Lias Andersson has won Gold. The nineteen-year-old New York Ranger forward was a member of the Swedish men’s national hockey team, which just won the 2018 World Hockey Championship. Why it is worth mentioning is because earlier this year Andersson, as a member of the runner-up Swedish team in the 2018 World Junior Championship, threw his silver medal away into the stands after he was awarded it (causing no end of comment).
I completely understood Andersson’s action. Losing always stinks, but it is most rancid when one comes up short in the finals of a tournament. Wait!—make that most rancid coming in second in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Let me explain.
I happened to watch on TV the championship game in 2017 between the United States junior team and the Canadian junior team, which the US won. At the end of the game, after the ritual handshakes the teams had to line up at the opposite blue lines while an excruciatingly long series of events transpired, which, if I remember correctly, went something like this:
There was the playing of the national anthems;
The flags of the gold, silver, and bronze medalists were raised to the rafters;
The best player from each team was honored;
The tournament’s best players at each position were honored;
The tournament’s Most Valuable Player award was given out;
The suits of the tournament and the commercial sponsors lined up to receive awards;
The on-ice officials were given medals;
The losing team lined up to have the silver medals placed around their necks;
The winning team lined up to have the gold medals placed around their necks.
(And whatever else I’ve forgotten—probably awards to the best popcorn seller and most efficient valet parking attendant.)
And for most of the time, there were the players of the losing Canadian team—all teenagers—having to stand there, lined up on the most disappointing day of their sporting lives, trying to bear up to hollowness in their hearts, while bravely fighting back against displaying bitter tears.
Bad enough if one only had to shake hands with one’s conquerers before being able to skate off to the privacy of the team’s dressing room. But to have to stand and stand and stand in the middle of the arena while a load of ceremonial nonsense is going on . . .
It was truly painful to watch.
I felt for them.
Some years ago I was with a friend whose neighbor, Barbara W., had just arrived home from the county tennis tournament with her trophy. Unfortunately for that fine tennis player, it was the runner-up award. When we entered her apartment Barbara, all of a dither, looked around to find a place to put it. No, it couldn’t go into the cabinet with her championship silverware; it might pollute the other awards. Finally she found an obscure corner of a shelf across the room. I imagine it is still there, but covered today with dust.
So, Lias, I understand why you threw away the silver medal. And I imagine that if Barbara could have found the right spot near the tennis court, she would have ditched her trophy too.