Why is it that anytime a Canadian athlete or team has the smallest modicum of expectations placed upon them, they immediately seize up and become ripe for an upset?
World Champion hurdler? She's falling at the first hurdle.
Unbeatable speed skater? On his ass 10 feet out of the starting blocks.
Defending Hockey Gold Medalists? Shut out by Switzerland
Rowing Champion who hasn't lost in two years? How do you feel about eighth place?
So it is with the latest edition of Team Canada at the WBC. In front of a home crowd, with a reasonable expectation of moving on to round two, and they fall to an Italian team that would probably struggle to succeed at the AA level.
It's not that Canadians can't or don't achieve on the world stage, but they generally do a great deal better when unheralded, when they can sneak up on people.
Witness the 2006 WBC. Canada barely survived an opening game scare against South Africa, so there were no expectations against the powerhouse U.S. Bingo! 8-6 upset, in arguably the biggest international baseball victory the country has ever enjoyed. Of course, that created expectations of going to the second round and suddenly it's 9-1 Mexico and vaya con dios.
This time around, with an improved lineup and on home soil, Canada wasn't going to sneak up on anyone, and they battled the U.S. in a terrific game before coming up just short. Still, all wasn't lost, since Venezuela was hardly a juggernaut, and all you had to do to play them was beat Italy. In a sport low on yellow cards and pretend injuries, that should be no problem, right? Ah, but that wouldn't be the Canadian way.
This is why the current round of 2010 Olympic ads, in which children boast of how well Canadian athletes are performing and predict that Canada will "win the games" (not really sure how that's possible at an Olympics) are fairly nauseating. Maybe these kids are just too young to realize Canadian S.O.P. at the Olympic games. As they point out, no Canadian has ever won a gold medal at home... there's a reason, kids.
Plus, the boasting seems just a little too... American. It works for the U.S., because, with their staunch commitment to their drug programs, their athletes usually come through. At least until they get caught for doping years later.
But all this smack talk is just Un-Canadian. After all, beating someone that we're supposed to beat, that just doesn't seem very friendly, does it?