First time I’ve ever been sent somewhere just so I could come back but the train ride with the Olympians and Paralympians was pretty cool.
Now I’m wondering what kind of support they’ll get in Toronto on Friday at the grand parade they’re planning.
I don’t know precisely what it is, and I tried to explore it with a few of the athletes I spoke to on the ride (the fruits of that labour are here), but there always seems to be a “connection” between fans and Olympic sports athletes that doesn’t exist with professionals in the traditional North American team sports.
I think it might have a lot to do with the fact we only see these folks every couple of years and they immediately become interesting stories that endure for the duration of whatever Games are on.
They are truly representing us, Canada, and we’re drawn to them far more easily than we are to pros who, all too often, are representing their own best interests and the company that pays their salaries.
I’m not painting all pros with those broad strokes, there are many who do great work in their hometowns or their in-season cities and they should be applauded.
But it’s different, simply different.
You throw a Maple Leaf on a rower or a sprinter or whatever and they become something special, even cynical old codgers feel a bit of patriotism when Canada is out there competing and it creates a bond you simply don’t get too often with teams that you cheer for.
That’s got to be the chief reason, I’d think, but there’s one other one:
These folks are, frankly, normal.
Not normal in the sense that their athletic ability and dedication to their craft is astounding but normal in the sense that they tend to compete to challenge themselves and make others proud as much as they do for any financial gain or desired level of fame and, almost to a woman or a man, they enjoy interaction with fans, sponsors and regular people.
They don’t tend to shy away from the people, they seem to honestly like chatting and saying hello and welcome the interest others show.
One of the folks on the train, my guy Josh Binstock the beach volleyball player I wrote about a lot over in London, probably hit the nail on the head when we were chatting before the train took off.
He said it’s enjoyable to meet people, it’s not hard, it’s something that doesn’t take much work and it does bring a measure of excitement to the fans who are getting to meet world class athletes.
And why wouldn’t it be? The folks I’ve had cursory contact with at the various Olympics know they hold a special place in the minds of Canadians and relish the chance to show that they are, at the basic, normal people with an abnormal amount of athletic ability.
And, of course, since I’m thinking about trains, why wouldn’t this come quickly to mind?
Man, the baseball pennant races have sure petered out, haven’t they?
What have we got?
I’d say the only real one we’ve got left is Yankees-Baltimore in the AL East – I’ve thought all season that the Orioles would fade, not sure I’m going to change my mind on that one, unfortunately because I have little regard for The Evil Empire – and the National League division races are all over.
The one that does command some attention, though, is the National League wild card where the Dodgers, who took that huge financial gamble with mega-trade with Boston mid-season, haven’t quite captured the magic they thought they had and might serve a cautionary tale to other teams who make major moves because it might put them over the top.
L.A. has ceded the West to the Giants and the Dodgers are still two back of the final wild card spot, hardly the position they expected to be in when they made that deal.
If they fail, will it make other teams reticent to pull the pin on mid-season deals that basically remake half the team? I’d think so.
I know there were all kinds of questions about the wisdom of that deal when it was finalized, people worried about chemistry, whether there was enough time for the newly-acquired players to get used to a new league and those concerns now seem well-founded.
Let’s take one more shot at the mail, okay?
I’ll tell you one other thing that was cool about the train ride.
They had the media stashed in the back two cars where we could do interviews and write and they put us in what’s known as The Glenfraser car, a lounge car that really create thoughts of the old train days.
Wide open, with little tables for two along one side, a couple of long banquettes on the other with a service area in the middle, I could just imagine tuxedo-clad swells standing with their cigarettes in one hand and martinis in the other swapping tales.
Ah, the good old days.
Oh yeah, likely the last golf outing of the season today, a nice tournament for the company owned by one of the Mighty Red Tiger dads so there’s little chance I get to comments until this evening.
Have a good day.