Last week I saw three of the most exciting sports events in my life.
One, we beat the unbeatable Canadians, 5-3. Two, we scored six goals in the first period against defensive-minded Finland. Three, we scored a goal in the last 24 seconds only to lose in overtime to heavily-favored Canada, 3-2, in the Olympic gold medal game.
In case some of you are confused and think that I played for the USA hockey team, I am using the collective “we” that is a phenomena world wide when it comes to our sports teams. You bet I identified with team USA. Congratulations, though, to the Canadian team for hanging on to beat us.
I really felt sorry for the American players, as they had to wait to get their silver medals after losing the heartbreaker. I now know what Teemu Selanne meant when he talked about how much happier he was after winning the bronze medal game as opposed to winning the silver in past Olympiads.
The Finns had just beaten Slovakia, 6-4, to win the bronze. “We finished second in Torino four years ago,” said Selanne. “And the disappointment was so bitter. At least when you get a bronze medal you feel that you won. Everybody’s smiling, everybody’s celebrating. I really like this medal.”
I like quotes from athletes and those supporting them. Here are a few more that tell the story better than most scribes’ interpretations.
When asked if Selanne would play again for Finland: “It’s time for new players. I’ve been playing for national teams for 23 years. Yes, I think this is my last year all together.”
I hope the Ducks organization reads the papers. I think this is the first time they found out about that.
Do players get nervous? Said Ducks and Team USA player Ryan Whitney: “Everyone is going to be nervous.”
U.S.A. general manager Brian Burke talked about hockey in Canada: “Hockey is not a sport in Canada, it’s a cult. It’s a religion. Canadians view (the gold medal) as planting a flag on a peak. It’s huge.”
Said author Michael McKinley, author of “Hockey: A People’s History,” “There’s a level above passionate where they [Canadians] almost live and die by it.”
My favorite quote came from Canadian coach Mike Babcock: “We’re the underdog.” The Canadians were heavily favored from the start of play while the Americans were never picked to be playing last Sunday.
Women’s hockey played out the same as it has for years with Canada beating USA. Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation talked about women playing hockey: “There are 700 million girls in China and 67 play hockey. That’s 67, not 67 million! There are 80,000 girls playing hockey in Canada and 60,000 in the U.S. Only 267 play the game in Slovakia. That’s why the (North American) teams do so well. But the other countries will catch up, don’t worry.”
UCLA’s senior Nokola Dragovic summed up the Bruins season but was talking about himself after last Thursday’s game with Oregon State: “ My parents came to Thursday’s game and one of my shoulders popped out. I got a shot before the game and it felt better. I could raise my arm above my shoulder. Then, two minutes before the game starts I step on a [basket]ball.” He sprained his right ankle.
Jserra soccer player Frankie Bastone woke up Monday morning and had a 104 temperature accompanied by the other symptoms of the flu. He didn’t feel any better by Thursday morning. He actually felt worse. “My body ached…. And the chills!” he said.
Of course he played against Esperanza anyway and made a penalty kick to give his team a CIF playoff win. “After this, I feel great,” Bastone said.
Sometimes it’s what is not said that says it all. National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association director DeMaurice Smith met for almost two hours about a new collective bargaining contract. Both left with grim faces and not a word to the media. That’s not good!
E-mail Don Alexander at Journaldon@aol.com.