Day Seven: On the Edge of My Seat (Closing My Eyes)
February 18th, 2010
When Martin Brodeur stopped the final shot in a shootout which secured Canada an all-important victory in its march towards Hockey Gold at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, I was on Twitter.
I’d like to tell you that I spent the final moments of Canada’s tense shootout victory over Switzerland on Twitter because I was interested in researching how people respond to sporting events in tweets, but the real reason is somewhat more embarrassing. Truth be told, despite the fact that I had recused myself of all personal investment surrounding Canada’s quest for hockey gold – “It’s okay if they lose,” I said naively – my crippling inability to handle suspenseful sporting events continues to be my achilles heel.
In 2002, as Canada faced off with the United States for the Gold Medal in Salt Lake City, I spent the third period on the second story of the house alternating between pacing with my ears plugged and putting a pillow over my head to muffle out any possible sounds from my family watching the game downstairs. It’s a serious issue, perhaps even downright psychological, but I just can’t handle the pressure: even when I have no actual investment, where I’m quite fine if Canada is unable to win a Gold Medal, I somehow internalize all of the pressure that the diehard Canadian hockey fans feel, and the pressure that’s on the players (some of whom are younger than I am) to perform at a high level. Basically, I am a helpless vessel for the transferral of crippling anxiety when it comes to suspenseful and meaningful sporting events.
And so I learned of Sidney Crosby’s heroic Shootout winner over Twitter, and Martin Brodeur’s clutch save was communicated to me through the same medium. In order to make myself feel somewhat better about this, I want to talk about how people were responding to the game through Twitter, and how it’s changing (or, as it turns out, not changing) my Olympics experience.
Day Five: Hurry Hard (but Hurry Up)
February 17, 2010
On Sunday night, I watched my first new episode of The Simpsons in a very long time, a show I used to love a great deal (and which I own eleven seasons of on DVD). The allure of curling, it appears, was too much for me, and there I was watching Homer and Marge travel to Vancouver. I’ve got all sorts of thoughts about the episode’s presentation (or lack thereof) of that Canadian city which I’ll save for a later date, but the episode got all sorts of things wrong: no, I won’t complain about Marge pulling off various sweeping feats impossible in real life considering that it’s a cartoon, but the rocks were all the same colour, and the rocks didn’t rotate, and…well, you get the picture.
I don’t actually curl in real life, nor do I organize my entire life around broadcasts of curling bonspiels or tournaments, but yet the sport holds a particular place in my heart. It is a game of pure strategy and execution, where centimetres matter at various different intervals (where you place the broom to guide the throw, where the throw actually goes, where the stones end up, etc.) and where momentum can shift instantly. And so while I appreciate the excitement of the sudden death races like Maelle Ricker’s tense Snowboard Cross victory, and always appreciate the non-stop action of a game of hockey (although preferably in games a little closer than Canada’s 8-0 routing of Norway), there’s something about curling that truly captures my attention.
So long as I have an hour-long buffer on the DVR, anyways.
Day Four: Scheduling Patriotism
February 15th, 2010
Perhaps I am simply a proponent of less is more, but there’s something about having a large percentage of the medal winners at the Olympic Games stand on two separate podiums at two separate times that seems sort of funny. I understand the logistical issues surrounding it: because the events are scattered all over the place, they don’t want to have to have that many sets of flags kicking around, nor do they want to have the medals spread all over the place for security reasons. Doing most of the medal ceremonies in controlled environments either at BC Place or at Whistler makes perfect sense, except that it creates two separate “moments” for viewers to experience.
At a point during CTV’s broadcast of the medal ceremony for Canada’s first ever Gold medal on home soil from Alexandre Bilodeau, James Duthie made the argument that now Canadians will remember precisely where they were twice: once when Bilodeau won gold, and once when he received it. Now, I would tend to believe that I am never going to be telling my grandchildren that I was sitting in my parents’ living room watching Bilodeau win gold, but I can absolutely guarantee that I will not specifically remember a night later when, free from all suspense, Bilodeau stepped onto another podium and got that medal around his neck.
Both moments are memorable, but the excitement of the former and the resonance of the latter feel disconnected by the separation, and I have to wonder if the logistics (and the networks’ desire to be able to get two separate viewership boosts) are damaging the true impact of these Olympic moments.
Going Negative and Going Gold
February 14th, 2010
Earlier today, I was watching CTV’s Olympics coverage when they aired a video package surrounding Dale Begg-Smith, the defending Olympic champion in the Men’s Moguls competition. Begg-Smith, who skis for Austrailia, is of particular interest to CTV because he used to be Canadian, and used to compete for Canada as a teenager. However, like Darth Vader turning to the dark side, at a certain point he left Canada for Australia for reasons which are subject to a great deal of speculation. To give CTV some credit, they didn’t go too far into the circumstances involved, but if we trust Wikipedia (which we don’t, considering the “citation needed, “but for the sake of argument) this was the situation:
Begg-Smith was skiing for his native Canada as a teenager when his coaches told him he was spending too much time on his fledgling business, and not enough time in training. He subsequently quit the Canadian ski program because it clashed with his business interests and, along with his brother, moved to Australia at age 15. The brothers chose to ski for Australia because the country had a smaller ski program that offered them more attention and flexibility. This ensured that they could still successfully manage their business.
There’s a lot of other rumours surrounding just what his internet business (which has made him a millionaire) entails, and CTV isn’t interested in any of it (especially since it’s all conjecture). What the piece focused on was how Dale Begg-Smith has become a villain, how his lack of emotion on the podium in both victory and defeat makes him seem unapproachable, and how this could be seen as strange for someone who is the face of his sport. While they tried to seem disappointed that he refused an interview request, it only made the story that much more damaging, and anyone who watched the clip would be tuning in that night not only to see four Canadians take part in the Moguls competition, but also to see if anyone could unseat the cold-blooded turncoat who dared to spurn this country.
And, much to the delight of viewers across the country and CTV, Canada found its Luke Skywalker.
November 4th, 2009
I have mentioned on numerous occasions that I love the interaction that Twitter creates between critics regarding various TV shows, and today was a fine example of that. A single comment from Alan Sepinwall that Parks and Recreation could be the best comedy currently on the air resulted in a wealth of comments, some of which defended Modern Family as, well, the best comedy currently on the air. This resulted in a conversation between myself, Matt Roush and James Poniewozik about ABC’s new hit comedy, in particular the sense of “warmth” that has defined the show in its early episodes.
My argument is that the show has been TOO defined by that warmth to the point where it’s become expected. Part of what made the pilot stand out was that it went from a traditional sitcom (with the various family settings) to a simultaneously absurd (Lion King, anyone?) and heartwarming (Jay coming to terms with his new grandchild) conclusion. However, a lot of the episodes since that point have done exactly the same thing, and while the absurd has remained pretty strong due to some great performances the warmth has begun to wear thin for me. It’s not that I don’t think the warmth is an important part of the show’s identity, but rather that when it presents the same way every single time.
“En Garde” is an enjoyable episode that has some nicely absurd moments and some nice subtle comedy, but the conclusion feels forced in a way that could just be the show’s shtick but also seems to me to be simplifying the show’s formula to a fault.