*The following was cobbled together after I had a day to reflect on the best three hours of these Olympics -- opening cermony, included -- and the best soccer game I've ever seen. The language is fractured and my thoughts are incomplete. I felt that was the most accurate way to reflect my emotions and nationalistic heartbreak. "Some things" cant be explained with proper grammar.
There are few things I like more than the Monday of a long weekend. For me, this one featured an all-day hangover, some early morning coffee and a flight from Winnipeg to Vancouver. From home to home, I'd say.
It would have been a painful day -- physically and emotionally -- if it weren't for the best soccer game I've ever seen. Sure, there have been some decent Champions League showdowns (Liverpool's three-goal comeback in 2005, anyone?) and some downright decent games at various Euros (can anybody stop Fernando Torres?), but Monday's Canada vs. the States was so good it made you forget you were watching women's soccer, or care (if you did).
Too often, female athletes have to fight for airtime, and for recognition. It shouldn't be like that, but sports are sexist in nature, like the RCMP and the Army. We're all guilty of slighting female athletes. So, thank God for Monday, because we can't now.
Christine Sinclair's hat trick, a questionable (few) call(s) from Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen (there always has to be the ref factor in close games that go the distance with so much on the line), an Adam's apple-dropping header by Alex Morgan... it all went down at Old Trafford.
The Theatre of Dreams. Or, sorry, have you not heard that enough by now? But, in reality, what more did you need? This was the best event of the entire Olympics, and it was especially dream-worthy to see the world's friendliest (but, not really) cross-border rivals throw down and unite the world in a sport that needs illumination, desperately.
Compared to this, Usain Bolt's thrilling 9.63 seconds was like a warmup to something better. The U.S. gymnastics performance mattered little once this marathon game was over. It made us forget about a very memorable Euro Cup.
Sure, you knew who Christine Sinclair was before Monday, but did you really know? Did you know she won a national championship with Portland, that she's been nominated for FIFA's female player of the year five times and never won, and that she is perhaps the best Canadian in her sport, or in any sport?
Does another Canadian athlete dominate their game like Sinclair does hers? Is there any other Canadian who is head and shoulders the best in her country the way she is? Crosby's decent, but even he hasn't won a Hart Trophy since 2007.
And then, there's Alex Morgan. You know her because she has 21,345 followers on Instagram, and if you've seen her then you know why. There's Hope Solo, who has made more headlines for the casual fan because of what she says than what she does.
The rest of Team U.S.A. is a who's who of idols and celebrities, at least among their demographic. Funny, isn't it, how the majority of the world is female and yet their sports have to fight for national respect? Softball is no different, and soccer (or, football) is slightly bigger, but only slightly. Their participation is huge, but the ability to make it and make a living off your dream and hobby just isn't there yet. If you're Alex Morgan or Hope Solo, your living has come from your ability to star on Sports Illustrated covers and ESPN's Body Issue. When it comes to financial security and a "realistic career choice" -- you know, the things you can explain to your parents' friends at Christmas parties -- women's soccer isn't there with the rest of them.
At least, the perception is that it's not. Although, in that case, maybe it's no different from journalism.
These American women are heroes for young girls in the 50 states (and Puerto Rico, I guess), and hopefully Monday's game does the same for 10 provinces and three territories.
There's always something so thrilling about a game like that semifinal, especially when it's not under an NBA roof or in an NFL stadium. It's that something that is so appealing and enrapturing about Olympic team sports: one team is a favourite in almost every possible way, but the underdog knows its opponent so well. Knows how it moves, how it shoots, how it runs. It's like you're playing your best friend, or your sister. No matter how much better the one is (and we're talking about the U.S. in this case, if you couldn't tell), the underdog is not at a disadvantage.
After 90 minutes, they're dead even and exhausted. The layers have been stripped and both lay bare and exposed. When Sinclair scored to make it 3-2, her normal jubilant fist pump was replaced with one of absolute purpose. When the Americans were inexplicably given two kicks to tie it, their reaction was one of relief. Both teams refused to give the other an inch, unless they did. There were a few breakdowns -- seven, in fact -- and they all resulted in goals.
It's always those games that come down to a referee, whether you believe she was wrong or not. Those games -- those dead-even slug-fests -- are impossible to finish without controversy.
These kinds of close, gut-wrenching games are best when they come in quote-unquote "small" sports, or at least "less televised" sports. I've seen a few. The CIS basketball semifinal in 2009 between Western and Carleton was one, and I was thrilled that the Ravens won in overtime. It's perhaps still the best basketball game I've ever seen.
To watch all those women put everything on the line, and especially knowing the tragedy of sports which is that one would have to lose, was a delight. A treat. A blessing. And, yet, a curse.
Sinclair's hat trick was spoiled by the Americans' suffocating and relentless attack. Sure, it sucks for us right now -- for us provinces and territories -- but it's hard to take this one away from the States. Both teams were equals on Monday, only one clicked at the right moment while the other lost three separate one-goal leads.
What more could you say, really?
Twitter was overtaken by folks of all backgrounds, stripes, and spots. People who I know never watch sports and act indifferent to the Olympics were in cold sweats. ESPN heavyweights were losing their collective sh*t. CTV was trying to catch up, and the CBC was forced to replay the highlights with still shots and some pathetic story of the fan experience in London.
(*It's that network's go-to right now, which happens when you don't have the rights to anything. You can't actually show the game, so instead you show Canadians eating fish n' chips and haggis in pubs with names like "The Maple Leaf" and on and on and on. It would be cool if you didn't know it was only on the TV because Canada's national broadcaster has a lack of resources.)
My mother was watching every minute of it, and yelling at me when the States tied it at two and I was in the bathroom. And, I mean, my mom doesn't like soccer.
I'm sorry to repeat Monday's most overused cliche, but it really was a Theatre of Dreams.
But, don't forget, we've still got a bronze to win.
This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine