ERSKINE’S OLYMPIC RECAP AND HIS THOUGHTS ON ICE DANCING; US vs CANADA

February 23, 2010

Chris Erskine of The LA Times gave us these entertaining and informative thoughts, “Reflections and observations on this, the 100th day of the 2010 Winter Games:

Canada has two main national sports: hockey and hockey.

The sun doesn’t come up here till almost 7. The people soon after.

Canadians are the kind of people who love to give directions. It is as if you are doing them a favor.

Best free thing in downtown Vancouver: the zipline at Robson Square.

Wait time for the free zipline: approximately five hours.

Time it takes to actually ride the zipline: 17 seconds.

We call it “Canadian bacon”; the Canadians call it “back bacon.”

You’ve got to love any country that has its own bacon.

Know what I like about NBC’s Al Michaels? Everything.

A recent poll found that 110% of Canadians are still confused as to why Gov. Schwarzenegger carried an Olympic torch.

In California, that number was slightly higher.

There are almost 20,000 blue-jacketed volunteers here, devoting their off time to making these Games a success.

None of them really knows anything.

But they are so kind and gracious, you don’t really mind.

They like cheese so much up here, they use it as a verb. As in, “I’m a little cheesed about that.”

Canadian translation: “I’m a little cheesed a-boot that.”

Watching curling always gives me the urge to sweep the porch.

A pair of those red mittens, one of the hottest souvenirs at the 2010 Games, costs $10.

The vendor had hoped to sell 1 million pairs. Sales are now up to almost 3 million. Cowbells, used to cheer Alpine skiers, are available at the Vancouver Public Library. The cost: $3.95.

Beer is to Canadians what helium is to balloons.

Canadians are in awe of the United States and tend to have a more favorable opinion of it than Americans do.

If you accidentally stand on a Canadian’s foot, he probably will apologize to you for having to stand on his foot.

No one seems to be having more fun at these Games than Mike Eruzione.

Asked if he was nervous about his appearance on “The Colbert Report,” Eruzione said, “Come on, it’s just a TV show.”

Did you know: Two weeks before the U.S. hockey team stunned the Russians in 1980, the Americans lost to the same Soviet team, 10-3, in an exhibition.

Segments from “The Colbert Report” taped in Vancouver this week will actually air next week.

Shaun White is currently the most interesting young athlete in America — poised, honest, funny. SoCal should be proud of the kid, still only 23.

Nationalized healthcare is a reflection of the Canadians’ natural inclination to help others. But it presupposes that the other people are doing everything they can to help themselves.

When London hosts in two years, the tabloids will no doubt dub it “The Olympic Thames.”

Then it’ll be everyone else’s turn to attack the snarky Brits, whose rush-to-judgment here has really cheesed off the Canadians.

Telling stat of the day: 80,000 girls play hockey in Canada. In Slovakia, which lost to Canada, 18-0, some 267 girls play the game.

In the U.S., the number is 60,000.

Classiest quote of the Games: “I’d say it was 99% him and 1% me,” said gold medalist Evan Lysacek, in crediting legendary coach Frank Carroll, 71.

The only real blowholes here seem to be TV producers and Russians.

If they ever hold a Blowhole Olympics, TV producers would capture the gold, the Russians the silver.

The Germans would finish third and throw a conniption.

Olympic record for a conniption throw: 30 meters (about 33 yards).”

“Know what I like? Ice dancing,” Chris wrote — “the elegance, the artistry, the physical contact. I used to express myself by cursing politicians on TV or swearing at other drivers. Now, ice dancing has come into my life.

Ice dancing is the sort of sport Barry Manilow might’ve invented. It belongs in Las Vegas, except it would all probably melt. Then it would be water dancing, which doesn’t sound so bad. Just imagine what NBC would do with a “skin cam.”

Right away you’re probably thinking, “Oh, this dude’s writing about ice dancing, he’s going to make fun of it.” But that’s not my way.

