Monday, March 1, 2010

In the absense of any significant!

Well, there hasn't been any significant news from Cubs camp over the weekend...

Carlos Marmol hit superstar in waiting, Starlin Castro, with a pitch on Saturday...

Ted Lilly is finally back to working out again after bad knees and flu and whatever.  It looks as if Lilly will indeed miss the first month of the season.

Angel Guzman started throwing again yesterday and felt ok.

Oh, and everyone loves Marlon Byrd.

So without much going on today...I'll discuss some thoughts I had while watching the USA vs. Canada hockey game yesterday.

I have to admit, I haven't really been struck by the hockey fever that has been running around Chicago over the last couple years.  In fact, I really have had a hard time getting into hockey for the last 10 years or so.  I have a couple reasons for that...first, my friend Matt, who often comments here, had season tickets for the Blackhawks for a number of years, and I would occasionally go to games with him.  He moved away from Chicago, and gave up those tickets.  I really loved going to those games and it really peeked my interest in the sport.  Also, during that time, the Cubs were usually uncompetitive, which made my diversion to other sports much easier.  To compound that, after the lost '04-'05 season, I just completely ignored hockey.

Now I know enough about what is going on with the Blackhawks to not be completely ignorant of how cool it is that the Hawks are really good again for the first time since I was in high school.  I know the names...Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Toews, Keith, Huet, Niemi, Seabrook.  I know the rules.  I can follow the game.  I'm far from an expert, but I know enough to enjoy watching the game and to really get into the intensity of a good match-up.

I love the fact that so many of the Blackhawks were not only playing in the Olympics, but they were crucial players on what ever team they were on.  Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa's names were constantly being mentioned during the games they were playing in.  What a great time to be a Hawks fan!

Ok, so what does thing have to do with anything?

Well, I watched that USA/Canada gold medal game yesterday and I was absolutely drawn in.  It was great.  One of the most fun and exciting games I had seen in a long, long time.  I was far to young in 1980 to have seen the 'miracle on ice'...but as far as the Olympics go, I don't recall a game or competition of any sort, that had the buzz and excitement that the match-up yesterday had. 

But this discussion started by me asking this question...Why was there so much excitement associated with this game?

I figured out number of factors that may have been involved in creating the excitement we witnessed.

#1-  Hockey is the national sport of Canada.  There is no disputing that.  Canada loves hockey, and the fact that Canada actually got to hold the winter Olympics and that the greatest stars of their favorite sport were actually participating in the Olympics made this extra special to the Canadians.

You would have thought something similar would have happened with basketball in this country.  While not the most popular sport in America, basketball is still widely popular, and the NBA allows its players to participate in the Olympics.  That leads into point number 2...

#2-  The games where competitive.  While there were some games that were blow outs in the Olympics, the hockey games, for the most part, were actually quite competitive.  The fact that the gold medal game had to go into sudden death overtime demonstrated that fact more than anything else.

When the Olympics and the NBA allowed the professional players to participate in the summer games in 1992 (and years following), people were really interested in those basketball games, but the games themselves weren't all that interesting to watch and you didn't have to watch every second.  The US team blew out every single opponent they faced.  No drama.  There was little doubt in the team's ability to win the gold.

Since 1996, the rest of the world has started to catch up to the US in basketball, and next time the Olympics are held in this country (2096?), well things might be different. But I doubt it...and here's why...

#3-  The players cared.  This might have more to do with the actual physicality of hockey, but the players really seemed to relish playing for their country and trying to earn that gold medal.  Do you ever get the feeling that the NBAers just don't care?  I do.  All the time.

#4-  Hockey is more of a global sport.  It's not global in the sense that it is played on all corners of the globe...I don't recall how well the Brazilian hockey team did this year...did they earn the Bronze?  But besides the US and Canada, hockey is huge in the Scandinavian countries and in Russia.

#5-  There is no other global hockey competition.  Basketball has some sort of world championship.  Baseball now has the WBC.  Soccer has the World Cup.  This is it for hockey.  


It really disappoints me that as someone who lives in this great country, I will never be able to feel the pride and excitement that the people of Canada felt yesterday.  During the medal ceremony, it brought me a chill watching and hearing 17,000 people in that arena singing "Oh Canada". Maybe that was the case in Lake Placid in 1980.  I don't know.

In 2016, when Rio holds the Olympics, it's very possible we could could witness the same sort of thing during the soccer competition.  But the Olympics aren't the World Cup.  Who knows.

But even that being said, if the US won yesterday, yeah, it would have been great, but would I have felt a ton more pride in my country because of it?  No. Maybe it's because we put so much emphasis on our own sports leagues in this country.  We are so self absorbed in what we have and do that everything else just seems trivial. 

I just can't see something like what we saw in Vancouver yesterday ever striking such emotion, such pride in me. 

As a baseball fan, I would love for baseball to be that way.  But I just don't see how it could ever be.  Would the players even want to play in the Olympics?  Would owners even allow it?  I expect that the excitement would be no greater than it is for basketball, but instead of the Yugoslavians beating the US, it would be the Japanese.  And no one would care. 

For the time being I'll have to settle on the Cubs playing the Cardinals instead of the great hitters of the US going up against the crafty veteran pitchers of the East Germans or something like that. 

I just wish that someday we could all see an event where the US wins a gold medal on home soil and everyone in the arena or stadium will stand and sing the Star Spangled Banner in unison as the American flag is raised.