Something to Root For

By Kellyn Brown

In the Beacon office, we have a sales executive who is originally from Calgary, Alberta. Proud of it. And, like many of those who have citizenship in both countries, when it comes to hockey, he roots for Canada.

While I would like to argue that he took the Canadians’ first loss in men’s hockey to the Americans in the preliminary rounds of the Olympics a bit too seriously, it would be hypocritical to point fingers. I really cared about that game and other, more obscure, winter competitions over the last few weeks. Along with temporarily becoming a die-hard hockey fan, I rooted for a variety of athletes that I had previously never heard of, for no other reason than that they were Americans.

For every person who says they don’t care about the Olympics, there are at least two people who really do – count me in the latter camp. I recorded nearly every telecast and watched parts of almost every event.

There was the Nordic combined, where Americans Bill Demong and Johnny Spillane won the gold and silver in the European-dominated sport, of which, before the Olympics, I could not say what it combined – ski jumping and cross-country skiing.

While I was more familiar with the bobsled, mostly from the Disney movie “Cool Runnings” – based on the first Jamaican bobsled team – it’s not the easiest Olympic event to get excited about. Yet I cheered on Steven Holcomb as he drove the aptly named “Night Train” to America’s first gold medal in the event in 62 years.

In the men’s team pursuit, which involves three speedskaters racing around the track in a group, with their final time based on the slowest skater’s performance, America’s Chad Hendrick and two unknown teenagers knocked off the mighty Dutch before falling to the Canadians in the gold-medal race. And I cheered to the end.

I watched one of the first events, the women’s moguls, at a lounge in Whitefish that was filled with equal parts Americans and Canadians. We good-heartedly applauded our home-country’s skiers. America’s Hannah Kearney placed first, right in front of Jennifer Heil of Canada.

Throughout the week, though they didn’t need to, NBC’s analysts provided vignettes and interviews that made it clear who you should be cheering for and why. While the network’s coverage was widely panned, the Olympic stories they told made me realize that it’s been a while since we all backed the same team.

I was again reminded of that by the other big made-for-TV event last week – the “Health Care Summit.” In their coverage, analysts picked over seven hours of C-SPAN footage to feed sound bites to their commentators who then decided who won or lost. It was just another example of how we have taken sides on almost everything over the last year.

To be sure, that’s the nature of politics and these huge bills being discussed matter much more in the long run than who won the U.S.-Canada gold medal game that was dubbed by some the “biggest hockey game in the history of hockey.”

Team USA’s losing effort didn’t matter as much as the fact that we, as Americans, for the first time in a long time, had a shared, rooting interest. When my girlfriend cares about hockey, a sport she understands less than football, you know there’s a bit more to it that just sports.

As we inch closer to another “pivotal” election, Americans will again be reminded of how passionately they disagree on just about everything. That may be why so many pundits declared that the “Winter Olympics are relevant again.” Because they certainly needed to be.

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