Settling

After much garment rending and gnashing of teeth, Canadians have gotten back to what we’re really good at after every Olympics: deluding ourselves into thinking that losing is winning.

For a while there, a week, in fact, it almost looked as though we were going to be blanked at the Beijing Games. A few multi-medal day performances later, we were decidedly out of the basement and firmly entrenched in the foyer of mediocrity, as is our habit, and the cries of “Why are we such losers?” were turning to proud declarations of “We’re not the worst losers!”
18 medals in all. This is the final tally of the 2008 Summer Olympiad for Canada. Sadly, this is also one of our best showings in history, despite the fact that it is a third of many other countries our size, and roughly a fifth of this year’s leaders.
And we’re proud of this. We regale our athletes and welcome them back as heroes, and rightfully so, in fairness; it’s not their fault that our collective athletic might was so meek. They fought their hardest and accomplished personal bests and set Canadian records, which are all fine acheivements, despite the fact that they still failed to win. I wouldn’t blame the athletes for failure, I’d blame the rest of us fat slobs sitting on our couches at home.
Canadians have the attention span of four year-olds. Or chihuahuas. Or four year-old chihuahuas. We pay attention to the issue of the moment, get all impassioned and excited, thump our chests and grind our molars, and promptly fixate on the next shiny thing that flashes past our eyes. This is why we fail to accomplish much on the world stage. This is why the most accomplished of us go elsewhere for fame and fortune. We simply don’t have the ability to keep our minds on something long enough for us to do well.
The country needs Ritalin, not flouride, in the municipal water supply.
The federal government sums up our attitude in their pathetic and paltry token offer of a few million here and there to fund Olympic athletes and their training. And, in every season that there isn’t an Olympics, they’re far from our gnat-like minds. And so our hopefuls toil and train and try and perfect themselves in an environment devoid of attention and funding, which is why we can be really really good, but not great.
It’s an embarassment.
As great a country as Canada is, I feel as though our Olympic mediocrity sums up one of our greatest weaknesses. We have the desire to be great, but we don’t have the resilience or persistence to attain greatness. And, worse yet, we try and make ourselves feel better in our mediocrity by consoling ourselves with mindless optimism. We cheer one of our best Olympic turn-outs, we cheer our multiple multi-medal winning days, we cheer the many Canadian records, personal bests and near-wins. In short, we cheer the fact that we are losers, but not the worst of all the losers.
Huzzah!
I hear people get indignant and cranky when someone else, usually me, points out the fact that we are pathetic in athletic competitions, and this, in turn, makes me cranky. Well, alright, I was cranky from the outset, but all things are relative and graded on a scale. How can we so comfortably settle for failure? Why are we so lazy that we can’t pay attention long enough to the things we want to accomplish to ensure that we accomplish them? I’ve heard excuses for the size of the population pool from which the athletes are chosen, to excuses regarding the militant approach to training that other countries espouse to ensure success.
And?
So what if the US is exponentially larger than we are? Does this mean that with our relatively fewer athletes, we can’t be just as good? Is there a genetic difference? Or are we just saying that American athletes run faster because they’re more likely to be shot at in their natural environment, so speed is an evolutionary advantage? So what if the Chinese fielded 14 year old? This just means that we weren’t merely beaten by another country’s athletes, but a child, no less. I don’t know if this excuse strengthens our position or our pride.
The Olympics are barely over, and already the newspapers, and our minds, have moved on to other interests. No doubt we will find ourselves in a similar situation in 2012, at the next summer games, because we will have stowed away our secret shame at our failures this year, until fresh failure brings it out of the closet and brushes the dust from it. Cynical, perhaps, but I have greater faith in our Canadian talent for forgetfullness. After all, there are other topics to gnash our teeth over that are far more en ce mmoent, right?
And by tomorrow I’ll have forgotten what this rant was all about.

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