Sunday, February 28, 2010

The 49th Parallel

The 49th parallel north, the clearing is the USA/Canada boarder

The 49th parallel is the boarder between the United States of America and Canada and the longest unarmed boarder in the world. Being from the US, I have seen Canada as I think many Americans have, a bit of a paradox. It is some what confusing to me how they can still be a British holding but have an entire portion of the country that speaks French. Furthermore, it was Robin Williams who called Canada a loft apartment above a really great party. This about sums up Americans' thoughts on our friendly neighbors to the North. But this may be changing.

Over the past week or so with the playing of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic games, I have come to see Canada and Canadians quite differently. They are a people more welcoming then most and rich in tradition and customs. They are, I guess it wouldn't be a stretch to say, our quiet close friends who always seem to have our back, no matter how much noise we make.

Ours seems to be a symbiotic arrangement. Not being from the boarder states I really can't say but somewhere the line blurs. Our cultures cross and influence one another. This, I feel for many Americans, is seen in the game of hockey. The Canadians call it their game, but the US has the National Hockey League, or NHL, the league most players strive to reach. Now, I don't know much about hockey but it seems the NHL has players from all over the world and it says quite a bit when the league shuts down for the Winter Games and allows the players to represent their home counries. This sets up a situation where NHL team mates will face off on the ice.

That will happen today at 12:15 local time in Vancouver, BC. But it is more then just team mates on different teams, it is two countries connected by much more then an unarmed boarder playing for gold, bragging rights, and who gets to call hockey their game. All of Canada and the US will be watching, even those like me who are not really hockey fans. A friendly rivalry will play out on the ice, and as hockey games in the past (namely the 1980 Lake Placid USA v Russia game) it will mean more then just win or loose. When it comes to one country versus another, it becomes more then a game. It becomes a statement about who is better, at least us very competitive Americans see it that way.

But all reading deeply, jeering and rivalry aside, it is still just a game and I look forward to cheering on Team USA. But more so I want to thank the Canadians, win or lose, for being a gracious host and for letting the US and the world get to know them a bit better.

Now if we could only figure out how the game of curling works. Congratulations to Canada for having the most gold medals and for hosting an unforgettable winter games.

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