Are Canadians Too Modest to Win?

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Are Canadians culturally unfit to compete in the Olympics? This is the slightly patronizing question that hangs over a New York Times report by Charles McGrath. Canadians, he writes, have failed to win a gold medal in previous Olympic games held in Canada. But now, in order to carry the most medals home, Canadians "want to rewire the national mind-set."

The big hold up? Culture--according to McGrath, some Canadians are made "uneasy" by "nakedly ambitious" chatter. He quotes a Canadian writer who says his countrymen "do not like heroes." Canadians are so uncomfortable with athletic nationalism, he reports, that some liberals have tied it to "Canada's aggressive, overly American-like presence in Afghanistan."

So will the northern competitors overcome their reticence to claim gold? McGrath thinks they may have a good chance when it comes to hockey, which "has always been the great exception to the national culture of modesty, civility, and pacifism."

Just don't ask Americans to conquer condescension anytime soon.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.