Today was one of the most incredible moments in my sports-loving life. I've long approached the NHL players playing in the Olympics for years now with a bit of indifference, more interested in seeing how the Devils on each team were performing as opposed to some swelling sense of national pride. I mean, I've had the bad taste in my mouth of the American brats who trashed a hotel room in Nagano, Japan in 1998 for 12 years now. Nothing could ever rival the Eruzione and Miracle team of 1980 and how it would bring the country together in a seminal moment unlike any other sporting event in the history of the United States. Just thinking about that time the baby-faced college kids took down the Big Red Communist Machine still brings me chills.
Nothing will ever top it or even come close. Still, through no fault of my wife's, fate dealt me a cruel card of having to be at a three-year-olds birthday party today in El Monte, California. The party started at 12:30 PST and as you know, the game started at 12:15. For those of you who are not from El Monte, it's about 73 percent Latino with the majority being Mexican. My wife is Mexican and she has a gigantic Mexican family and many of them were there.
I decided that if I was going to be at this party, tivoing the gold medal game just wasn't going to cut it for me, so I called my in-laws and asked them to bring a TV to the party, which was being held at a park (if it was at someone's house, things would've been a lot simpler). Thankfully they also had a digital receiver for the TV so I settled in as soon as I got there.
At first I was by myself, standing in the corner of the banquet room with a 13 inch TV, nervously drinking a beer. Then I quickly had company with a couple of curious onlookers. Soon I found myself surrounded by about 10 other men, all Mexican, all rooting hard for the American team. I was in the middle of a 70-degree day, at a park in a Zach Parise jersey bonding with men who knew little to nothing about hockey, but because our country was in the gold medal game, they were almost as passionate about it as I was. I was too nervous watching the game at that moment to even realize it and it wasn't until later that I thought about how cool that was.
And when Parise scored that tying goal with 25 seconds left, that group of people erupted with cheering, jumping up and down and random high fives. Whereas this group would normally be doing that over a Chivas goooooooool, they were instead embracing a sport about as foreign to them as curling is to most Americans (although given the prominence of curling at these Olympics, I might have to retract that statement).
It was obviously a huge letdown when Crosby scored that overtime winner. I have to imagine it would be something I would've remembered for a long time had the United States been able to pull off the upset (no, definitely not a miracle) and take home that gold. As it is, I will always remember standing in that corner and the ridiculously loud cheer that startled a lot of the other partygoers who were sitting around enjoying their food. I'll remember my love for Parise growing exponentially today for just being Zach and doing what he does. But most of all, I'll remember how the sport on ice brought a bunch of noobs together for a briefing, shining moment of national pride, even if it was overpaid professional athletes who did it.
So when it comes down to thinking about whether or not the NHL should be involved in these Olympics moving forward, I think that if the NHL is truly interested in introducing new people to this sport, especially in the United States in non-traditional markets like El Monte, California, they have to consider continuing the great Olympic experiment, even if it's a world away and several time zones beyond.