Watching Canada’s 3-0 victory over Sweden in the men’s gold medal hockey final yesterday, someone on social media commented (and, forgive, I’m not sure who it was) something to the effect that “how did we watch sports before Twitter?” Indeed, part of the fun of watching the men’s final on Sunday was the connecting with other Canadians on social media, particularly as many regions in the country amended their liquor laws in order to allow bars to open for the early-morning game. One Edmonton-based commenter even made the comment that Twitter was like one, big Canadian pub during the game:
Having lived away from Canada for nearly five years now, moments like Sunday – and, to an extent, Thursday’s women’s gold medal hockey game (unfortunately, I was teaching during Canada’s comeback versus the US and couldn’t watch the game) – help me to maintain a connection to my home country. I certainly don’t hide my national identity down here in South Carolina, but normally my accent gives me away and I often end up talking about the Homeland with grocery clerks, waiters, and gas station attendants. Certainly, I’m proud of my citizenship, though as the years go on I do feel myself becoming less attached to Canada. Moments like Thursday and Sunday were a nice reminder of my heritage.
Perhaps most surprising to me was that I actually cared as much as I did about the result of both games. I grew up playing hockey, have long been an avid hockey watcher, could quote stats and hockey history, etc, though – for a variety of reasons – I have drifted away from the sport in recent years. In the sport tourism class I teach, we talk often about globalization and mobility, and how these things can create – in a sense – a crisis of identity. If I were pressed, I probably care more about baseball and cricket right now than I do about hockey, and maybe that’s both a part of my current address as well as my personal/professional tastes and interests. Certainly, I quasi-follow college football and the NFL now because of where I live. However, the space-time collapse of things like social media meant that I could engage with my Canadian hockey heritage, even if only for a few days, and share something of the experience of being back home. In many ways, these interactions with my fellow Canadian hockey fans re-enforced my sense of identity. At the same time, neither hockey game – nor the Winter Olympics, for that matter – was really on the radar of most people in Clemson (beyond ex-pats and Olymphiles, I suppose) so my sense of nationalism was somewhat limited to the virtual space and time created on Twitter. I suppose this would have been the case with or without Twitter and global broadcasts of sporting events in real time, and maybe the fact that watching the Olympics isn’t as all-encompassing as it was in previous generations re-enforces the globalization and mobility argument. After all, we can disengage or ignore something like the Olympics ways that we never could before. Still, the real-time feel of Twitter helped me feel a little more connected and a little more Canadian, but anecdotally it would seem that it was just we Canadians (where ever we might be) talking to ourselves.