I still get those same chills even when I remember back to it now. For seven years, I’ve been excited for Vancouver, and Canada, to host these winter Olympics. I know I’m not the only one either.
An event like the Olympics effects not only one entire nation, but the entire world. Anytime things of that magnitude occur, opposition naturally follows. And that’s part of the beauty of our democratic societies; that we allow free speech, and people have the right to balk at things they believe are worth standing against. Are there bad things that will come out of Canada hosting the games? Surely. The $500 million+ dollars pumped into these games could’ve been spent a lot of other ways; especially amongst a recovering economic recession. Would we have ended homelessness in our country with that money? Tough to say. Were we not careful enough with the environment when constructing facilities? Did we not represent the Indigenous people of Canada, and our other cultural origins correctly? Did we go overboard on security in an attempt to keep terrorism and other threats to peace out of the picture? Are there another 100 things that were not done to the liking of our 30 million residents? Probably. Is anyone actually making the case that we did things perfect? Not likely. Sometimes athletes cheat, sometimes there’s corruption in the IOC. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t. Some countries get more money to train, and some have to just make due. Personally, I don’t like the fact that our politicans and corporate sponsors ALL managed to get prime tickets to ALL the events, and the public was subject to an inane online lottery system. Oh, and that some of those tickets cost $1000 or more. Athletes get hurt, and probably more unfortunate than anything else, sometimes athletes are fatally injured; as in the case of Georgian Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili. So yeah, there’s a lot of imperfect things that the Olympics bring.
But can we think positively for at least 2 weeks? If anyone who watched the opening ceremonies that saw the 60,000 Canadians packed into BC Place draped in red and white, waving the Maple Leaf, and resounding in excitement, thinks that Canadians aren’t pleased as punch to be hosting these games, well they couldn’t be more wrong. For every stick in the mud, there’s an entire tree full of green, growing branches, reaching for the sky and enjoying their time in the sun. And that’s exactly what Canada has before it; 2+ weeks to shine in international light.
Canadians love sport, and we love our athletes that compete for us as well. The thing about athletics is it has the ability to transcend even the thickest cultural and international disagreements in the name of sportsmanlike competition. If you need any proof of that, look at the nations of Iran and North Korea; absolutely scorned by the Western world as being on the brink of nuclear war with us. But through all that justified tension, North Korea has sent a speed-skater, and Iran’s sent 2 skiers to compete in the Games; and to, if only briefly, join and be welcomed by the international community. Even Israel and Lebanon will put aside differences to be a part of the Olympiad. That’s powerful stuff.
Look at Ghana, Ethiopia, Nepal, and other impoverished countries that may or may not even see a flake of snow in their countries, but come to the Games with the support of their governments and train between full-time jobs to earn spots on their national rosters to compete because they believe that the Olympics are worth the effort and sacrifice necessary to get to them. And really, that’s exactly what the Olympics are all about in their purest form; the best amateur athletes in the world, putting aside barriers, competing cleanly, for their country, to showcase the best that their human abilities have to offer in terms of their unique sport.
The thing is, there’s so much good to be harvested out of such a criticized event. We ran a little flicker of a flame from Greece, around the entire planet, and through the streets and neighborhoods of nearly every city in our own country. In Kelowna, we had a kid with cancer cut out a few days of his chemotherapy treatments so he could be a local torchbearer. Many similarly touching stories laced our national torch relay as well.
We’ve come together as 6 continents to show that there’s at least one thing we can all be civil and peaceful about, if only for a short time. The world of sport blends together with art and culture to put on a show unlike any other. Our troops fighting for our freedom overseas gather around a TV, dressed in Canada clothing and sipping Tim Hortons’ coffee to watch the proceedings of Canadian icons Rick Hansen, Nancy Green, Betty Fox, Wayne Gretzky, and others completing the Olympic opening ceremonies. We bought pairs of red mittens, various apparel, grocery items, and pretty well anything we could get our hands on that we either knew would support Canadian athletes financially, or just emblazoned “Canada” on them to show our support.
