It Sucks to Win Silver | Draft Day Suit

It Sucks to Win Silver

Photo by John Biehler

Photo by John Biehler

Yep, that’s what U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team captain Natalie Darwitz said when interviewed after her team lost to Canada in the gold medal game. I can sympathize with the sentiment. In Olympic hockey, you don’t win the silver, you lose the gold. I just wish she’d said that—”it sucks to lose the gold”, or just plain “it sucks to lose”—instead of “it sucks to win silver.” It feels… unsportsmanlike, somehow.

The game itself was a thriller, the exciting matchup hockey fans like me have been waiting for since the Games began. Canada and the U.S. are by far the strongest, fastest, most skilled teams in the world, and it showed on the ice last night. Even the refs couldn’t keep up with the speed and intensity of the game, missing several offsides calls and a few more serious ones as well. (The announcers chalked this up to the single-referee system, and the fact that the pool of competitive-level women referees is small. There’s more research and another post in there about why only women can ref women’s games—but calling offsides is the linesman’s responsibility, and there were two lines(wo)men at this game.)

Announcer A.J. Mleczko pointed out a few times that you wouldn’t be able to tell by watching this game that women’s hockey was non-checking, and she was right. It was intensely physical, and there were even a few punches thrown (though there were no gloves-off fights as in men’s hockey). There was more checking, both penalized and unpenalized, than I’ve ever seen in a women’s game before. I am not a fan of checking as it’s practiced on the men’s side and recently declined to join a women’s league that allowed checking, but honestly, the level of physicality in the U.S.-Canada matchup seemed appropriate for the skill level of the teams. If I could play that well and skate that hard, I wouldn’t mind going hard at an opponent or having an opponent come hard at me.

The disappointment of the evening for me (aside from the clunky pace of the bronze medal game, which I had planned to watch first but abandoned in the first period because I knew much better hockey was being played live) was that the U.S. didn’t manage to score any goals. Yes, they only lost by two—the smallest margin by far of any game Canada *or* the U.S. was involved in this tournament—but being shut out was a big, fat bummer. The U.S. women, used to being able to get traffic in front, make trick shots, and have passing lanes and players open at all times, ran into a disciplined Canadian defense—and a goalie with a seemingly magnetic glove—that kept almost everyone and everything out of the slot, even on a 5-on-3.

A.J. suggested that the American players stop shooting high on the glove side, which Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados totally had covered, but often that was the only shot available. When a low shot was possible, it was often blocked or otherwise turned aside, and there were few rebound opportunities.

Speaking of blocked shots, Julie Chu had several, including one where she knelt to block the shot, successfully blocked it, and then popped up, took the puck, and charged the other way. It was probably my favorite moment of the game. My favorite announcer comment—and I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember who made it—was, “wouldn’t you like to see a best-of-seven series with these two teams?”

OH YEAH.

In fact, until the rest of the world catches up, how about next Olympics we just have seven U.S.-Canada games to determine who gets the gold?

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About the author
Despite being a rather unathletic child who was usually picked last for kickball, got pneumonia the first (and only) time she joined a soccer team, and didn't really learn to hit until her 6th season of softball, LoriHC decided in high school that she was going to be the first female coach in the NFL. Well, ok, that didn't happen, but she *does* coach a fantasy football team every fall, and she learned to play ice hockey at age 31 (surprisingly, she's still improving at age 40). Thanks to a nomadic existence, Lori is a Red Sox fan, a San Jose Sharks fan, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and a Tiger Woods fan. There was a brief flirtation with the Boston Celtics in 8th grade, but Lori's interest in basketball is now limited to when the University of Georgia women's team makes the NCAA tournament. She enjoys golfing with her husband, but she'd rather watch golf and play hockey than watch hockey or play golf. Lori can also be found at avocado8 and The Ice Hockey Escapades.

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13 Replies to It Sucks to Win Silver

  1. Laurie says:

    I was REALLY disappointed with their reaction to winning the silver. They lost the game, they just did. But at that point you’re still second out of a pool of outstanding athletes and an Olympic medal is an honor. I could see being a little teary but standing there weeping and then making sour faces on the podium was more than i could take.

