Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Team(s) Canada

When I used to TA an Intro Comm class at Brock University, I had to mark a lot of first-year papers. Whenever I would hand them back to students, I would tell them that if they weren't happy with their mark, wait 24 hours to calm down and articulate your thoughts in a less distressed state of mind.

This trick would lighten my office hours because students would hardly ever show up. It seemed they became less bothered with their grade 24 hours later and/or something more academically distressing would happen in the meantime. The ones who did come to me often had a valid point, like "you forgot to give me a grade" or "your writing is illegible, I don't know if this is a 7 or a 9" (it was a 4).

The point was: By having a cool period after receiving a grade, meant that the concerns that actually came to me we're legitimate, thought-out, and valid.

However, while that method may work well for university term papers, I have found out in my adulthood that it does not work as well for national team tournament exits.

Over the last month, both of Canada’s team—Women’s and Men’s—exited out of the World Cup and Gold Cup, respectively. And quite frankly, I am still not over it.

I thought I would be; I even intentionally waited to write this article until after both Cups were over so I would be. I thought that once both tournaments were completed, and a winner had been crowned, I would be able to write an articulate, thoughtful, moving piece. But instead, I'm just annoyed, disappointed, and full of grief.

Which is why I am turning to my own blog. 

Because I know I am not the only one. This was supposed to be our year, Sincy's year, Canada’s year, heck, even John Herdman’s year, and now it's not.

After both teams exited their cups, most people turned their attention back to euphoria of the Toronto Raptors winning the Championship, or to the Copa America, or the African Cup of Nations, or the CPL. They had either moved on or have become engrossed with other drama. Like most of my former students, they're the ones not going to complain at my office hours, because it's just not worth their time or energy.

If you're in that camp, I'd suggest to stop reading here; this article will just sound like dramatic whining. However, if you're like me, and still as equally gutted and emotionally invested in CanWNT/MNT, read on, because together we're going to work through The Five Stages of Canadian Soccer Grief.

Stage One: Denial.
It's pretty hard to be in denial with Canada's exits (unless of course, the titles are called back from the United States/Mexico and are somehow awarded to both Canadian teams instead…), but it easy to be in denial that we've just seen Christine Sinclair play in her last World Cup and Atiba Hutchinson play in his last international tournament for Canada. Sinclair, the Canadian Captain (nay, superhero), turned 36 during the tournament, meaning she'll be 40 come the next World Cup. Additionally, Hutchinson stated last year that this Gold Cup would be his final Canadian appearance.

A logical mind would come to the conclusion that both will be retired for their next big tournament, but logical minds have no place in football. Because I am pretty sure that both Sinclair and Hutchinson will play for Canada forever. And ever. And ever…

Stage Two: Anger.
There's a lot to be angry about with Canada’s dual exists, but it's difficult to direct that anger at just one person (or just one team). So let's not; instead, let's direct our anger at a machine.

VAR has been problematic in nearly every match during this World Cup and it's solely responsible for elevating, and then crashing, Canada’s hopes and dreams. From the overreliance on the technology to the changing of rules mid-tournament to not using it to call a VERY CLEAR HANDBALL ON THE UNITED STATES AGAINST FRANCE, Video Assisted Referee has been a headache all tournament and many have argued it should never have been used.

And as for VAR in the Gold Cup? Where was it?! I wanted it! How could you play a major tournament without it?! Since when do we rely on LAR (Live Action Referees) to make their own decisions?!

VAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Stage Three: Bargaining.
… also known as, “what can I personally do to make the teams better?” Do you promise to watch every Canadian national game live, no matter what country they’re playing in? Do you swear that you’ll follow our youth teams religiously? Do you promise to never speak negatively of Owen Hargreaves, Teal Bunbury, and/or Sydney Leroux ever again? Say it with me now:

I, (fill in your own name), swear on the soccer gods that if Canada wins a title in their next tournament, I promise to never do the Dwayne-De-Rosario-cheque-signing celebration for my beer league team, ever again.

Congratulations! You (may) have personally guaranteed Canada success in the future!

Stage Four: Depression.
Once you realize that you aren’t solely responsible for the Canadian National teams (no matter what you promise), the depression creeps in; the realization that both Canadian teams fizzled out of their tournaments at basically the bat of an eye. Sinclair didn’t break the record, Alphonso Davies didn’t single-handedly make Canada blow up internationally, and (as of right now) Clare Rustad, Kaylyn Kyle, and Diana Matheson haven’t inked permanent analyst deals.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we get our hopes up? Why do we promise each other this is our year and then get crushed when it isn’t?

Everything is terrible and I am never watching soccer again. 

Stage Five: Acceptance.
Finally, we come to acceptance, but I don’t think it means what you think it means. I don’t think we should settle into acceptance of loss, rather we should revel in the acceptance of these teams. The questions I asked in depression? “Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we get our hopes up? Why do we promise each other this is our year and then get crushed when it isn’t?” They’re not rhetorical, the answers are pretty easy.

We “do this to ourselves” because we know our own greatness, even if our expectations haven’t caught up with our thoughts yet. We watch these teams because we love them and because we know they love us back. We follow them because we know that one day, one of our Les Rouges will hoist a trophy above his or her head.

And that’s what we have accepted: that we love our teams, no matter what. We’ve accepted that maybe not today (or in 2019 in general), but one day Canada will be champion of its confederation and of the world. We’ve accepted that these are our teams and where you go, we will follow.

As a TA, I was instructed to teach students to perform their best, with the ambition to then perform a little better the next time. If hours upon hours of holding office hours have taught me anything, it’s that the more that you show up, the better you perform.

We got this, Canada.

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