The comedian, Jerry Seinfeld has a routine on the Olympics regarding the recipients of the bronze and silver medals. The idea: getting the silver is worse than getting the bronze, because the bronze winner was not expected to win anything, but the silver medal winner gets, “What, you weren’t good enough to get the gold?”
I suppose there is some truth in the monolog and nowhere was it more apparent than in the medal ceremony for women’s ice hockey. The Canadians, winners of the gold were elated, as were the Swiss, winners of the bronze. But, the American team, silver medals around their necks, looked as if they’d just accidently shredded the winning $40 million Power Ball ticket.
Some saw it as poor sportsmanship, others the sincere reaction of fierce competitors.
You’d think that to medal would be a lifetime achievement regardless of the color, to stand on the podium the ultimate goal of any athlete. But, some competitors are so goal driven that only the title of “number one” will suffice.
So, should they be forgiven if they sulk upon falling short of their goal?
I’m not talking about the dark horse, the true amateur who competes for the sheer love of the game. Nor am I talking about the gang of misfits and rookies drawn together for a common cause and melded into a team by a crusty old coach, the kind of Cinderella story they make into a Hallmark TV movie.
No, these were professionals or semi-pros that have worked and dedicated their adolescent and adult lives to this purpose. As kids so driven they probably carried their hockey sticks to recess and study hall just to practice that perfect pass or shot on goal.
Maybe they can be forgiven for their show of sour grapes. Unlike other competitions there’s no “next year” in the Olympics. The losers of the Super Bowl look forward the next season. Four years is a long time to wait in the sports world. Too many things can intervene—non-sport careers, injuries, age, and just plain old loss of interest.
As I watched them on the rink and on the podium I saw a fierceness and dedication through those tears and a spark of realization forming that, even in a losing effort, it was enough to have left everything out on the ice.
One other thing. I was proud to be an American as I watched them even in their losing effort on the ice. Go USA!