Now that the Olympics have come to an end, I have to admit something to my American friends. I’ve been rooting for Canada instead of the U.S. the whole time. Please don’t take away my American passport.
While I’m an American through and through, this isn’t as treasonous as you might think. My family moved from California to Canada when I was nine years old and I remained there through college (can’t argue with cheap tuition and universal health care). But what’s weird about living a dual-citizenship life is wherever I’m living, whether it’s Canada or the U.S., I feel like an outsider.
If I’m in Canada, I’m American. I tell Canadians to stop complaining about the U.S. culture dominance and to stop making fun of fat Americans (there are plenty of fat Canadians who loves a good Big Mac). And when I’m in the U.S., all of a sudden, I’m very Canadian. I yell at my American friends for not knowing shit about their neighbors to the North and for their horrible Canadian accent impressions.
All the while, I’m left confused. I’m an outsider no matter where I go. I’ll admit that it’s not particularly stressful in my day-to-day life — it’s not like we are at war with each other (if it was 1812 though, things could have been a tiny bit awkward) — but when it comes to the Olympics, I honestly feel torn about my loyalties.
I was born in America. I live in America. I’m American. So why do I constantly find myself rooting for Canadian athletes?
Short answer? A medal for Canada simply means more to Canadians than a medal for the U.S. does to Americans. Not to say that Americans aren’t kvelling for Ryan Lochte and Aly Raisman. It’s just that the U.S. is so big and dominant that not only do we expect them to win gold, but we immediately go on to the next event.
Canada on the other hand is small. Population wise, Canada has less people than California. Therefore, the pool of talent to choose from is much smaller. So when Canadians win a medal, or are competing for a medal, we Canadians pay attention.
Canada only won one gold medal in London — IN THE TRAMPOLINE! That’s it. Canada is known for its strong rowing program and they had a few other potential gold medal winners in some individual events, but no one except for Rosie MacLennan on the tramp (do they call it that? Because they should) pulled off a win. So in a weird way, that trampoline gold means more to Canadians than, say, Gabby Douglas winning the gymnastics all-around individual gold for the U.S. Sure, Gabby might have gotten more press coverage, but at the end of the day, she has to share the spotlight with all the other medal winners. Back in Canada, Rosie has it all to herself.
One of the highlights of the 2012 Olympics was the semi-final women’s soccer match between the U.S. and Canada. While watching, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 2010 Winter Olympics men’s gold medal hockey game between the same two countries, except with the roles being reversed.
Hockey is Canada’s game. Anything but gold in 2010 would have been a failure. And to lose that game to the Americans? That would have been as strong a gut punch as you could feel.
I watched that game with a bunch of Americans and was nervous the entire time. It is a very strange feeling to be so nervous to lose a game to the country you were born in and most of the time, identify most with. But that game just meant so much more to Canada. We (Canada) would have been heartbroken while we (America) would have gotten over it pretty quickly. Luckily, Canada won and all was right in the world.
As I mentioned, the soccer game reversed the roles. The U.S. women are the #1 ranked team in the world. This was only the second time Canada had ever qualified for Olympic soccer — and no one was expecting them to medal. In my mind, I was expecting Canada to lose but I was going to have fun rooting for them in the process.
As it turned out, Canada was much more competitive than expected. It took some questionable calls by the referees and a last minute goal by the U.S. in extra time to insure their victory.
And you know what’s weird? Even though the U.S. went on to win the gold medal, it means so much more to me that Canada fought tough and lost that match than the U.S. winning the entire tournament. I was more proud of the losers than the winners.
The Olympics are now over. I can now go back to blending in as an American living in New York. I’ll vote in the November election. I’ll watch the fireworks next Fourth of July. For all intents and purposes, nothing about me will be Canadian. But when the next Olympics start a year and a half from now in Russia, you can bet that that my heart will discard the blue and I’ll simply be rooting for the red and white.