I’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics. Sweden has been doing a hell of a job on those cross country skis. Unfortunately, it’s not really a sport I can watch. I didn’t even know there were so many different ways to cross country ski. Relays. Distances. Sprints. With guns. It never seems to end. But I’ve been a dutiful sports fan and very seldom is the TV on now without the Olympics being the viewing of choice.
As a general rule, I find Swedish announcers to be painfully awkward, almost entertainingly so. It’s almost like they are embarrassed to be on TV and it shows. It’s a shame because it often times takes away from the knowledge they do have about their respective sports.
The Olympics have been different though. Not because the commentary has been world class and insightful. Not because the commentators are the stereotypical good looking Swede. Not because they haven’t been awkward. But simply because they have been drunk. Ok, maybe not drunk, but something has been going on in the booth.
Especially in the hockey games. I know that a lot of these games are being shown in Sweden late at night/early in the morning. Maybe the commentators think no one is watching. But people are watching. Like me. And listening. Like me. And passing those comments on to the old man as a way to spread the glory that is Swedish Olympic hockey announcers.
Early in the tournament, I was watching the US beat Switzerland in the opener. It wasn’t a horribly impressive showing by the Americans, but the Swiss are sneaky good at hockey. But, it wasn’t the game itself that I remembered. It was here that the comments started. Between periods, we always head up to get a breakdown of what’s happened. A blonde, somewhat dominant looking woman sits at a table with what one can only suspect is the resident hockey expert. A man who could not for the life of him say the word “amerikanerna.” The Americans. In a stunning act of un-Swedishness, the dominant blonde woman made fun of him. Mercilessly. So much so that eventually, in a fit of awkwardness, the man said “amerik… jänkarna” and continued on. It was from that point that Americans became Yankees.
The fun continued. Suddenly the man made a claim that I was horribly impressed by. He knew the Russian national anthem. And thus, he began to sing. Mitt namn är Nikolajev/Kosmonaut från Sovjet. My name is Nicolai/cosmonaut from the Soviet. Now I do not speak Russian, but I feel fairly confident that wasn’t Russian.
One day later I watched Belarus play Finland. Since Sweden’s 2002 loss to Belarus I have had a soft spot for anyone playing Belarus. But again, it was not the game itself that intrigued me. Instead, I was once again treated to a vocal performance that would make your local Idol panel proud. Because suddenly, all of Sweden was being serenaded by the classic Abba song, Waterloo. Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war/Waterloo - Promise to love you forever more. Amazing.
You would think that would be the end of it. But one night later, for reasons I still do not understand, the play by play guys began their attempt at speaking Polish. Literally. They were trying to say things in Polish. Poland is not represented in the ice hockey tournament.
The Olympics is by far the greatest hockey tournament in the world. It’s an incredible mix of athleticism, patriotism, plus a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of doing things you’ve never dreamed of. A part of me though watches every single hockey game hoping to hear an announcer break into song.
Welcome to Sweden. And Olympic hockey.
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