Sunday, February 15, 1998
Olympic spirit hard to find
But even at the Olympics, where there is at least lip service paid to the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play, the trash-talking babble of the rabble that smears pro sports is spreading like a stain.
In a nothing game between the U.S. and Canadian women's hockey teams, Canadian Danielle Goyette, whose father died of Alzheimer's disease on the eve of the Games, goes sprinting off the ice at the conclusion of the last game of the preliminary round.
She runs hellbent for the Canadian dressing room, tears of hurt and fury in her eyes. Her teammates find her sobbing.
Someone on the U.S. team, the Canadians say, said something disparaging to her about her father.
The game, won 7-4 by the Americans, had no bearing on the tournament since both the U.S. and Canada already had qualified for the gold medal game Tuesday.
That game marked the 14th time the two clubs had met during the past few months in the runup to the Games. You can't play that often and not build some animosity. Add the pressure that these women are facing now and tempers could be wearing thin.
Words can be used to get an edge in sports, but is that not crossing the line?
At Karuizawa Kazakoshi Park arena, the curling venue, U.S. skip Tim Somerville makes a perfect, last-shot tap back to snatch a victory from the Japanese.
Somerville goes into a wild, arm-pumping celebration, perhaps a little over the line, while nearby, the Japanese skip cries.
Though the defeat was heartbreaking for the Japanese, neophytes in the game, they were the ones to show some sportsmanship, lauding Somerville's shot.
"The last end, it couldn't have been a more exciting end," said Japanese coach Elaine Dagg-Jackson. "The fans were cheering and it was so great and such an emotional finish to the game.
"We didn't really think he was going to throw that tap, but I guess that was the only way to make it and he made it perfectly."
Some might feel Somerville got what was coming to him hours later when Canadian Mike Harris thrashed him 7-1 in eight ends, sending Canada on to the gold-medal final against Switzerland.
But not even the Canadians, quiet, polite, known around the world for our sunny dispositions, could take the victory and just quietly go into the good night.
After the destruction of the Americans, Canadian lead George Karrys said: "The 50th- or 60th-ranked men's club team in Canada could beat the best European team hands down, our depth is that strong."
Rather than play down what Karrys had said, Harris amended it a bit, saying it would probably only be the 40th-best men's team that could beat the best Europe has to offer.
"I think the 10th-place team at Brandon (where the Canadian Olympic trials were held)," said Harris, "could have come here and been the favorite."
Maybe so, but why give the Swiss any more motivation, the kind of stuff they can pin up in their dressing room for a little extra incentive?
What makes the condescending Canadian attitude even more surprising is Harris was taking on Switzerland's Patrick Huerlimann, a good friend.
Harris went to Europe to teach golf when he was 18 and met Huerlimann there. They became friends.
Harris attended Huerlimann's wedding and Harris still stays at his house for a few days every year when Harris returns to Europe for his golf job in Austria.
When Huerlimann travelled to Toronto and was learning English, he stayed with Harris.
"If one of us couldn't win, we'd be happy for the other," said Harris.
Sounds nice, but in the face of the Canadian bragging after the match with the Americans, it perhaps rang a little hollow.
You look for the good things, you really do.
But they're getting harder to find.