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The Russians are just like us Penguins fans

February 24, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
When Russian state media referred to their nation’s hockey team’s elimination from the Winter Olympics medal contention as a “soul destroying loss,” I thought it was the funniest moment of the games.

Soul destroying loss? Really?

Apparently I am correct in my assessment, bolstered by the just-concluded games, that Russians and Americans as people, not as ideological members of their nation’s governmental systems, are more alike than I could have imagined as a kid growing up during the Cold War.

The sight of the Russian bobsled team doing this kind of hand-jive thing before pushing off was priceless. I do not remember the grainy black-and-white images of Olympics long past revealing a whoop-de-doop hand thing by the staid bobsledders from the USSR.

Nor do I recall the men and women of the USSR Olympic teams being quite the cover of Vogue and GQ as they are now. And Evgeni Plushenko, the Russian ice skater who looked a bit like a younger Rod Stewart, certainly wouldn’t have flown in the “all for the team for the glory of the nation” era. As it is, I found him to be a likeable egotistical sort of guy worthy of a couple of shots of vodka if we ever meet.

The technological prowess of the Russians, in making snow that somehow kind of held up in 60-degree temperatures, in the beautiful architecture of the modernized Olympic Sochi, and in the amazing displays in the opening and closing games also put an end to any thoughts of a nation incapable of rolling a round steel coil or pouring concrete in a straight vertical slab for another dull apartment tower.

The real problem I have with the Olympics is they’re over. And tonight’s TV will be back to normal, which consists of me ignoring most of what’s on until after The Boss (at Home) falls asleep so I can watch saved up episodes of “Hawaii Five-O” or “Hotel Impossible” (don’t sleep on that sheet, whatever you do).

Thankfully, during the Olympics, I went to the eye doctor, got a new prescription and a set of RayBans that now allow me to read, watch TV and drive around with just one pair of glasses.

Except for the cataract growth the doc detected, it’s all good. It means I can go back to reading a lot.

Or watching the Penguins, who seem to suffer soul-crushing defeats in the playoffs. Maybe Coach Bylsma got it out of his system for 2014 already. The USA hockey Olympic performance was a microcosm of a typical Bylsma season: A terror during the preliminaries and a dud in the medal round. All that was missing was the Flyers to hate. Which brings me back to the Russians being more like us than I ever knew.

Because losing to the Flyers is always soul-crushing, regular season or playoffs.


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