Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We're better at the geetar. Post-Olympic Funk. Guest blog by John Dowson.

Beat your personal best
John Dowson August 23, 2008

When did win and success become dirty words? Only in Canada is winning a dirty word and Canadians who become successful are viewed with disdain. No one knows for certain where this attitude came from or why we continue to maintain it into the 21st century, but there it is, pervasive through the Canadian mindset. Like many Canadians I watched the TV coverage of the Beijing Olympics on CBC TV, sometimes live in the wee hours of the morning and like most of us during the first week of competition I was sadden not only by the lack of a medal, but where the team member placed. But our wonderfully up beat Canadian TV sports announcers and their colour commentators, made us feel good when over and over they emphasized the winning spirit of the true north strong and free. Even though a Canadian competitor had finished dead last in the race the announcer would proclaim to the world “she/he has just beaten their Personal Best”. That phase was later shorted by the print media to PB, perhaps because after a week of competition it was over worked. The TV commentators soon picked up on this and they also began to use “PB”. To highlight this point when a Canadian athlete, who had just lost a race was interviewed at pool side or on their way to the dressing room they, mouth the now familiar phrase “I was pleased with my performance and I beat my personal best”. The other insufferable comment we kept hearing was “ even though she/he finished seventh out of a field of eight she/he beat the Canadian record” If a Canadian record is the measure of success of a Canadian athlete why send them to the Olympics to compete against the best in the world.

For centuries successive Canadian governments have given slipshod support to their athlete’s endeavors. They have failed to provide them with world class sports facilities, and coaches. The Olympics is the most prestigious sporting event in the world, a once in a lifetime achievement for an athlete and for Canada to send an under achieving team of over 200 athletes to the worlds premier sporting event is not only an embarrassment to the country it’s a humiliating experience for the athletes. I cannot for a minute imagine Canada sending an under achieving hockey team to the world cup to “beat their personal best”, how would Canadians react?

Oh, Canada did win some medals during the second week of competition, and we crowed about that, but compared to Australia, a country with less population, with world class sports facilities that hires the best coaches in the world, Canada’s performance was pretty uninspiring. Will Canada send a team to the next summer Olympics in London to win, (there’s that dirty word again), or to just go there to beat their personal best? Canada must decide if summer sports are important enough to provide the national facilities and coaching necessary to “win”, or don’t send a team at all. In Prime Minister Stephen Harpers parlance “it’s time to fish or cut bait”.
My picture file is corrupt, and so am I.
Early shot at me and pal Neil Campbell in the music business....Unconscious grandstanding, I guess.


Anonymous said...

seems to me that there is far too much comfort in most of our "athletic camps"..."just go out there and enjoy the experience" blat the psych support staff of our Canadian olympic teams...and to boot,front and centre, is the golden mouth himself,Dick Pound,who found employment opportunities for himself,and family,within the olympic organization....it's either mad moose disease,or plain deer-shit...athletic endeavours are tough,trying,and equally rewarding and/or devastating,depending on the outcome....but personal best doesn't cut it...no different than music,for example...personal best?...sorry,bud,ya ain't got it...and the band played on...like the New York cabbie said when he was asked by a passenger how to get to Carnegie Hall...practice!...and we got gold from a convicted felon,to boot,riding a horse?...athletics?...who's zoomin' who?...too much money,not enuff substance...let's get back to chariot racing and Christians vs. lions...streets of fire,man,streets of fire...and no more lip synching from 10 year olds in the opening ceremonies,either...where the hell is the caterpiller when you need him?...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Remember that old joke from the air force?

Lion at the Collosseum ambles over to a Christian and roars, "I'm going to &8*% -ing well eat you."

The Christian promptly pulls out a pistol and shoots the lion dead.

Moral of the story: It's better to be a Christian with a pistol than a foul-mouthed lion.

Well, my past wife used to be a horsy toff, so I'm kinda preferential to Torchy Millar and those old riders of the purple stage.
Used to get off on the patter of the old horsy ladies, though.

Example: "Oh Gawd! Is Cissy still riding that pig?"

Everything was "Oh Gawd" to all those matrons, their thighs stroked daily in the saddle.

I can do riffs on the "riding that pig" line. I am probably part Polish.
I think I heard someone else say,
"What's this? Lawrence of Poland?"

I guess Cissy should have gotten an Arabian.
O gawd. Then she might get blown up.

Yeah, Dick Pound.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, did the Devil ever offer you a guitar of gold against your soul?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

"There was a dialogue in heaven before Dr. Faustus' birth..." :)

the walking man said...

PB...add some J and you have a fairly tasty, albeit simple, lunch. Which it sounds like the rest of the world ate Canada's during the games.

I would compete to beat my personal best if I had one in anything that I counted as worthy of note.

I suppose it is my Canadian ancestry coming out that dis-allows a competitive spirit. Thanks for me being able to define that aspect in my make-up John.

Middle Ditch said...

Is your country better at the winter olympics like my country?

