Weekend Watch: USA vs. Canada, 2010 Olympic gold-medal game
With nearly every major sports league suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans around the world are yearning for a return to normalcy.
The sports we love will be back, but in the interim, as we wait out the virus that has turned our world upside down, it's important to stay connected to the games we love.
Our Weekend Watch feature touches on the most significant moments in sports history, and luckily for us in this modern age, many of them are viewable online, in their entirety.
2010 Olympic gold-medal game: USA vs. Canada
I wanted to get a hockey game in this week, but I decided against the obvious — we believe in miracles, yes, but we'll leave that for another time.
Instead, let's focus on what I believe is the most important hockey game of my lifetime, and one of the greatest in the sport's history.
I was at an exciting, weird place in my life when the puck dropped for this game. I was living 500 miles from home, away at college, and none of my roommates were interested in sports. Living as an adult in a city like San Francisco was a life-changing experience, but for moments like this — sports events to watch communally — I hadn't found anyone to share them with.
So this left me alone in my tiny room, on the second story of a San Francisco townhouse, with a large pizza and a six-pack of beer to consume myself, screaming at a 20-inch TV.
I lived and died with every scoring chance, and I nearly hit the ceiling when Zach Parise put the puck past Roberto Luongo in the final seconds of the third period to send the game into overtime.
Sidney Crosby's magical goal in OT sent me to the floor for a moment, but soon after, the prevailing emotion wasn't heartbreak. It was appreciation. It was an honor just to experience it. The ecstasy of the Parise goal will last with me forever, even though it didn't result in a victory.
Nick Hornby put it best in Fever Pitch, a book about his Arsenal fandom, when he described the Gunners' last-minute goal against Liverpool, which clinched a First Division championship in 1989.
"None of the moments that people describe as the best in their lives seem analogous to me. Childbirth must be extraordinarily moving, but it doesn't really have the crucial surprise element, and in any case lasts too long; the fulfillment of personal ambition — promotions, awards, what have you — doesn't have the last-minute time factor, nor the element of powerlessness that I felt that night. And what else is there that can possibly provide the suddenness? ... There is then, literally, nothing to describe it. I have exhausted all available options. I can recall nothing else that I have coveted for two decades (what else is there that can reasonably be coveted for that long?), nor can I recall anything else that I have desired as both man and boy. So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it's just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for delirium."
There are plenty of Canadians who can agree with that, after they experienced Crosby's goal, which was a masterpiece in its skill and simplicity.
The first aspect of Canada's shining hockey moment in Vancouver is probably underappreciated.
Jarome Iginla got the puck in the left-hand corner and paid the price, as he was shoved from behind and sent to the ice by U.S. defenseman Ryan Suter. As he was falling, however, Iginla got just enough on the puck to slide it past U.S. defenseman Brian Rafalski and to Crosby, who was streaking toward the net.
What Crosby did with the puck happened so fast it appeared commonplace, which is fitting for one of the most skilled humans to ever play the game. Iginla's pass was a bit behind Crosby, just off his left foot, but in an instant — a tap of the stick, really — he moved the puck into the perfect forehand shooting position and rifled it between the legs of U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller.
The most painful aspect of watching this game back nine years later is the broadcast's obsession with following Miller around after the goal. By far the best player in the tournament — he was the obvious choice for tournament MVP — it would have required a superhuman effort to react to the speed and accuracy of what happened in front of him in those final moments, but he had done it so often in the tournament, it was expected he would keep the Americans alive forever. The first two Canadian goals weren't his fault, either, as the U.S. defense broke down twice and gave Canada point-blank opportunities. So many tried to console him, but none of that was ever going to work.
So if you're Ryan Miller, feel free to sit this one out. For everyone else, bask in its glory. This game had all the speed, physicality, skill, and emotion a gold-medal game deserves.
Note: The video below is unique and might be a bit unsettling at first, because it is the raw video and audio from the game. There is no commentary — no play-by-play, no color analysis. So pretend you're in Vancouver, among thousands of Canadians about to explode.