Try as we might, politics finds a way to enter our sports consciousness, and that respite from outside realities once again joins the bigger picture.
United States U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, was asked earlier today on whether or not we could be certain that we all want to buy a Team USA sweater. We know that Vladimir Putin is already allowing for the Russians to participate under a neutral flag at the Olympics in South Korea this February, but the U.S. future is uncertain.
As always, you want to keep your athletes safe. Haley commented that it was more about security considering that we have been trading verbal spars and watching missiles land in the Sea of Japan from a country that is just north of the games.
However, the fact remains that she referred to U.S. Olympic participation as “an open question.”
In the sports world, what does that mean for us? In the hockey world?
The Olympics were already leveraged for collective bargaining last year, and now Gary Bettman doesn’t have to worry about the backlash from fans for denying us the right to wake up at 6:00 to watch the Stars n Stripes take on Slovenia.
Not all of us are trained in the art of waking up to watch the EPL each year.
What we do miss out are on some story lines. The U.S. Men’s Team was going to look something like a mystical beast in Greek literature; part monster, part man, a lot of confusion. Maybe they’d make a movie about it one day (hell, John Scott is getting one).
It also might be an opportunity to get to know our women’s team that is currently ranked first in the IIHF, but haven’t won gold since the last time we went to Asia; in Nagano, 1998.
There’s also a Nigerian bobsled team. We miss out on snowboarding as a nationally captivating event when ‘Monster Energy’ isn’t slathered all over everything. Biathlon!
You’d like to think that there wouldn’t be a missile launched towards PyeongChang just because people are playing sports. You’d also like to think security around the villages are a bit tighter since the 1972 Munich Games. But no matter how you feel about North Korea, Haley saying that our participation might be in the hands of the government leaves a ominous cloud looming over.