Thursday, August 09, 2012

Canada: Land of the Three

*NOTE* This is my first post for Cosby Sweaters - hence the Canadian introduction. I'm sorry (how very Canadian of me).

My name is Chris Suppa, and I’m from Canada, where they apparently celebrate third place.

5/8ths of Canada’s medals are bronze. They have one gold medal, in women’s trampoline, which is a borderline sport in a competition chock full of borderline sports.

Canada also boasts five silver medals, which is nice if you like acknowledging the first loser.

Here’s the thing: the rest of the world only cares about gold medals. In fact, it’s only recently that North American media outlets altered their medal count standings to indicate that the country with the most gold medals - and not the one with the most total medals – should be on top of the leaderboard.
Makes sense, right? You won the most events, you win the Games.

Well, if Canada was honest with themselves and only counted gold medals, they’d be rubbing elbows with the likes of Slovenia, Norway and Grenada: all Summer Olympics powerhouses, to be sure.

I actually had a debate today with my co-workers (I work at a Toronto sports TV station – this is important information considering the content of said debate) about who should be the flag bearer for Canada if the medal count stays the way it is.

Most of them wanted Christine Sinclair, the standout player of Canada’s bronze-medal winning women’s soccer team.

That’s right: Canadians would rather reward the best player on a 3rd place finishing team than acknowledge the one athlete that actually managed to WIN HER EVENT.

This is perhaps the most Canadian attitude towards something not involving universal health care.
Sure, Sinclair was absolutely dominant, and has put herself in the conversation for the best women’s soccer player ever.

But this isn’t the Lou Marsh Award (for Americans, it’s the award we give to the standout Canadian athlete of the year – you’re welcome), it’s the Olympics, which is supposed to be a showcase for the very best, and third-best is not the very best.

Most Americans understand the distinction between competing and winning, and how winning is the only thing that really matters. When Michael Phelps doesn’t win gold, it’s considered a disappointment, as it should be. I’d wager he rarely gives a second thought to the silver and bronze medals he’s collected, and why should he? They’d just be reminders of the handful of events he didn’t win in his historic career.

Americans demand excellence and victory from their athletes, and because Canadians don’t have, and likely will never have, that mentality, they’ll have to settle for being also-rans and afterthoughts.

If you’re not first, you’re last. If Ricky Bobby gets that, so should Canada.

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