Frantz: No silver lining for U.S. in loss 

Moral victory, schmoral victory. Don’t even try it.

No, I’m not suggesting that a silver medal isn’t something in which to take great pride. What I’m suggesting is that, sometimes, finishing second sucks.

There’s a difference.

Had the U.S. men’s hockey team reached the gold medal game in Vancouver and fallen to, say, Slovakia, the silver medals hanging around American necks would be shining brighter than the Olympic torch itself (in part because the Mounties up north couldn’t even get the thing to light properly). The Americans were not even expected to medal in these games, so an undefeated run to the gold medal game, even falling short, would have been nothing short of glorious for fans here in the States.

However, to lose a border war to America Junior, especially when an upset victory over an all-time All-Star team was so within our grasp, is another story altogether.

Team USA’s improbable gold rush was halted by a host nation which sees the game not as its national pastime, but as its religion. Its cult. And that was only after Zack Parise provided us with one of the most amazing moments in Olympic history — not quite on the level of Mike Eruzione’s game-winning goal against the Soviets in 1980, but close — tying the game with 24.4 seconds left and leaving the people living in America’s Attic ready to drown themselves in Molson Golden. That’s what makes the loss so hard to take.

Do not misunderstand — it’s not as if the political implications of this game were even on the same Richter scale as the 1980 showdown with the powerful, professional Russians. The Cold War was as icy as it had ever been, and our kids’ victory at Lake Placid lifted American spirits in ways we dared not dream. This time around, the closest we could come to animosity with our opponent was over our free-market health care system versus their socialist version.

No, this battle was more like a fight with our little brother in the room upstairs, the kid who’d get beaten up at school if we didn’t look out for him all the time, but who liked to talk trash anyway.

All we wanted to do was give him a little slap to stop him from yapping about “owning the podium” and reminding him to know his place. And now that the kid (no pun intended, Sid) slipped one past us in overtime, you know he’s just going to prattle on and on about the real boss of the house.

The truth of the matter is that America’s little brother should have routed Team USA in this one, but even with their 14 NHL All-Stars compared to our four, and eight of the league’s top scorers to our two, they nearly choked it away. The Americans played with heart, passion, and a determination to overcome the overwhelming talent disparity ... because they’re
Americans.

And of that, we can all be tremendously proud.

Just don’t call it a moral victory. Because finishing second, especially to your annoying little brother, sucks.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@sfexaminer.com.

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