Well, another Olympiad has come and gone, and for the XXXth consecutive quadrennium, Canada somehow failed to top the medal count. But cheer up! Not only did we take home the most bronze per-capita (just in time for the coming penny shortage!), but the nation's editorial pages are practically brimming with encouraging sentiment about national pride and junk.
"Bronze on the podium, gold in our hearts," beams the National Post editorial board, sounding more like a Dr. House diagnosis than they probably intended. Partaking in that typically Canadian ritual of bragging about being modest (and then feigning awkward about it), the NatPo celebrates the fact that for once, Canadians "seem more able to enjoy the competition itself and the remarkable performances when they occur," as opposed to all the weeping and slashing that usually defines our consumption of sport.
Yes indeed, agrees Goldy Hyder in the Vancouver Sun, we're all super stoked about our Olympic successes, and don't give a beaver's tail if screaming those words "would have been considered an 'un-Canadian' remark" in some ill-defined past. Canada's the "envy of the world" these days precisely because we've learned to love ourselves so vigorously inside the stadium and out -- so everyone just sit back and watch the free trade deals roll in.
But how about our conduct in the games themselves?
Already an overflowing cornucopia of patriotic narratives at the best of times, the London Olympics proved to be a particularly deep horn of inspiring national myths for any nation willing to reach in.
Usain Bolt moved the tiny island of Jamaica to tears by proving his country can be good at a sport that's not hilariously ironic. Britain's Bradely Wiggins breathed new life into his nation's long-running fetish for ludicrous facial hair. And Canada's women's soccer team gave the world's most insecure people one more reason to gripe about being screwed by Americans.
The fact that our fluky loss to the U.S. last Monday has received such ample play in the non-sports sections of the papers suggests the punditocracy found more than a little political subtext in the travails of Captain Sinclair's plucky band of upstarts, which is really a greater honour than it sounds. Forget medals, you haven't really made it as an athlete in Canada until you're a metaphor for something.
"Every now and then," says the Toronto Star board, "a moment in sport - a crushing defeat or an inspiring victory - comes along that focuses a nation's attention and galvanizes its sense of pride." Women's soccer was apparently 2012's moment, though who wants to bet that it'll be the crushin' rather than the inspirin' that we'll be teaching our grandkids about?
In any case, young Ms. Sinclair has clearly "earned a spot in Canadian sports lore," for all the "passion and patriotic pride," on display during that fateful Monday, fawns the Calgary Sun. To be fair, it was kind of strange "to see a sport other than hockey grip the collective imagination," responds the Ottawa Citizen, but meh, let's just embrace the mystery.
No paper, of course, engages with the idea that in the hyper-competitive, hyper-nationalized Olympic hothouse, who you play matters every bit as much as what you're playing. And in a country with no shortage of pathological hang-ups about our southern neighbour, practically any heated Canada vs. U.S. match is destined to become some kinda "moment," much as we may insist our fascination was really spawned by an overnight appreciation for female athleticism, or whatever.
Had we faced an incredibly tense, high-stakes standoff with the Yankee devils in the women's canoe sprint, for instance, I'm sure the these same fair-weather soccer fanatics would be demanding we hoist our closing ceremonies' flag from a rowing oar.
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Now, I know we're all excited about the big Saturday morning reveal of Mitt Romney's running mate, but as Canadians we must learn to ignore the shiny distractions of the American election and remain focused on our own, equally compelling brand of politics. For example, on Thursday Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser introduced a new program to monitor oh whatever let's just talk about Paul Ryan.
If you're a Canadian journalist looking for an excuse to write about the big sexy funtimes that is the U.S. presidential race, a good way to conceal your magpie-like motives is to dream up some specious "Canadian connection" to fool your editors into paying for that DC ticket. First prize in this contest should surely go to Postmedia's Randy Boswell, whose Saturday profile of the Republican VP wannabee stretches to new limits the notion of what constitutes a "domestic angle."
Did you know Ryan appears to possess " at least a fleeting knowledge" of Canadian tax rates and health care? It's true! He's mentioned both in actual speeches! To Americans! And don't get me started on the Keystone pipeline, which he's also aware of! Man, forget Obama, has anyone seen this guy's birth certificate? You sure it won't say Moose Jaw or something?
Kelly McParland at the National Post, meanwhile, offers up a rather absurd column on Ryan in which he simply cobbles together a bunch of quotes from other newspaper editorials, throws in a few snippy quips of his own, and then holds up the whole lazy hodge-podge as if it's some sorta profound media survey.
Can you believe what some people get paid to do?