Matter of fact, in a world of instant messaging, quick hook-ups and Jiffy Lubes, I salute the time-defying old world elegance of Olympic ice dancing. Besides, we can always use more forums for funny little Bavarian marches.

What they do at ice dancing, as I’m sure you’ve seen, is to relate to one another in beautiful and heartfelt ways. Ice dancing is like a giant Olympic Hallmark Card, except that after it’s done, you just sort of want to shoot yourself.

Obviously, the budget for these things is not ginormous.

The other night, during the compulsory round of this arcane event, they played something called “Tango Romantica” 23 times. The first dozen or so times, I was OK with it. After that, my ears began to bleed. Let me just suggest that fans who sat through three hours of “Tango Romantica” deserve gold medals of their own.

So I’m sitting there with blood trickling out of my ears. It’s freezing, because they keep the ice rink here at temperatures that cannot sustain human life (it’s the law). And I’m freezing, like I said, sitting on my hands and stuff, when one of the dancers — I think it was the guy — takes off his jacket. And he has no sleeves.

Yow.

Now, nudity at skating events is nothing new. These kids always show up as if they’re headed off to high school — half dressed, shirts open, lots of cleavage,
the men more than the women. But this stunned even veteran ice dancing followers like me. When this guy took off his tux jacket and he had no sleeves, a gasp swept through the entire Pacific Coliseum.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been through something like that, but sometimes big arenas like this can be united by one great collective thought — the same
notion occurring to everyone universally. In this case, the collective thought was: “Holy spit, the French guy has no sleeves. Somebody call the maitre d’!”

Then the guy put on his jacket and the dancing resumed.

When they finish, their fans hurl things onto the ice in celebration: stuffed animals, some roses and I think a squid. There’s also a black jock-strappy kind of thing that I don’t want to think about.

Needless to say, ice dancing offers some unique parting gifts.

The next performers/exhibitionists are an American pair, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. That Charlie White has a head of hair on him, let me warn you — it looks like a small cocker spaniel hat.

The Americans are a handsome couple. He’s very fair and she’s darker. They use this to their advantage and skate well in these compulsories, moving into first place.

Up next, a Japanese couple: Cathy Reed and Chris Reed. I know, that didn’t sound very Japanese to me either. I guess diversity is catching on everywhere.

When the Reeds are done, another couple comes out — I think they might be vampires. Or maybe they’re just Russian.

What makes it so hard to tell vampires from the regular skaters is that many of the women — and no doubt some of the men — are wearing what the kids refer to as “heavy raccoon makeup.”

Believe me, this is pretty goth stuff. If any raccoons were watching at home, I’m sure one raccoon turned to the other and said: “You know, Audrey, even for me that’s just way too much eyeliner.”

Anyway, this is a celebratory piece about ice dancing, obviously, so I think it would be good to end it on a high note.

On Sunday, they’re holding yet another major stepping stone in this majestic event, something called the “original dance.” Plan your day accordingly.

Just my luck, I have hockey tickets.”

