White people suck.
We ruin everything. We suck the authenticity out, rip out the roots, and leave a Jamba Juice behind. Then we slap a 'Fair Trade' sticker on the front and say, "Hey, look, we're into the earth and hippy stuff, too. And that shot of liquified grass will be $5, thank you."
This whole World Cup thing -- this, let's keep Canada and Russia and the USA together, let's rip ourselves out of the Olympics just because John Tavares got a boo-boo in 2014, let's take all of Europe's excess and just shove it into the same corner, onto one team nobody identifies with -- is such a white people thing. That is to say, it's such a North American thing.
"Oh, hey, you know all those places like Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Slovenia? They're all the same, right? Two of them sound pretty much the same. Why don't they just play together?"
But I keep thinking about, what if Canada was forced to join some remedial basketball team -- what if they were forced to play in the Olympics with, like, Costa Rica and Venezuela and Australia or something? I'm sure that's a possibility; I can't imagine anyone who works at ESPN (a.k.a. the only people who really care about/make money off of Olympic basketball) would care about the feelings of any of the misfit toy countries, or any country outside their 50 tiny states.
But I would hate it.
I'd hate to be reduced to a symbol between parenthesis on a program. All it'd say next to Andrew Wiggins' name is (CAN). And it would happen in baseball, too -- if Russell Martin and Justin Morneau and Joey Votto had to sync-up with the Netherlands-Antilles and Italy.
Again, the only team that matters -- AMURRICAH! -- remains intact. They might have a tougher road to the final, just maybe, if they run into the Canaditaletherlands team. But their identity remains, their flag flies high, and the rest can suck on their diluted sense of national pride until they can't even remember their capital city is Ottawa, not Toronto, or wait... Montreal?
We'd be left like a bunch of Theon Greyjoys, too afraid to say our name's not Reek, just in case the mean overlords are listening.
Okay, I'm getting carried away. Of course.
But the fact is, if I'm a Swiss hockey player, I don't really care if I'm not going to win a gold medal. Same if I'm Latvian or Slovenian, or anything else. I'm proud to play for my country -- I'm proud to lose with my country.
And some of the most memorable moments in recent Olympic memory came from one of these no-business-being-there underdogs upsetting the apparatus -- Belarus stunning Sweden in 2002, Switzerland beating Canada in Turin, or Slovenia beating Slovakia in Sochi, or Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis making 55 saves to hold Canada at bay, in a narrow 2-1 loss last February. (Would you believe it -- Latvia was the biggest challenge Canada faced at Russia's Olympics; they were a tougher win than the United States or Sweden.)
None of these teams won a gold medal -- none of them even played for one. But who cares?
Only boring white people do... people like NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (via CBC News):
"Some of those preliminary games, most of those preliminary games, weren't competitive... They weren't good hockey. I think with these eight teams, every game is going to be competitive and it's going to be good hockey (with) the best players in the world."
Okay, you're right, Bill. They're not going to win the gold. But again, so what?
Is it really a big deal if you send 12 teams to the World Cup and six of them are dogs? They just might surprise you, after all -- they just might pull a Belarus, or a Gudlevskis.
Or is that the actual problem? Oh, see, that makes some sense.
After all, how can you get the NHLers who matter (Russians, Canadians, Americans, Swedes) to care about the World Cup if they're just going to be threatened and challenged by the people who live in the cupboard beneath the stairs?
Because, for the National Hockey League, this World Cup isn't really about the hockey or the competition or the montage-worthy moments... it's about killing the Olympics.
It's about control, and about getting control back. It's about taking those David and Goliath moments and turning them into a golf course banquet -- or at least into one of these commercials. There's nothing white people love more, after all, than control. (And Starbucks. And Keanu Reeves. And they love other white people, of course.)
"If the World Cup's a big deal, best-on-best tournament, why do we need to go to the Olympics?"
Give Daly credit -- he's not even hiding it. You can't call him devious, because he's quite honest about the World Cup's intentions. It wants to be Amazon -- it wants to turn the Olympics into hockey's brick-and-mortar Indigo.
But consider this now: if there's no Olympics, the World Cup becomes the only international game in town. (Duh.) And if that happens, then those guys who play for Switzerland or Latvia or Slovenia or Slovakia... what are they gonna do? Are they just never going to play competitive hockey under their flag again? Are they supposed to kiss it goodbye when the World Juniors are over? Just pretend they're German now, and there's no such thing as Polish?
(That's sarcasm, by the way... this entire article is sarcasm, with bits I truly mean. I know this is just about hockey -- it's nothing close to a cultural genocide. Perhaps that was obvious, but this is the Internet, and I wouldn't want the wrong person to read this on a day where they're cranky and they haven't had enough coffee.)
The complaint from Daly is, These countries aren't even good enough to keep it close. But then, how do you expect them to get better? How do you expect the game of hockey to grow, really, if you're going to castrate them and then tell them they sing funny?
Right now, Anze Kopitar isn't just keeping Slovenia's program alive -- he's the only reason it exists. Right now, if you're a kid in Slovenia, you have a role model in a game you maybe never thought you'd play. A dream you never had is now a reality, with a real-life superhero leading the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cups and international relevancy.
But what happens when that jersey disappears, when Kopitar is just amalgamated into a mash-up team of NHLers from the worst European countries?
And if the World Cup does indeed kill the Olympics, then Slovenia's hockey program dies with it.
But really, nothing I say -- or anyone else will say -- in opposition to this new international athletic era will matter, and perhaps that's why it's frustrating. The NHL will always win, because everyone who loves hockey will continue to love hockey, and they'll get over the parts they hate like the rest of us get over the one change Facebook makes to your newsfeed every year. Sportsnet will continue to pretend it's all a critical success, because it's in their best interest to do so, now that they're in a billion-dollar bed with the NHL.
The World Cup will be a hit, because hockey folk just want to watch hockey. They've got us all by those two things below 51 per cent of our legs.
White people know this, and white people have always known that. That's why there will always be a Starbucks nearby, even if you can make a better pot at home.