So, through all the things there are to protest against, there are plenty of others that Canadians are rightfully excited about. How bananas are we going to all go when a Canadian wins our first gold medal that we’ve ever won on home soil? Our when our hockey team(s) (hopefully) strike gold as well? Between the Olympics and Paralympics, it’s going to be an exciting few weeks, and a historical moment for our country. I hope you choose to enjoy them with the rest of us. Go Canada go!
Just a quick update… due to some email subscription notification issues, I’ve added a new subscription button in the right hand margin over there ——>. Hopefully it works better than the last one. So if you were signed up on the old one, please re-sign up; and if you weren’t in the first place… well, don’t be that guy, join the group!
A few thoughts on football before people’s caring about it completely drifts away until next season…
First, of course a tip of the cap to the Saints for winning the Superbowl. I’m not anywhere near the first person to make this observation, but New Orleans was in need of something to celebrate since the Hurricane there. Enjoy the “Lombardi Gras(awesome name)”, New Orleans!
Now that we’re in the TiVO age, the Superbowl is the only television broadcast (possibly) in history that people will actually fast-forward the content in order to get to the commercials. $3 million dollars for 30 seconds this year. Here’s the best one that I saw:
So all the winners of any championship are on the field decked out in their new championship shirts and hats. Obviously they had that stuff printed up prior to the win, and they must’ve made stuff for both teams (especially in a 1 game showdown for all the marbles, like in football). So I’m wondering, where do all the printed shirts and hats go of the team that didn’t win the championship? Is it carted off to be incinerated, as to not leave any evidence of its existence? I’d love to get my hands on the 1993 Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Champions stuff that never made it to the public.
The NFL recently adopted the use of captain’s C’s on their jerseys; ala the NHL. In hockey, this identifies you as a leader, and affords you the ability to converse with referees during the game. Hockey’s got C’s and A’s; but the NFL has developed some sort of Star Trek star ranking system. Can any football fans out there clue me in on the responsibilities possessed by NFL captains, and how the ranking system works?
The fact that headsets allow conversation between Quarterbacks, coaches, and team officials in the press box up top during games seems a little like cheating, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the players just play the game as they see it? What happened to the well-disguised hand signals and mouth covering of baseball?
And finally, is there any more indication that the NFL is a business first, game second, than the fact that the team owner gets to hoist the Lombardi Championship Trophy first, ahead of team captains, and all the players? I understand the whole “invested interest” thing, but come on man, those guys left it all out on the field to get their hands on that thing (also worked their entire lives to get to play at a level that’s nearly unobtainable by most humans). Everyone tuned in to watch THE PLAYERS play football. You paid a bunch of money. You deserve the hoist too, but let the guys have their fun first. Also, for how glorified the Superbowl has become, can we get them an adequately sized trophy? Nothing says, “We’re the best in the world!” like a huge, two-hands-required, over-the-head-hoist, trophy.
The Stanley Cup is a prime example; with all the engravings of past champs
and additions of new sections over 100+ years of hockey. You lift a lot more than that season over your head when you win it; especially considering you have to win 4 seperate 7 game series’ to get it. The NFL’s just got a shiny football on a stick that you can lift with one hand. And you can win it in one game. Which would you rather win?
With Mark McGwire’s recent tearful admission of steroid use throughout his baseball career after plenty of speculation, we’ve all gone and (rightfully so) pointed our fingers, called McGwire and other players who have admitted (or that we speculate) taking performance enhancing drugs, as cheaters; tarnishing world class baseball, and to an extent, world class athletics and their athletes in the process.
Now lets get one thing straight before we go any further; these guys are cheaters. But that’s not the major point I’d like to discuss.