We walked away with seven medals I think, but the English only cover their own athletes in about the same way that your lot does, so I'm not sure.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


We tend to do well in the Winter Olympics, thanks to the French Canadians, who seem to compete not only against other countries, but against their fellow Canadians too, just to rub it in.
And darn, Don't the Jamaicans not only succeed magnificently in track and field--but also tend to walk away with bronze, at least, in Bobsledding! Go figure!
There was a highly entertaining movie made of this, "Cool Runnings."
But Britain did so well in this Summer Olympics!
Comes to art, I have many British friends here in Canada. They can see better from their immigrant perspective.
...Cames to literature, they kept telling me I was in the wrong counry.
Heh."They tolerate eccentrics more in Britain than they do in Canada."

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Just post-surgery blahs, Mark.

When you Americans get pissed off, you make changes, no matter what.
Old Hickory, the Civi War and all that.

We didn't fight to get this country. It was given to use; now we've Sold to the American.... Kind of a neocon in power for the time being....Of course, there was Vimy Ridge, but that was sort of a colonial war. Canada became a country, sort-of. But with staggering losses. About 80,OOO dead farm boys for King and Country.
So the Brits finally gave us a country. And we went to Hank, Frank and Charlie, the loan people
and sold every last resource we had.
Never mind Soviet Canuckistan.
In my darkest days, I swear we would have done better if we'd actually gone outright communist.

You gotta look at the dick in opposition right now. Hah. Neocon in power versus-- how you say?-- de Wimp.
Even the Quebecers reject De Wimp; Quebecers have balls. They have lost a war. They know.

p.s.: Jack Kerouac was of Canadian extraction. Eighth-generation Swamp singer. No lightweight.

Lana Gramlich said...

Which one's you in the picture? Rather dapper young gents, aren't you? ;)
I can't stomach the Olympics, personally. I'm glad they're over. I'm a freak that way, though. Fret not, when curling rolls around again, Canada will be bringing home the gold.

ivan@cretivewriting.ca said...


I'm the guy on the right.

Guy to my left has had five wives and has gone senile.

...I was wondering what was the matter with me.

Yeah curling.

Like Kipling....I haven't kippled lately.

Donnetta Lee said...

I'm not really into sports. But, I do feel the "pride" so to speak when our country does well. So, I can see your point. BUT, as Monique asked, you guys better at the winter games? AND, how about other competitions that aren't sports related? Art? Literature? These things might be of more interest to some or perhaps alternate sources of national pride. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that we can do much better in lawn bowling,croquet,wood-carving,
papier mache',puppetry,ventriloquism,Kumbaya,and log-rolling,and numerous other taxing endeavours...when a 60 year old wins a medal at the olympics,it all ceases to be about athletics,no mattter how "feel-good" the story is...why not car and motorcycle racing?...far more at stake than riding "one horsepower"...and one hell of a lot more required of the technician in control...then again,why not "battle of the bands"?...just like curling,best rock wins it...jimmy page,riding a full dress gibson les paul,places first in dressage and show jumping...whee hooo!!!!!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Word is out, accurately or not, that Boy George has thrown in the towel and gone on drugs.

Boy, we would have loved to have had him for dressage!

Anonymous said...

Boy George should be triaged...obviously some kind of emergency there..."one pill makes you.................ask Alice"

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Com-a Com-a Com-a chameleon...

Boy George goes a long way back.

We had go-go girls. And a come-come boy.

Oh-oh. I might start someting here.

Guess I, for one have got to be careful.

There are lawsuits about, the latest a problem with George getting a visa to perform in the U. S., despite a still very large fan base. I mean, wouldn't you? And you, Yoo hoo, in San Francisco?

Here is what George's website says:

George has not been convicted of anything in London and there is a presumption in the Western World of innocence until proven guilty. The proceedings that George faces in London are of course important and serious but George has been given unconditional bail by the Police and Courts in London thereby permitting him to travel anywhere in the World. He is clearly not considered any form of risk in London in that regard and in that respect we are asking the US Authorities to reconsider their position.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

...I guess my point is, that we couldn't get him for Olympic Motor-Cross Dressing even if we wanted to.

Millions of bikers disappointed.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


As an educator of special students, you should be especially proud of Michael Phelps, eight-time gold medal winner. Phelps is dyslexic.

Take that, those who don't believe!

Jo said...

Ivan, I agree with you. I did a similar post about how I am embarrassed at how poorly Canada did. Why shouldn't we do just as well at summer Olympics as Russia or Germany? Don't they have winter too? Or the US? Criminy, that's no excuse "we're a winter country". You can bet when the winter Olympics come to Vancouver, Canada will still do poorly. And all the sports funding will go to the bloated bureaucrats at Vanoc, and not to the athletes.

Bah humbug.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hi Josie.

That was my pal and sometimes paralegal who wrote the"personal Best" piece above.

Yep. We haven't done all that well at the winter games since the "Crazy Canuck" hot doggers.

Trouble with daredevils, though, they sometimes miss and end up in wheelchairs. One of the poor devils just got his brains back last month. I can see him standing on a mountain top, and going TaDa!, even though it was twenty years after the daredeviltry event.
More like ker-plunck.
Seriously, and you might agree, the Quebec women skiers are going to be something to see.


I don't know how any times John Dowson, our author, has gotten me out of "debtors' prison" or homelessness. Handy guy to have around. And he can write.

Speaking of writing, you missed Liz Monroe's short story and my citing of another story by her.
Scroll down a bit.
....And Donnetta piped in as one of our "Bronte sisters" from Oka.

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