    Of course I don’t know how I’d react were I in those shoes. i know a lot of work and hope and ambition goes into this process. But all the same by the time the Canadian crowd was chanting USA over and over I kind of thought we could learn a little from that kind of behavior.

    (I really did enjoy the game, though. :))

  2. lorihc says:

    I could not agree more. I could appreciate the disappointment, but the sour faces I could do without. I was happy to see Julie Chu respond to the ovation she got; hopefully she realized then that the moment was bigger than her (or the team’s) personal disappointment and pain. The crowd was recognizing the amazing level of play as well as encouraging sportsmanship. I love every last Canadian fan for that.

  3. CP says:

    She was dead on! SUCKS! The US and Canada dump millions into there women’s hockey programs. The silver was guaranteed before they got on the plane to BC.
    “Pool of outstanding athletes” ? Are you serious? They trained 4 years for this game Vs. Canada, had TWO 5-3 power plays….the ref was very fair and consistent. They LOST the gold period. SILVER in this event is worthless to US or Canada. It’s not some dude from Kenya winning the silver in luge where there are dozens of “outstanding athletes”. It was a two horse race…and the team I wanted to win LOST gold and won nothing! Don’t try to find a positive …there is none!

  4. MyLisa says:

    Glad to find your post–I couldn’t believe it when I heard that comment (and she’s the captain!), yet yours is the only confirmation I’ve found today that it was actually said. The tears of frustration are completely understandable, and I’m sympathetic, but the players had plenty of time to suck it up and be gracious for the ceremony. Very sad that so few of them managed. This, plus some of the dissension coming out of the ski team, seem to demonstrate the ill effects of a generation raised to believe winning is everything. We owe it to our youngsters to teach them how to lose gracefully.

  5. James T. says:

    Give the kid a break. Ms. Darwitz was simply expressing the disappointment of coming so far and failing to achieve your goal. There are few of us who haven’t been in the same boat at some time. The silver in tournament-style competition is a bit of an albatross, a third wheel. You aren’t awarded a silver medal or trophy because you won, you get it because you lost, and that’s the memory you have, losing your last game. That’s what really sucks. When you lose the championship game, consolation prizes mean very little. So have a little compassion and understanding for the long faces. For many, it’s a once in a lifetime shot, and when you don’t achieve it, there is disappointment beyond measure. So give the kids a little space to grieve in their own way. I know, it isn’t the end of the world, nobody died, it’s just sport, blah blah blah. But until you’ve been there, you don’t have any idea of the letdown.

    Natalie Darwitz is expressing the heart of a true competitor. You can’t be satisfied or happy about finishing second. There is no shame in trying your best and losing fair and square (which they did), but it still doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it or satisfied. You play to win, not finish second. That doesn’t mena winning at all costs, but it does mean playing to win within the rules. The recipients of the gold and bronze medals won their last games, the silver medalists didn’t. That’s what “sucks” about “winning” the silver.

  6. A shut-out always feels, to me, as if the game wasn’t really played. I want both teams to at least score. I do agree that it sounds like a bad sport. One reason it bothers me, although there are others, is there are young athletes out there, watching the game and considering that some day they too may win a medal at the Olympics. Not a dream every person is guaranteed to achieve, but having an Olympian medalist diminish the importance of what was won, is in my opinion, a really lousy thing to have done.

  7. Laurie says:

    I have heard this described as “grieving in their own way” several times and this is disturbing me. They can grieve all they want, but sportsmanship is important regardless and what they all showed (besides the goalie, who held herself together admirably) was petulance. Take it in the locker room. Grieve in your car. But on the international stage – millions of dollars aside – hold your head up. Otherwise, in my mind, you lose twice.

    I think I’m watching the Olympics from a different perspective if medals don’t count and only two teams do. And I wouldn’t bother with those Olympics. I have pro sports for that, all year, every year.

