Coach's Corner

Coach's new dog, Jasper, is a joy. So was the Canadian gold medal in men's hockey.

A few weeks ago a reader, less than enthralled with the quality of my world here in the listings, sent in a letter to the editor. Among his protests: He knows more about my life than he'd like. He's miffed that my tiny little 1/1000th of Austin's UT media coverage isn't fawning. He's upset I covered an important NBA game instead of writing a redundant Super Bowl column. Most amusing, he generously offered to write my column for half what I'm paid. To which I can only reply, I hope you have a very good day job. Anyway Mike, you won't enjoy this one at all because it's going to have a little of everything you don't like: information on a new pet, a dash of midwinter UT bashing, and no spring drill anecdotes.

I've been looking for some space to introduce Jasper for a month but sports, Mike, has been in the way. Roxy, our old and battered boxer, had been slowly withering away since she lost her brother Floyd last October. Don't let anyone tell you a dog can't be depressed. By the time we finally got Jasper, poor Roxy stayed in her crate all day, eating intermittently. Her graying muzzle turned snow white. Jasper's a pup of indeterminate origin: part dachshund, part Rhodesian ridgeback. Though he's already sent Roxy to the vet with two scratched retinas, the old girl has come back to life. She eats, plays, and (most promising) again snarls viciously at every passing dog. As the saying goes, one dog's ceiling is another cat's floor. The cat isn't pleased with our inquisitive new addition, to whose snout she's already inflicted two bloody wounds.

I did my best not to watch much of the Winter Olympics, but with Kelly hogging the TV room every night; sometimes your best isn't good enough. My entertainment alternatives were limited: I could recount the hairs on my arm, watch Jasper try to catch the cat, or go into the darkened home command center and view figure skating, roller-derby-on-skates (short-track), and a plethora of sledding events involving careening down mountains and icy paths in everything from a shovel (the skeleton) to a Lincoln Towncar (the four-man bobsled). I heard the "Star-Spangled Banner" played nine times: twice for snowboarders (a boy and a girl), three different speed skaters, a bobsled, two in the skeleton and once for short track, compliments of a flop Salt Lake's own Karl Malone would've been envious of.

These nine medals equaled nine long renditions of the anthem and noxious, sappy face-time for the winners. They didn't elicit much more than a tired yawn and a hope it was almost time to go to bed. It wasn't until the dying games' 11th hour that a tear fell to my jaded cheek when the Canadian National Anthem was played after Canada's 5-2 victory over USAUSAUSA in the gold medal hockey game. When my wife saw I was passionately rooting for our neighbors from the Great North she was disgusted. She moodily threatened to e-mail Dick Cheney and see about having me shot and hung in the gusty breeze at the stoplight on Sixth and Congress.

My seemingly anti-American outbursts are, in fact, as American as a hot dog on the 4th of July. I instinctively cheer for who I perceive as the underdog. In UT's case that's everybody, because like the bullying American media, the UT Media Machine needs to browbeat the rest of the world into acknowledging the greatness of Texas Football. If a rational person can't concede this self-evident point, I'd guide them to last Sunday's sports page, where Kirk Bohls outlines for Mike the five things the Longhorns need to do for a national title run. Silly me, I actually jumped into the column, thinking Kirk had totally lost his mind and was suggesting a plausible scenario that the UT basketball team could win the NCAA title. This would, by necessity, be highly imaginative and in season. But of course, he was talking about spring football practice.

NBC, similarly, lets us know that athletes from other countries actually do compete in Salt Lake only when they absolutely have to; to fill dead air or when a dark foreigner comes in second to a cheerful, rosy-cheeked American.

So yeah, I was rooting for Canada. To you, 226 million other bored Americans, and me, another gold medal means nothing. Most Americans have never actually watched a hockey game. But hockey is Canada's game, and hockey is Canada's national identity, and to them this medal meant everything. A loss to USAUSA would've been crushing. Canada has a population of about 23 million -- the population of California -- and I promise you 22.5 million were watching. (The rest are Eskimos with iced-over satellite dishes or aging American draft dodgers.) Most Americans don't know the capital of Canada, or how many provinces span the country, or what anybody does up there aside from ice fish and watch bad football. Canada needed this medal.

It meant as much to the jaded NHL pros and the Canadian national psyche as the Miracle on Ice did to us. As an added bonus, the hockey, for the entire tournament, was outstanding. Anyway, it was a rare sweet moment in sports, and if you can't see that, you're letting this Evildoer thing go way too deep into your head.

See a doctor.

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