Before we factor in the advantage of performance enhancing drugs, can we at least admit that these athletes are simply talented individuals, gifted in their field? McGwire made some good, or at least arguable, points throughout his admission interview. When Bob Costas asked him if he believes he could have hit the record breaking 70 homeruns, or his 600 career homeruns, without the assistance of drugs, McGwire replied,
“Absolutely. I was given this gift by the man upstairs; to hit home runs. I started studied pitchers. I started understanding how they try to get you out. During that, my swing was changing. I started off as a raw kid, who had the ability to hit from the back leg and hit wall-scrapping home runs. Over the years, as you saw, my swing became shorter and shorter, and I learned how to hit through the baseball… The only reason I took steroids was for my health purposes. I did not take steroids to get any gain for any strength purposes… I’ve always had bat speed. I just learned how to shorten my bat speed. I learned how to be a better hitter. There is not a pill or an injection that is going to give me the hand-eye – or give any athlete – the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball. A pill or an injection will not hit a baseball… As I look back now I can see why people would say [that I cheated]. As far as the God-given talent and hand-eye coordination and the genetics I was given, I don’t see it [as cheating]… I look at my swing and look at how it evolved over time. That’s from a lot of hard work. That’s from many, many hours of hitting off the tee. I was the first one to the ballpark and the last one to leave… I just believed in my ability and my hand-eye coordination. And I believed in the strength of my mind. My mind was so strong, and I developed that on my own. No pill or no injection is going to do that.”
Former McGwire teammate, Jose Canseco, recently spoke via Twitter on the admission interview. Though he claimed McGwire hadn’t been entirely truthful about what he said, he did make some agreeable sentiments, saying,
“Bat speed, timing, hand eye coordination, balance…. you either have it or you don’t. Talent and hard work are key components to success as a professional athlete. Steroids do help, but you have to have the foundation.”
A 2008 documentary entitled “Bigger, Stronger, Faster*” made some interesting points that many people may not know; such as Tiger Woods’ laser eye correction to 20/15 vision, which gives him an very unfair advantage over his competitors. Of course, he’s really good at golf for a lot of good reasons, but this seems like an unnecessary loophole, doesn’t it? Does he need to be talented, and have the ability to see the cup from the tee box 500 yards away?
I really believe that the best players in sports are simply better than the rest of the people on the planet at what they do. On a level playing field, not a lot of people would be anywhere close to as good at baseball as McGwire, or as Woods in golf, or any other celebrated athlete. Those guys are just better than you. The players I feel bad for are the ones with that raw talent who stayed clean through their careers but were only potential major league fringe players at best, but get beat out by another player of the same talent level that didn’t stay clean, and had to watch a cheater fulfill his dream instead of him. At least those guys will have marbles for nuts in the end.
But beyond pro sports, some people use drugs called Beta Blockers, like Propranolol, to avoid stage fright, tremor, performance anxiety, panic, pounding heart, cold/clammy hands, increased respiration, sweating, and other conditions that could cause less than optimal performance.
Many professional musicians use these anxiety reducing drugs to calm nerves and increase focus prior to performances. So next time you’re auditioning for a spot in a band, and that guy who was no good last month suddenly gets awesome at his instrument and beats you out for a spot and becomes a big rock star while you stay home playing Guitar Hero, maybe there’s more to it?
Even students use them to improve test, homework, and school scores. Wouldn’t you hate to think that someone got the last spot into a prestigious school, or won some sort of competition over you because they were on something, and you weren’t?
Some doctors and surgeons use the same stuff before performing procedures. Wouldn’t you want your doctor at the top of his or her game before opening you up and playing with your life?
So the question is, are these people cheating too? If we shine the spotlight so prominently on baseball players, pro wrestlers, bodybuilders, and other professional athletes; should we not hold people competing in entirely different fields of play accountable as well? Where should the line be drawn? Why can Arnold Schwarzenegger do steroids, gain fame, become a movie star, and eventually a governor; why can Sylvester Stallone beef up with HGH for the latest Rocky installment, be a hero and make a ton of money; why can countless other people in other professions put these same substances in themselves without a word of objection from anywhere, but as soon as Bonds or Sosa hit an absurd amount of homeruns, all of a sudden their reputation is tarnished forever and everything they do gets an * beside it? Both sides are putting on a show to “set an example for the kids”, but isn’t it interesting which people become the bad guys and which carry on as they were when the truth comes out?