  8. Kelly says:

    You can be disturbed all you want, but the fact is that Natalie Darwitz was honestly sharing her emotions in, if you didn’t notice, the locker room after the game. That is where she made her statement. During the public ceremony they swallowed their pride and took their consolation prizes and gave honor to the winners. They left the ice quickly (as they should have) to allow the victors the stage. Nothing I saw indicated any degree of poor sportsmanship. If there is any poor sportsmanship and dishonesty, it is with those who would deny these young women an honest and reserved expression of their feelings. What they showed in public was perfectly understandable and not inappropriate in any way, at least for those with any measure of compassion and understanding. Saying you should just tuck your feelings away and wait until you are in your car or the restroom is silly. You don’t just switch off strong and deeply felt emotions. Most human beings are wired that way.

    Darwitz should be commended for having the courage to voice honestly what she was feeling. Her comment was a statement of disappointment that the team did not achieve the goal it set for itself. There was no disparaging of the opposing team, or the officiating, or lack of effort. They just lost. And if you have the heart of a competitor, losing sucks. Saying so is not poor sportsmanship, it is honesty.

  9. MICHAEL says:

    I, too, believe Ms. Darwitz hit it on the head with her comment! One way I look at her position is this….when she and her team awoke that Saturday morning, the Bronze Medal had already been won. Their game was going to decide who WINS the Gold Medal. The LOSER of that game would be ‘given’ the Silver Medal. Therefore, a person could feel as, “We could have just stayed in our hotel rooms or just showed up and sat in the middle of the rink and we would have STILL gotten the Silver Medal!”

    An OLYMPIC Sliver Medal is definitely something to be proud of in ones life….but it SURE isn’t what they fought so hard for!!!

    Miss Natalie….I wish I could buy YOU a drink (and a cigar if you want) for being so up front and honest. Don’t let anybody change you! You ARE a winner!!!

  10. Laurie says:

    Yes, and then you’d have no chance of winning. Again, not what sports are about, in my opinion.

    I think it’s so interesting, the different ways people look at the point of competition and the honor it is to go out there and duke it out for one of the most prestigious prizes in the world. Part of dedicating one’s life to anything is knowing that you may lose. Sitting in your hotel room doesn’t set you apart from anyone. And I for one am not slagging Natalie Darwitz for her efforts or as a human being. I’m just going to agree to disagree – thanks for the opposing viewpoints.

  11. Chris says:

    Natalie Darwitz should be commended for telling it like it is. She expresses exactly what any of us would feel if we were in her shoes, if we have the courage to be honest with ourselves. Play hard and do your best? Always. Play by the rules? Absolutely. Lose the game? It sucks. Losing always will suck if you play to win, as every competitor knows.

    Coming in second is probably the toughest thing in sports. Winners get all the glory and remembrance. No one remembers who came in second. The runner-up plays their guts out and is left with nothing but a consolation prize at best, and that is no solace and in some ways hurts more than helps. When you reach that pinnacle game and fail, it is the failure that you remember. That is the source of the heartbreak and disappointment, to come close but fall short. I for one will not begrudge a player for an honest expression of that disappointment because it is the most human of all emotions.

  12. Joey says:

    Ms. Darwitz has nothing to apologize for. Anyone who has been in her place knows exactly what she was feeling. You devote your life to achieving a goal and you work your heart out and end up with second-best. There’s no consolation in that. The letdown is unbelievable. So don’t be too hard on her expression of disappointment. Until you’ve been there yourself, you have no idea of the empty feeling you come away with.

    Yes, it’s a part of sporting competition, and it’s part of life. But that doesn’t make it any easier, and there’s no requirement that you have to like it or be phony cheerful about it.

  13. jerry says:

    Darwitz was 100% right! I don’t know of any pro athletes who play for 2nd best. You always play to be the best, like the saying goes “second place is the first loser”. These athletes have been training for years, it’s in their mindset to be the best, no one plays to be second and anyone who doesn’t understand this has obviously not played any competive sports in their lives! It wasn’t poor sportsmanship, they weren’t complaining or bitching about the refs or anything like that, they were sad because they didn’t win. I”m glad she told it the way it is.

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