The best sports can surprise you with their narrative, as the beauty of the game combines with the parity of play, and predictions get thrown out in an instant with a well-timed run and clinical finish. What's particularly satisfying in these moments is that we're reminded that us observers, whether fan or professional sports-watcher, decide nothing and know nothing and maybe it's just better if we stop pretending and just enjoy it.
Trash talk and self-awarely sarcastic taunting, of course, is still encouraged.
To that end, sports fans got a gift today, wrapped in a nice bow of American beat down of our socialist neighbors to the north. Sure, I am as enamored with their universal health care and (relatively) sensible drug policy and 90s pop rock bands as the next guy, but boy do I love beating them in sports.
Sports are different, of course, distant as always from logical thought. Even living in NYC now, my blood boils a little bit when a game against Canada (or any of its club level teams) is on. Neurotically, this is rooted in our Sabres - I hated losing our playoff spot with those losses to the Leafs last year, I hated losing to the Sens in '07, I hate everything about the Habs, and I hate when I have to hear about knuckle-dragging Ontarians invading FNC a half dozen times a year. Toss in the gold medal game from 2010, when Sabres and Ryan Miller fans were again left scratching their heads at the consistently cruel hand of the Buffalo sports gods, and I'm left with an admittedly fierce and absurd desire to beat some moose senseless, tease a Newfie and flip over cars in Vancouver, if there are any left.
My personal favorite, if you're keeping score at home, was the Toronto writer who predicted a repeat of that 2010 game on the ice. Not quite, asshole.
The narrative of today's win extended far beyond my borderline jingoistic patriotism, of course. The US came into the match with an eleven year undefeated streak against Canada, and a 300+ minute shutout streak for Hope Solo. While not overwhelming favorites, the US have dominated this year and seemed to be playing good enough ball to get out of this one unscathed.
Christine Sinclair, making a bid for "making you piss your pants she's so good" attacker of the tournament, played her part as the scrappy yet dominant underdog. Three goals is absurd at this level, especially against a team as defensively sound as the US has been in the tournament. Each of Sinclair's three goals today were world class, though each also depended on errors in the US defense (loose marking on the first's initial ball in, and poor marking of the near post for the third, for example). Abby Wambach was quoted during the NBCSN broadcast as saying that Sinclair was the most underrated player in the world. Hard to argue with that after today
In the end - mercifully for those US white-knuckled fans yelling at the screen - the Americans were able to repeat their semifinal magic from last year's World Cup and advance to the final with a late goal. Some fortuitous, questionable officiating helped along the way, and Megan Rapinoe was straight ruthless with that second goal off the far post.
And if you care about my opinion regarding the officiating, briefly: (a) It seemed to be shit both ways, with Canada getting plenty of non-calls in the first half especially; (b) My suspicion is that the Canadian keeper was warned about wasting time while distributing the ball from the box, and even if she wasn't, she should've been; and (c) I've gotten my fair share of "only losers complain about calls," and even some from Canadian fans in 2010 and then again when the US men's soccer team failed to qualify for the Olympics this year, so sod off with the whining and go get fellated by a lumberjack while listening to a Bryan Adams album.
So, enjoy those apples, you Canadian douchebags. And, oh yeah, see you on the ice in 2014.