Photo: Bruce Bennett
Monday was fun. All the Olympic hockey players arrived in Sochi, practiced with their teams, and posed for a billion photos. Alex Ovechkin, our namesake and inspiration, took up the leftmost spot on a very impressive line with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Semin for Team Russia, and everything was peachy. And yet I’m filled with dread about what’s coming.
A few dozen articles about the burden on Ovi and Russia’s inhuman expectations of success have done nothing to ease my nerves. I read Mike Wise unabashedly supporting Ovi because of all the pressure he faces. I read an AP item about how all of Mother Russia has pinned $50 billion (yeah right) on Alex’s wings. I read the L.A. Times congratulating Ovi for smiling despite the unspeakable tumult he’ll be feeling by Wednesday. I read The Globe and Mail describe Ovi as a “hero” and a “brand.” I saw bloggers and players predict gold for Russia in general and Olympic glory for Ovechkin in particular. Even Greenberg think they’ll get silver.
To hear the press say it, Ovechkin has never looked more serene, more confident, or more friendly– not like that sourpuss-loser-grump who blew us all off in Vancouver; no. That’s when it occurred to me: this is a whole lot of posturing for a guy who may have very little say in who wins gold. And if Russia doesn’t win gold, look out.