Speaking of hockey- here is Bob Ryan’s take, from the Boston Globe, about that stirring game where we (the US NHL’ers) beat
Canada (Canadian NHL’ers) 5-3.
“It’s the Olympics, so you must always remember the context.
“It’s a huge win for us,’’ said US defenseman Jack Johnson. “But they didn’t give us any medals tonight.’’
True enough, but it was US 5, Canada 3, and so I say to you and yours . . .
How ’bout dem Yanks?
And how ’bout the game of hockey, which, when it contains both the background and the set-up this one had, and the execution on display from some of the world’s greatest players, can stake a claim as the world’s most dramatic team sport?
Tell me any of the 18,561 in attendance at the Canada Hockey Place or the millions watching worldwide were just sitting there watching calmly as the
desperate Canadians peppered US goaltender Ryan Miller in the final three minutes, only to see the game decided on one of the greatest empty-net goals
imaginable when hometown hero Ryan Kesler outfought Corey Perry for the puck and swatted it home for the clincher with 44.7 seconds left.
I’m not saying I’m Mr. Hockey or anything, but I’ve never seen anything quite like that. Most empty-netters require no more expertise than it takes to tie your shoes.
“That’s Ryan Kesler to a T,’’ said Johnson. “He makes something out of nothing.’’
Coach Ron Wilson’s job now is to keep this very young team anchored. All they’ve done is get themselves into the quarterfinals, and from now on it’s single elimination. But they will play whomever they play with great confidence after defeating the mighty Canadians in one of their own buildings. They will also play with the knowledge that they have a goaltender they can ride a long way.
The Americans were outshot, 45-23, and yet they defeated the Canadians by 2. So it seems logical to start with a discussion of the goaltending supplied by
the 29-year-old Miller, who had come here far from the top of his game but who recovered his mojo at just the right time, it seems.
Miller was somewhat matter-of-fact in his explanation as to how he stonewalled the Canadians to this degree.
“There was pressure,’’ he said, “but they weren’t coming from a lot of rushes, and I was able to make my reads.’’ Very clinical.
That’s good, I guess, but the fact is there were a lot of A-level stops, whether they were coming out of rushes or flurries in front of the net, and it seemed as if 75 percent of the of the game was played right in his face. There were long stretches in which Canadian goaltender Martin Brodeur could have done The
Sunday Times crossword.
Miller is being modest. He was bleepin’ great.
“He was obviously on the team for a reason,’’ said forward David Backes. “He steals games.’’
It was a strange game, because while the Canadians generated so much offense and exerted so much pressure, they were doing so in a quasi-panic mode, almost from the beginning. It was the United States that set the tone 41 seconds into the game when Brian Rafalski blasted a slap shot past Brodeur.
“We wanted to get off to a good start,’’ said forward Patrick Kane, “but we weren’t expecting anything like that.’’
Even more telling was the second US goal. Canada had tied the game at 1 on Eric Staal’s redirect of a Brent Seabrook shot, allowing the crowd to think all
was right and wonderful with the world.
For 22 seconds.
That’s how long it took the eerily inspired Rafalski to restore the lead on an unassisted wrister. It was his fourth goal in two games.
And when Canada again tied the game when Dany Heatley poked one home, the United States struck again. This time 33-year-old Chris Drury was in the
right place at the right time, and stop me if you’ve heard that one before. He’s not exactly the toast of old Broadway this year (10-12 -22 and a minus-9 for
the Rangers). But there was a reason why he is on this team, too, and general manager Brian Burke explained just what it was only the day before.
“I took him on this team because he’s Chris Drury,’’ said Burke, assuming that no further explanation would be necessary.
So you can talk shots on goal all you want. The US team was always in control, which doesn’t detract a bit from Miller’s spectacular play.
“When things happened,’’ Miller said, “we responded.’’
The atmosphere was predictably electric, and one reason was that both the Canadian press and the Canadian fans had a healthy respect for the Americans.
This was no David vs. Goliath, no “Miracle on Ice’’ reprise. This was a meeting of international hockey titans.
Oh, sure, the Canadian fans expected to win, but they always felt they’d have to earn it. What they got was what they most feared: a great hockey game.
They would have much preferred a repeat of the 8-0 destruction of Norway.
“USA hockey has come a long way,’’ said Kane. “I’m sure in this tournament we were considered to be underdogs, but we have a lot of good hockey
players.’’
To a man, the US players said the right things about this game not bringing them any medals. What it did represent was enormous satisfaction.
“I wouldn’t want to play Canada anywhere else but in Canada, and in this awesome city,’’ said Johnson.
“To beat Canada here was special,’’ agreed Kesler.
“This is probably the biggest game I’ve ever played,’’ said Miller, who played in a Game 7 against the Carolina Panthers a few years back.
“For us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play Canada here with the whole world watching,’’ said Kane. “This was about bragging rights.’’
It would have really been sweet if it were for the gold. It wasn’t. But it sure was one phenomenal game of hockey.”

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