Friday, February 24, 2006

Go, Gretzky, Go...Away


This I suppose is further to the post several days back when I took exception to the storylines developed by Canadian media covering the Winter Olympics insofar as the heartening "mouse that roared" victory of the Swiss over Team Canada. The script that played out in the ensuing 24 hours was tediously predictable. As in 2002, Wayne Gretzky stepped forward in mock Churchillian fashion, to rally the troops, doing so - again as he did in 2002 - not with the team iustelf as the primary audience but to the whole world. He went on, this time, on the theme of "boys (should) just wanna have fun" but restating the obvious that a few more goals would be desirable. This, as I say, was not rocket science since the lads had just gone 6 scoreless period.

In the utterly meaningless game (insofar as making the medal round was concerned) that followed, Canada banged home 3 first period goals, looking like they would be chasing the Czechs off the ice. The story didn't roll out quite as Gretzky and the hapless fans back home might have wanted: the Czechs game back and made it awfully close. Watching the third period, one might well have had a feeling that the team was not quite back on the path to glory that ist exalted executive director had hoped. No matter - the Canadian press lapped it up just as Wayne had intended and gave him the headlines over any of the worker bees who'd actually been out there on the ice. Right on cue, exactly as Wayne intended, the media got sucked in by this fakery. Here are the leading heavy-breathing lines of our zealous public broadcasting system's story on the win over the Czech Republic:

Wayne Gretzky, the most prolific scorer in hockey history, wanted more goals and commitment. And what Gretzky wants, he usually gets.Team Canada responded to Gretzky's edict with its most determined effort of the Torino Olympics, a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic on Tuesday before a lively crowd of 9,126 at Turin's Palasport Olimpico."Every game is a stepping stone in getting better and getting to the final game," Gretzky told CBC Sports. I thought our guys played really hard and got our feet wet with a nice win. It's do or die now."

One had to read down in this over-boiled tripe for quite a ways before a word was said about who scored and when. It was all about Gretzky.

Well the "Great One" was spot on in what he said about do or die: for soon we saw the dying - to the huge amusement and even satisfaction of some of us less patriotic types. A couple of days later Team Canada found its 0-2 groove again and our ancient adversaries, the Russians, sent Bertuzzi, Heatley and the lesser felons packing for home. In vain, I watched for Wayne (hey there's a poem wants out there!) as the post game interviews unfolded. One can recall back in the halycon golden moments of 2002 how the many time Lady Byng winner, uncharacteristically elbowed his way to the front of the line moments after the victory over the USA. It was his characteristic (and this case quite apt) "aw shucks, I didn't do nuttin'" kind of performance. But the press lapped up the false modesty, crediting Wayne's inspirational burst of paranoia (remember: everyone is against us and wants us to lose) rather than the apparently trivial on-ice activities of the likes of Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya and Steve Yzerman.
Listen to this typical crap from 2002: "If you're looking for the main reason Canadian hockey players heard an Olympic crowd serenade them with Oh Canada for the final minute of their 5-2 win over the U.S.A., one reason 23 hockey heroes are coming home with gold medals around their necks, you've got to go to Gretzky."

To make matters even worse, when Gretzky got up to explain Canada's two hockey triumphs in 2002 - including the women's who have mercifully spared his ministrations, did he talk about stellar performances of any of the team? No, instead he chortled on about a loonie that had been secretly embedded in the Salt Lake City ice, turning an occasion where praise was warranted into buffoonery that only accomplished, once again, keeping his foolishly grinning visage as the main focus of media attention.


In 2006, sweating for another big fix of the drug he can never have enough us - everyone's worshipful attention - Gretzky was - we were all told - given the prime responsibility of picking the team. I hope our media is as lavish in giving him the credit for the pitiful results of his selections as they were back in 2002. In particular, they may wish to reflect on the startling omission of a brilliant young player who had captivated all of the NHL's strike-bewearied fans, Sidney Crosby. Was the old "great one" responsible for this petty snubbing of the game's most promising young star and, if so, might that have been because the new "great one" threatened to share if not take over the limelight Wayne has so craved and skilfully held on to these many hockey years, even well past the time when he was doing much at all on the ice?

I suppose one could say, if looking superficially, that it is to the credit of the beleaguered and we hope,soon to permanently EX executive director, mouthed his apologies after the Russian loss. Still, it was all about Wayne, "I'll take all.. the responsibility for not winning. That's the position I'm in, and the responsibility I have. It's nobody else's fault." As in 2002, it's as if the real players, their strengths and shortcomings during the big game, don't matter a whit. Let us now honour Wayne with this excerpt from "the first realist":

A jellyfish swam in a tropical sea
and he said: "This world it consists of me,
Since there's nothing above and there's nothing below
that a jellyfish ever could possibly know...

Just then a shark who was happening by
Gulped the jellyfish down in the wink of an eye
and he died with one convulsive twist:
but somehow the universe still exists.

1 comment:

... said...

Amen.

I don't think it's even a question of being unpatriotic ... more like people tiring of the cult of personality surrounding the Grate One.

His "the whole world's against us" rant in Salt Lake was nothing more than someone not used to being criticized at all lashing out at people who weren't marching in lockstep with him. But when Team Canada reeled off three straight wins to take the gold, Gretzky was suddenly some kind of master motivator who rallied the troops when they needed a kick in the pants. Sheesh.

This time around, Team Canada struggled from the start, and the only answer Mr. Wonderful could offer was that the team struggled early on in Salt Lake, and then everybody would get swept up by a tidal wave of nostalgia and forget how bad the boys were playing in the here and now.

I've been waiting years for St. Wayne to fall flat on his face on the biggest stage imaginable ... and Wednesday afternoon was everything I ever hoped it would be. :)

Hockey Canada needs to get rid of Gretzky in the worst way. Imagine if -- just for the sake of argument -- Canada dropped this big of a turd with someone like Bob Gainey or Darryl Sutter as GM. Think they'd get another shot in 2010? Me neither.